One of the most terrifying - and rewarding - experiences in jiu jitsu is your first competition. Even if you had been active in some other non-martial art sport sometime in your life, competing in Brazilian jiu jitsu is an entirely different animal. It's just you, your opponent, and a fight to the DEATH! Just kidding... though for some of you, it might actually feel that way.
We know your first competition can be daunting, made even more so by so many unfamiliar aspects. We're here to shed a little light into the competition scene, and what to expect, so you can perform your best and hopefully make your first competition a position one. Read on...
"Am I Ready?"
The biggest obstacle every first-time competitor faces is the "Am I ready?" question. This powerful query has prevented more jiu jitsu practitioners from registering for a tournament than any other reason combined. The truth of the matter is this: you don't know until you actually get out there. Jiu jitsu is a lifelong journey, in which everyone has their own path and their own pace. There are no milestone markers that dictate when you are or are not ready to compete. While your professor can counsel you on how ready you might be, the true gauge is out there on the competition mat.
EVERYBODY gets them; even those superstar black belts who have been competing since they were in diapers. The trick is managing your jitters so they don't get the best of you before you even step on the mat. Pre-competition jitters are entirely mental. Maybe you're worried about how "ready" you are, or you're afraid to fail in front of your professor, friends and family. The best way to combat these jitters is to identify the underlying fear, and convince yourself - through positive affirmations - that they are unfounded or out of your control. Feel like you're not ready? "I am as ready as I'll ever be. Let's do this." Fear that you might fail? "Everybody knows the hard work I've put in. Win or lose, nobody can take that away."
Every jiu jitsu promotion has a set of uniform requirements for competing. Make sure you are aware of what they are, and that your gi, rashguard, shorts/spats, etc. are fully compliant. The last thing you want is to go to check-in and get turned away because your gi is too small, your belt is tattered, or your patches are illegal. Not sure? Ask a higher belt (preferably someone who has compete often and recently). And regardless of whether you think you're on the borderline, it's always a good idea to bring a spare uniform that you know falls well within the requirements.
Oooo... scary. Not really. It can be confusing, however, if you've never experienced it before, which, if you're reading this, I assume you haven't. Here's the deal: get there about an hour before you're expected to fight, hang out until you're allowed to check-in and step on the scale (make sure you're on-weight because some competitions only give you one chance to weigh-in before disqualifying you), hang out some more until your mat person calls your name to bring you to your mat, you might hang out a bit more waiting for the fight before you to end. Don't leave the bullpen without telling your mat person, or you can be in for a scolding if he/she can't find you. Use all that hanging out time to loosen up and calm your jitters. You might only be there 15 minutes or you might be there 1 hour. Patience is a virtue.
Win or Lose
The most important thing to consider when you're deciding to compete for the first time is this: win or lose, you will be among the 10-15% of jiu jitsu practitioners who have the courage to go out there and put their skills to the test. That's something to be proud of. And if that's not enough, know that it's widely agreed that a single competition is worth three months on the mat in your own academy. You find out where you stand among others of your same rank, you learn what you're doing wrong, and what you're doing right. And that is priceless.
We hope you find this information useful and that it motivates you sign up for your first competition. See you on the mat!