What To Expect In Your First Jiu Jitsu Competition

So you’ve just signed up for your first Jiu-Jitsu competition, congratulations! It’s an important step in your Jiu-Jitsu journey and it’s one of the best ways to gauge your progress. If you’re new to Jiu-Jitsu or just haven’t participated in a tournament you might be in the dark on what to expect come competition day.

Check Your Division’s Estimated Start Time

You don’t need to spend all day at the venue. If they have one, check the tournament’s website to get an idea when your first match might be. Unless you intend on watching an entire day of Jiu-Jitsu, there's no point in showing up first thing in the morning when the doors open if your division doesn’t start until the afternoon. It’s usually best to show up and check-in an hour or so before your estimated start time.

Familiarize Yourself With The Tournament’s Rules

Depending on the tournament organizer there can be a vastly different set of rules than you’re used to training within the confines of your home gym. For example, some tournaments might allow ankle locks in the no-gi division for beginners. If that’s the case, it would be smart to train ankle lock defenses and escapes leading up to the tournament date so you’re not taken by surprise when someone starts playing with your feet. 

Bring Snacks And Lots Of Water

Many times if you’re doing both gi and no-gi there can be a large gap in time between the start of your divisions so it’s important to have some light snacks to hold you over between divisions. Also, drink plenty of water between matches. The last thing you want is to lose a match because you started cramping mid-match. Usually, there will be vendors there selling snacks and water, but since I’m cheap I always make sure to have a few snacks packed away.


You’re Going To Be Nervous

I’ve been competing on and off for the past 5 years and the first match of a tournament is always the worst. I psych myself out and get extremely nervous which tends to lead to an adrenaline dump. An adrenaline dump affects everyone differently, but for me, it presents itself in the form of gassing out 30 seconds into the match leaving me without critical thinking skills and the ability to remember technique in even the most basic of positions. If it happens, just understand that it’s completely natural and the best way to handle it is to power through. Focus on controlling your breathing or even look up breathing exercises to try prior to competition day. After the first match, however, I usually feel calmer and more focused.

You Might Not Make It To The Podium, And That’s Okay

You can’t win them all, but if you make it to the podium enjoy that moment and the six dollar medal. You earned it! But if you get eliminated in the first round, don’t beat yourself up. Use the experience to figure out what you need to work on. If you got stuck on the bottom of side control and couldn’t escape ask your coach at class and start in those problem positions when you’re rolling. Your first competition experience should help you figure out where you need to improve.

Competition is an excellent way to test yourself and gauge your overall progress on your Jiu-Jitsu journey. I’ve always recommended that anyone who trains Jiu-Jitsu try competing at least once. If you hate it then you don’t have to ever do it again, but chances are it will be a lot of fun and you’ll learn a lot about yourself.

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