When I begin my judo training, like every other beginner, I was thrown around rather easily by the experienced players. They weren't brutal by any means. They were very technically accomplished and could seemingly throw me at will.

I could have easily been demoralized. Many white belts were, and they would eventually quit the club. But I didn't. It wasn't stubbornness as much as the fact that I truly believed I had it within me to improve and become as good, if not better, than those experienced guys.

Every time I got thrown, I would use that a motivation for me to get better at my techniques. It didn't matter if my opponent was a black belt. I felt that he was just a regular human being and not a superman. There was no reason why I couldn't overcome him. I just needed to train harder and train smarter. I felt this was very doable.

And it proved to be so, but not without a lot of effort and time. The first summer after I took up judo, I spent the whole school vacation training. I traveled all the way to Los Angeles (from Austin, Texas) in search of a good coach.

I ended up training at the LA Judo Training Center (now defunct) where I trained under a really experienced and knowledgeable coach named John Ross (now departed).

He taught me everything I know about gripping strategies, about the difference between traditional, classical judo and modern, competition techniques, and about the importance of newaza. I trained there, every day, for three months.  

When I returned to my university after the summer vacation, I was able to throw all the seniors who used to throw me around. That experience proved to me that progress is possible even though at times it might seem like nothing is working.

Through the years, I have noticed that some people react very badly to setbacks. If they do badly in randori or in shiai, they get demoralized and instead of training harder, they retreat and skip training.

They disappear for a while and then when they come back they find that others have made further progress. This further demoralizes them and they end up skipping more classes. It become a vicious cycle.

I was the total opposite of that. Every defeat made me want to work harder. I was always the first to arrive in class and the last to leave. I was determined to out-train all my teammates.

My rationale was that if I trained harder and smarter than my more experienced teammates did, in time I would catch up and eventually overtake them. And I did.

So, the secret is simple. Use defeat as motivation. But of course you have to follow that up with action. Being "motivated" but not doing anything about it is useless. If you are truly motivated, put in the time on the mat and out-train everyone else.