One of my clients recently told me a story of how when he was a kid, he would gamble with carnival games. He did really well until he lost quite a bit of money (yes, as a child he was pretty savvy with money and even has a story about how he surgically gave a one-legged turkey a prosthetic leg he fashioned himself –my understanding is that the surgery was successful and the turkey lived a full life on his ranch… He was 11 years old give or take). It upset him quite a bit and when he complained to his father about how he couldn’t understand how he lost after doing so well initially. The words his father spoke next, he said, would change the way he would forever approach matters in business and competition: “Never play another man’s game”.

During our lesson, I thought about this and how it related to me personally. At the time, I was coming off a tournament loss that I didn’t take too well. My biggest complaint was that I played a game very unbecoming of me and I paid the price. I thought about these words and I realized how directly they impacted how I approach jiu jitsu competition. In competition, there is only so much time you’ve got to either finish your opponents or win on points. Getting off to a bad start is not something you ever want and usually it falls right into playing your opponent’s game.

In practice, one should always experiment and try new things. Play different games, but never play your opponent’s game. Get them to play yours. In competition, force them to play yours. Be the first to attack and get to the position you need to get to ASAP because otherwise, you give your opponent the opportunity to do the same.

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