Joining your first BJJ competition could feel a bit unnerving, especially if you’ve never competed in your life. If you’ve made the decision to compete, congratulations! You’ve taken the first step to taking your love for BJJ to the next level.
Competitions are a great way to test your BJJ skills. It is one of the most physically and mentally demanding commitments you could ever make as you put everything you’ve ever learned in class on the line. As soon as you bump fists with your opponent, it is up to you to own your techniques, the strength and conditioning classes and the mental preparation you’ve done thus far. If you’re looking to compete in your first BJJ tournament but have no idea how to go about it, then read on.
Before you compete
When you’ve decided to compete, take the following into consideration:
- You must be willing to put in the extra training hours (train at least 2x a day, attend competition classes)
- You must be physically fit (or at least willing to work on it)
- You must have adequate technical knowledge
- You must be willing to cut weight
- You will be tested mentally and physically
When planning your training camp, you must assume that your opponent is training as hard as you, if not harder. Use this as motivation to work harder and put more effort into your regular training classes. The more prepared you are, the better your outcome will be on the day of your competition.
Ask your instructor!
If you aren’t part of your academy’s competition team, or even if you are, your instructor should be the first person you talk to about your decision to compete. He/she is the only person who can tell you if you’re ready for your first competition. Once he/she gives you the go signal to compete, both of you can sit down and think of a game plan for both training and the competition itself. Your instructor knows your strengths/weaknesses and could guide you accordingly from there.
Most professional BJJ competitors train twice a day, 6 days a week. These training days include strength and conditioning, flow rolling, and drilling apart from regular classes. If you are planning to compete, you will need at least 6-8 weeks of the intensive training we’ve mentioned above. You will need adequate time to prepare for your competition as well as make time to safely cut weight.
Which weight class should you compete in?
When you register for competition, you’ll see that every belt level has different weight divisions/weight classes. See the table below for the current IBJJF weight divisions:
Only your instructor can tell you whether you need to cut weight to the next weight class. If you have the time and discipline to cut weight and train regularly, then cutting weight is something you can consider. Be realistic when choosing a weight class – dropping weight is one of the most difficult aspects of preparing for a competition, sometimes even more difficult than the training camp itself.
If you think you have the ability to commit yourself to competition training, here are some factors you should consider before you make your final decision:
Do you have the time?
Deciding to compete takes a lot of time and commitment. As we mentioned, you must be willing to put in the extra training hours apart from your regular training. Remember, you are training for a competition against someone who is at your level or higher. You need to be ready for anything so you must commit to extra training hours to ensure that you would be well prepared for anything that might happen on the mats.
Are you OK with losing?
You never know what might happen on the day of your competition. Your nerves might get the best of you, you might forget your game plan – basically everything that you’ve planned on could go down the drain. You risk the chance of losing and being gracious about it isn’t exactly the most pleasant feeling in the world. Although you shouldn’t walk in with the mindset that you might lose, just be prepared that things may not go as planned and part of competing is dealing with those feelings after.
Do you know and understand the rules?
As a competitor, it is up to you to know and understand the rules of the tournament you’re joining. The rules of BJJ competitions are quite complex, especially for a first-time competitor. The more you know, the easier it would be for you to use the rules to your advantage. Memorizing the point system, for instance, would be helpful, so you know when you’re up ahead or down on points.
How well do you do in sparring?
If you’re dead set on competing, you must spar on a regular basis and attend randori classes. You must be able to test your techniques against various sparring partners of different levels. The greatest test, however, is sparring someone who is at the exact same skill and weight class as you. If you are consistently doing well against him/her, then you’re probably ready for competition!
What’s your A-game?
An a-game is a set of your tried and tested moves that guarantee a submission finish or at least allow you to dominate a spar. Coming into your competition, you will need a game plan, and your A-game will definitely be part of that. Consult your instructor and ask him/her if your A-game is suitable for competition. Only your instructor can tell you (as well as yourself), where your weaknesses and strengths lie.
Deciding to compete is one of the best ways to improve as a BJJ student. A competition will reveal all the holes in your game and force you to work on them, which would certainly take your BJJ to the next level. There’s no doubt that competing would help you grow as a student, more than any class or sparring session.