Point and Counterpoint: A Competitor SHOULD NOT Consider The Well-Being Of Their Opponent

I recently had a conversation with my friend and fellow Jiu-Jitsu Times writer, Averi Clements in which we discussed competition strategies.  During this conversation, Averi mentioned that she always feels concerned for her opponents’ well-being. I replied that I feel that concern may be a tactical disadvantage. During the vast majority of my matches, I do my best to roll with a degree of savagery and lack of regard for the other person. I feel this is the best way to ensure victory.

I suppose that the first thing to look at are the reasons we compete.  I compete for three major reasons:

  1. To gain a clear perspective on how my technique works when going against a person who is not “training” with me, but rather is trying to defeat me.  This is an important distinction, in competition most of us are trying to win.
  2. To obtain a degree of stress inoculation.  The more you compete, the better you will be at competing. You will also be better at calming yourself down in stressful situations.  What makes competition stressful?  The fact that you have another person quite literally trying to eliminate you from the running.
  3. To feed your own ego.  The whole “leave your ego at the door” and “zero ego” thing is a myth.  In competition you want to win, and if you don’t want to win you probably shouldn’t spend the money and time to compete.  In training you must curb your ego to some degree in order to allow yourself to be vulnerable enough to learn your limitations, but competition is different.  There’s a reason that most black belt world champions pound their chests and carry on after winning matches. The ego is a very real motivator.

The person standing across the mat from you at a competition has signed a waver for the privilege of hurting you.  The vast majority of competitors will break your joints and bones or choke you unconscious if you allow them to get into an appropriate situation to do so and refuse to tap.  Whether or not you care about their well-being, most of them don’t care about yours.

The reality is that competition is not for everyone.  It requires a degree of disregard for another person of which not everyone is capable.  If you compete, to what end do you compete?  All competitors have aspirations to one day be a champion.  If you find yourself in the finals of a division that offers a steep cash prize, and your opponent is refusing to tap to a locked submission, will you potentially forego that prize to spare your opponent serious injury?

My answer is “no”.  If I am competing at a smaller local tournament, I will be less hard-nosed about my submissions. But if money is on the line, or it’s a tournament for which I have spent months preparing, I am not trying to get my opponent to tap, I am trying to break them. If they tap before they break, I let go.  It’s one thing if I am competing at a small local gym that is putting on a 20 dollar competition; it’s a whole different thing to enter an IBJJF or ADCC tournament.

This is not to say that I don’t care about my opponents, because some of my favorite people that I’ve met in jiu-jitsu have been at some point or another opponents.  But when I get caught in competition, I tap as quickly as I can because I realize that the alternative is potential injury. I expect the same from my opponents, and as a result have not been injured very often at competition.  I expect them to tap when caught, and if they defy that expectation, that is on them, not on me.

Competition is tough.  It’s not for everyone.  And if you’re going to compete, you cannot have the “gym mindset.” For the most part, other competitors are not going to care whether or not they hurt you. If you care whether or not you hurt your opponents, that will ultimately be used against you and may wind up costing you victories.



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