The Art of Winning Competitions

I had a conversation with someone yesterday that got me thinking a bit about the art of winning competitions.  This individual travels to a lot of bigger tournaments, but doesn’t participate in the various local competitions.  I think that may be a mistake.

Winning a competition and being good at jiu-jitsu are two different things.  Sometimes people that are good don’t win, and sometimes people that win aren’t very good.  I’ve seen guys who can demolish me on the mat not live up to their abilities in competition because of nerves or because of lack of a plan.  The reality is that winning has less to do with your jiu-jitsu abilities and more to do with how you maintain your composure during competition and how you deal with unexpected situations that may arise.

The more I compete, the more I win.  I cannot afford to travel to compete every weekend, and I am one of the fortunate competitors that actually have sponsors helping with competition fees and other expenses.  Local competitions are the best way to get ready.  They are my practice for the bigger stage.

For me, up until about a year ago, I would at most compete once every 3-6 months.  I’d do okay the first match or two, and then when I would make it to the semi-finals or the finals I’d screw something up, or my opponent would simply be a better competitor that day.  As I compete more, I become more capable of staying clear-headed the day of the competition, thus being more capable of recognizing opportunities and openings.

This also makes me handle loss better.  I lose less frequently the more I compete, but I still have off days.  I had a couple of competitions back in the early spring that were simply dismal days.  The more I compete, the better I handle this, and the better I handle the information I gain from the losses.  Also, the more I compete, the more I recognize my own imperfect performances even in victory, and the more I am able to draw knowledge from that.

Winning is an art in and of itself.  Some people have a delusion that they can compete once or twice a year and do well.  I’m not going to be so arrogant as to say that you cannot do well if you compete once a twice a year, as there are exceptions; but your chances of doing well drop substantially, and if you face seasoned competitors in the finals, they are probably going to show you the difference between you and them.

If you compete just for the experience of competing, if you go to competitions just to say you were there, then none of this is really relevant to you.  Go, spend your money, have fun, watch the legends of the sport do battle, go home.

If, however, you want to actually win matches and collect medals, you need to treat competition as a new skill set to develop, and you should consider competing as often as you can in order to improve your chances of winning.


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