You don't have to compete in BJJ, but it just may open a whole new door of possibilities… here is how to get started.
So, you want to compete in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu? Amazing! You, like so many others in this sport, are about to embark on a journey that has the potential to enrich not just your own Jiu-Jitsu game but can also teach you lessons about yourself that will stay with you for life.
So what are you waiting for?
Well, if it was that easy, you'd have probably done it already. If you're having doubts, fears, uncertainties, or just not sure how to jump in, read on, dear reader, because we here at Black Belt Magazine Jiu-Jitsu have compiled a list of 5 Top-Tips to know before that first competition.
Chat to your coach. No one will know your ability better than your instructor. They can judge not only if they think you're ready or not but also guide you on areas to work on, impart wisdom about competing, as well as taking the necessary steps to get you closer to being ready than maybe you are right now.
However, if your coach is any good, be prepared for an honest conversation. You might not be ready, and that's a hard thing to hear, but also the right one if you do, in fact, need a little more time. It's your coach's responsibility to have your best interests at heart, and sending you out to compete when you just aren't there yet isn't doing you any favors...
That being said, should you get the nod to sign up, make sure to discuss areas to focus on, things to be aware of, and make sure you take the time you have to adequately prepare as best you can.
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Pick the right competition. Whilst you may gain respect for starting off your competition career at IBJJF Worlds, ask yourself if that is really the right introduction for you.
For some, it will be, and that's great, but what's also great is easing yourself into a competition that's a lot less intense than some of the others to build up the experience early on before tackling the bigger ones.
A lot of clubs host their own interclub competitions, which is perfect in many ways, not least because you're surrounded by familiar faces who are likely going to be a lot more understanding and forgiving. You're also going up against people you know, which can have a hugely positive benefit, as well as being in a familiar environment.
If not an interclub tournament, then the UK is lucky to have many independently run competitions that are professionally run and regular.
Grappling Industries, BJJ Stars, and Opens across the country are usually running every weekend, and Smoothcomp is a fantastic platform to check ones near to you and sign up.
Photo Courtesy: Dr. Raza
Know the rules. Or at the very least, the most important ones. Far too often (especially at white belt) do you see matches lost because the competitor wasn't aware of a rule, didn't know the points system, didn't make weight, or in a staggeringly high number of instances, wasn't where they needed to be at the right time, and lost by DQ for a no-show.
You don't need to know the rule book cover to cover, but you do need to know the basics. Such as what constitutes a pass, a sweep, a takedown, mount, taking the back, as well as the points awarded for each. You should also know what submissions are allowed, what will get you disqualified, as well as the format on the day.
Not all competitions are the same, so make sure you're clear on what time you need to be there, what the process is for checking in on the day, how the weigh-ins work, and the competition format. It's your responsibility to make sure you give yourself the best possible chance, so make sure you don't trip at the first hurdle.
Handling nerves. Competition is a nerve-racking situation for so many different reasons. To list them out would take more than we have time for, but know that everyone gets nervous, and competition is no exception.
Following on from Tip Number 3, by getting there early, familiarizing yourself with the format, and allowing yourself to soak up the atmosphere, this should all help you settle into the environment.
If you do struggle on the day, then take a moment to recognize that what you're feeling is completely natural. Shortness of breath, increased heart rate, heavy feeling legs, and arms, as well as trouble focusing – these are all perfectly normal reactions to a high-stress situation.
Try "centering" yourself by focusing on something like your breathing, or how your clothes feel, or the sounds around you. Some people find taking a short break outside and breathing in and out deeply works well, others listen to music, some like to unleash the nervous tension by shouting, but whatever works for you, don't be ashamed to find it and do it.
Photo Courtesy: Duncan Graham
Have fun. Okay, okay, we'll admit this is likely easier said than done, but it is the most important.
Remember why you signed up in the first place. It was most likely because you love Jiu-Jitsu, and you wanted to test yourself at a competitive level.
That hasn't changed, and now you're getting to do it.
More often than not, people get swept up in the whole experience and forget to stop and take note of the incredible experience they're having.
If you can, make sure you recognize the positive experience you're living and try to be present as it unfolds.
Competition needn't be all nerves and stress on the day. It can be a really fun time for you and your teammates, which has so much more potential for you and your Jiu-Jitsu journey than only competing.