In BJJ, You Either Win Or You Learn – What A Load Of… 

Dumb - You Either Win Or You Learn in BJJ

What is the point of training Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu if you’re not going to win? I mean, seriously? What kind of satisfaction is it when you submit someone, but that doesn’t mean that the other person lost? There’s such completely unreasonable logic in BJJ, that is thrown around in the form of the phrase: There’s no losing in Jiu-Jitsu – you either win or you learn”. My question is, how can you win if the other person doesn’t lose? 

There’s a tendency in Jiu-Jitsu to try and make excuses for anything that doesn’t go your way. Oh, you caught me in a submission, but if my arm didn’t hurt that would never happen. Or something along the lines of “that pass would never work, but I’m not training guard transition at the moment”. There are hundreds of examples of such excuses, hidden behind Jiu-Jitsu quotes, memes, and other creative ways of explaining why you tapped. However, there’s nothing that makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up then “you either win or you learn – you can’t lose”. Just shut up!

When Quotes Turn To Excuses 

Nobody likes to lose, that’s beyond clear. Human psychology is such that we strive towards being the best in everything. This is what gives birth to the competitive spirit we all have to a certain extent. It also makes losing one of the least desirable things we can face in life, regardless of which area it is in. However, given that loss, in one for more another, is a fact of life, we need to be grown-ups about it and figure out how to cope. 

You Either Win Or You Learn - Dumb ExcuseSo, when we go to Jiu-Jitsu and start rolling, or go to a tournament and always have the “you either win or learn” quote as a crutch to lean on, we’re doing everyone a disservice. First of all, we’re not being honest to ourselves, we’re diminishing the impact of our training partners and even opponents, and we degrade the sport as a whole. After all, you don’t watch Gordon Ryan in high-profile matches to see whether he wins or learns, do you? The same goes for watching MMA or other combat sport.

Quotes like “you either win or you learn” really do nothing to help us in Jiu-Jitsu. It only helps us cope with the fact that we came up short. So what there’s no way to progress in BJJ without losing, suffering, and hitting walls of disappointment and frustration. Jiu-Jitsu goes far beyond just a physical exchange of moves and will change your entire mindset and re-program you into a problem-solving machine if you let it. Using excuses like the above is a great way of postponing such development indefinitely.

“There’s No Losing in Jiu-Jitsu – You Either Win Or You Learn” 

Let’s go deeper into this dreadful crutch that people now start to use even before their first-ever class. I’ve had people come into an intro class and use this BJJ quote straight off the bat. I hate to admit it but I did enjoy the look of surprise and shock on their faces when I unceremoniously disprove it and throw it into the bin. How come you’re expecting to train a martial art or combat sport, and plan on never losing in the process? 

In a world of excessive and completely unfounded political correctness, I am making a stand claiming that people are weak, and become weaker by the minute. What is so horrible about losing? Or, is that you’ve been raised on participation trophies as a child, and now have to face the cruel reality of someone choking you out as you feel powerless? Welcome to the real world! That’s the point! And yeah, if you’re claiming that you either win or you learn in BJJ, I am calling you weak!

You Either Win Or You Learn - The Ultimate ExcuseIndoctrinating kids with such a notion is something I’m not even going to touch upon. However, you can’t expect responsible adults if they haven’t been taught to deal with defeat early on. Even if it is only through video games. Just man (or women) up and face the fact that you will either win a match, or a roll, or an exchange in position sparring, or you’ll lose it. There’s no middle ground, no draws, and certainly no way of winning without the risk of losing. It just makes everything meaningless.

Lose More 

I’ve already talked about the need for losing in Jiu-Jitsu before. So have many others. It is something you have to come to terms with. There’s no way to learn Jiu-Jitsu without losing, and then losing some more. This, alone renders the “you either win or you learn” approach completely redundant. If you can’t lose in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, you can’t learn some of the most valuable lessons that no amount of group or private classes will teach you. 

You Either Win Or You Learn in BJJ - NOTIt is simple – if you want to understand BJJ you’ll have to lose. In fact, at a certain point, you’ll need to start rolling with the intention of losing. that won’t mean giving stuff away but rolling in a manner that will allow a technically sound opponent to beat you, even if they’re a lower rank than you. Actually, losing to lower ranks is absolutely crucial if you want to have fun, and actually, learn what BJJ is all about.

In terms of a tournament, one competition experience equals a year of training in the gym. Now imagine if you go out there and beat everyone. You’ll feel like you’re on top of the world. On the other hand, going out there and losing your first match will teach you invaluable things. But that will only happen if you accept that you lost, and try and figure out why. If you say you didn’t lose but learned a lesson, you’re actually learning nothing. The most important part of the puzzle here is that absolutely nobody cares if you won or lost, including your mum.

Final Thoughts 

Let’s try and bring at least some order to the chaos that is BJJ excuses. People just have too many options to try and get around the fact that they lost. Why? What can be so debilitating about tapping out, or losing on points or even a referee’s decision, that you need to justify it with things like “you either win or you learn, bro”? Just take the loss, embrace it, enjoy it, and come back stronger.

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