Training to Win vs. Training to Lose

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​The athletes who train to win and are not afraid to fail along the way will always do better in the long run than those that “play it safe” and never push themselves to the point of failure.
When I was a competitive judo player, one of my coaches told me that there are two types of fighters: those that train/fight to win and those that train/fight to not lose. Although the goal is the same, the mindset between these two fighters is completely different.

The fighter who trains and fights to win is not afraid of failure. They are not afraid to try new techniques and are always looking to refine their own style in training. Many times you will see them fail by missing techniques, getting countered and/or by completely gassing themselves out from repeated attempts. During their training and fights, they almost never think about what will happen if their techniques are countered. Consequently, they are always the more aggressive athlete and constantly on the offensive.


Marti Malloy, 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist in female -57 kg division and my team mate on the San Jose State Judo team. She lost at the 2008 Olympic trials, not even qualifying for the 2008 games.

The fighter who trains and fights to not lose is always thinking about what their opponent is going to do and finding ways to not get scored on and beaten. In training, you will almost never see them get thrown because they have refined their defensive game against people they train with all the time. In competition, these athletes are concentrating on how not to get scored on and consequently, are almost always on the defensive.

At the dojo (home gym) and local level, the athletes that trained to not lose generally did very well — better than their counterparts. But as time went on, and stakes grew higher at national and international competitions, the athletes that initially met failure — the ones that were not afraid to fail, learn, refine and try again — became more successful than their counterparts that did so well in practice and at local competitions.

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