So, you’ve been training for a little while and think you’re ready to compete? If you are a first-time competitor the nerves could be building up as you get closer to that day. You may not really know what to expect in the process so hopefully, this article can give you context as to what you are about to get yourself into. Here are 6 things you should know before throwing yourself into a jiu-jitsu competition.
First things First
We want to make this clear, competing is a whole different ball game and we wish we would have known this before signing up. Not that we won’t compete in the future or anything but it is important to get a realistic expectation as to what it is like. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a great way to push yourself and get into great physical shape but the shape you have to be in to compete (and win because who signs up to lose?) is going to take a whole different gear.
Competition is the best way to sharpen your skills and test yourself against people who are in your area. The number of tournament hosts popping up is awesome to see because it tells us te demand for the martial art we love is exploding.
Some of the more popular tournaments you should familiarize yourself with are:
- IBJJF Tournaments
- Jiu-Jitsu World League
- North American Grappling Association (NAGA)
- AZBJJL (AZ Priemer Jiu Jitsu Tournaments)
- Most upcoming events can be found on Smoothcomp
Now that we got some basics out of the way, let’s dive into what to expect with your upcoming competition.
1) First off, do you AND your coach think you’re ready?
First things first, get approval from your coach before you consider signing up. Personally, we believe a good indicator of being “ready” would be training for 6 months and consistently going to both intermediate classes and fundamentals.
Some people will do this fast, some slower but we would say that is a good benchmark. When you’re coach gives you the green light, go ahead and make that purchase! Also, ask yourself if you think you are ready for this. Tournaments can be intense and there is no real way to ever be completely prepared for something that is completely new to you.
2. Have a game plan & study scoring
Do not go in without a plan. What are your go to moves or strong positions that you like doing? Are you going to go straight into pulling guard or wait to let the opponent shoot? The more you have a mental map in your head of the route you would like to take the match the more confident you’ll be going into the tournament. Be sure to take the time to understand the scoring.
Don’t over plan though, things never go as expected which leads us to our next point.
3. Expecting the Unexpected
There is a lot to this point. You will have to just mentally prepare yourself for things to go left field, sometimes that is just the way the cards are dealt.
All you have to remember here is to focus on controlling what you can control. Everything outside of that should not be your worry, handle situations as they come and you will be okay.
Physically, you should be prepared before you sign up for a tournament otherwise your coach wouldn’t send you out to the wolves. The real part that will trip people up is the mental aspect of the competitions.
4. Arrive to the venue early
Scope out the venue. It’s probably going to be packed, chaotic, and extremely loud. If this is your first time competing arrive early just to feel out the vibe of the arena. Getting there at first can be an overwhelming feeling.
There is no downside to arriving a couple of hours before your match! When you do this you also get the opportunity to support and bond with your teammates. It’s an exciting thing when your gym starts having people sign up for competitions and showing support to the athletes goes a long way!
5. Training the Week of the Upcoming Event
Do not go all out. The last thing you want to do is go off on a whim and end up hurting yourself. Our advice here does not to be dumb, unfortunately, accidents do happen and there is nothing you can do about that but going all out before a tournament is just not the smart decision to do.
Go through your plan and make sure that it is mentally and physically rehearsed so you go in feeling totally comfortable (you may not get here because the unexpected will probably happen) with what you’re about to put your body through.
Rest is important and so make sure you’re getting ample amounts of it the days leading up to the tournament. If you are cutting weight (not advised for younger children) make sure you are sweating but not overdoing it. There is a balance there.
6. Adrenaline Dumps and Nerves
This is a note to keep in mind when matches start. You will have a giant rush of adrenaline when your matches start. You will probably feel on top of the world and have all the stamina in the world… until that feeling wears off. You may experience a sudden shift in energy levels after or during the match. This is not something that is 100% in your control, especially for first-time competitors, so it should not be a worry.
Your body has a natural reaction when it perceives danger, we are hardwired with this fight-or-flight system. You may burn out your forearms or completely gas out because of this. Being aware this may happen is a great mental note.
When we first were about to step up to the mats we were almost having an out-of-body experience. The noise of the crowd around us became deafening and we had a huge knot in our stomachs, my nerves really kicked in and we felt as though they really impacted our performance. We ended up getting smoked because we burned through all our energy within the first 30 seconds. I WISH I had read an article like this telling us what I am about to say.
The feeling you experience right before you walk onto the mats is your body preparing for combat. This experience is something that many soldier experience before their first time being at war or deployed to combat, Jocko talks about it pretty often. When I heard a video of him talking about this experience a sense of clarity and peace overcame us, we thought we were alone in this.
It is normal to feel this way before you walk onto the mats. Relax and realize that your body is preparing you for battle. It may take some time to get used to the feeling and the pressure but realize that the person in front of you is also going through the same experience. When you walk on those mats its time to lock in, accept what is going on, and get after it. You prepared for this moment and should feel excited about this moment.
Note, it is okay to feel nervous before your match. Fighters across all disciplines experience the nerves that arise before combat. You may not podium your first couple of times around but with hard work and dedication, you can get to where you want to go.
Training to Compete
Training to compete will take more out of you than you are probably imagining at first. Competitions are not for everyone and that is okay. We encourage everyone to at least do a couple before they rule out if they want to compete or not. At the end of the day, competition will make you a better practitioner, it is the best way to see where the holes are in your game against someone when stakes are on the line (gold medals).
Be ready to have fun! You are embarking on a very personal journey. Maybe your goal is to reach a black belt or maybe it is just to cut down on some extra weight, you are one step closer. Every success story is paved with different avenues and yours has just begun, we are happy for you!