BJJ Competition

5 Things No One Told You About Jiu-Jitsu Competition

Jiu-jitsu has one of the most active competition cultures in martial arts, with constant tournaments and an ever expanding scene.  Because of this, beginners are immediately attracted to the prospect of competing. When I first started competing, I had all sorts of misconceptions about competition and it took me a while to get over those misconceptions.  Until you have a realistic understanding of competition, you’ll be limited in your progress.

Here are 5 hidden details about competition that have helped me improve my results.

  1. Dispose of expectations.  Time and again opponents that I’ve expected to walk through surprised me and opponents I expected to lose to allowed me to win in spectacular fashion.  Go into matches as well prepared as possible but clear your mind and allow whatever happens to happen. This of course is way easier said than done, but ultimately if you want to win you need to be present in the moment and focusing on your emotions and your expectations is a surefire way to bring about your own demise.  Day of competition you should try to be as stoic and emotionless as possible. Every feeling you have, every bit of expectation you bring with you is a weakness that can be used against you.
  2. The wait and the event itself are more stressful than your matches.  People never talk about this, but just watching people do jiu-jitsu for a few hours is exhausting.  I try to distract myself. I bring coloring books, or a flat screen television or SOMETHING because if not I get tired.  Some of my best performances have been on days that i showed up 20 minutes before stepping on the mat. Competition is stressful and tiresome enough, being in the venue waiting around, eyeballing potential opponents, that is just excruciating.  Don’t believe me? Go spend an entire day at a competition without competing and see how you feel the next day. You will be slightly less sore than if you had competed.
  3. Nothing ever goes according to plan.  Nothing. Seriously. I’ve won matches using my gameplan and even THOSE didn’t go according to plan.  Something is always different from what you expect. This goes back to detail 1, know that no matter what you do to get ready, no matter how much tape you watch on your opponents or who you train with leading up to your match, nothing will ever be the same as it is in practice, mainly because the energy people bring with them to competition is not like anything you can experience in the gym.  There is no substitute for competition experience.
  4. Coaching is really hard to follow.  Being coachable can be an innate talent but the reality is that working under pressure makes receiving and using instructions very difficult.  There are ways to simulate this at the gym, maybe by having someone coach you while you roll, but when it comes down to two people competing on a mat in a sweaty high school gym, you might not be as prepared to be coached as you think.  Try to focus on your coach’s voice and do what they’re saying, though, because the truth is that may be your one and only saving grace…
  5. No amount of training will prepare you.  No, seriously, I don’t care how many competition training sessions you’ve attended or how many black belts you get to roll with on a day to day basis, I don’t care how much competition footage you’ve watched, how many seminars you’ve attended or how many books about competition psychology you’ve read.  The only preparation for competition is competition. Statistically speaking, unless you’re an outlier, a freak athlete or have competed at a high level in another sport, you will go in to your first competition woefully unprepared, will lose badly and will be baffled by your poor performance. That’s just how it works.  Do it a few times if you want any real success.

By all accounts competition is very difficult, and doing well is nearly impossible.  That being said, nothing will give you a more accurate assessment of how your jiu-jitsu works for you under pressure than putting it to the test, and competitive grappling is one way to do just that.  I’ve heard many people say that one competition is worth many months of class time, and from my experience I believe that to be true, so if you are competitively inclined stick with it and keep doing it.