In the grand scheme of things I compete a lot, at least once a month. There are people who compete more than I do, and of course most jiu jitsu practitioners compete far less than I do. There is a lot I don’t like about competition. I don’t like standing around waiting, I don’t like having to travel, and I don’t like a lot of the political nonsense that can happen at tournaments. However, I do enjoy winning, and I see great value in competing, and competing frequently.
When I first started training seriously in 2011, it took me about 6 months before I hit my first competition. It was a small in house tournament at an MMA gym about an hour from me, and I was a nervous wreck the night before. I went to this tournament and did gi and no gi, taking silver in both by beating the same guy twice. My results moving forward were pretty similar, as I’d always be very nervous going in and would always experience huge adrenaline dumps.
At a certain point right after I got my blue belt, I made a decision to start competing more frequently, and in doing so I found that there are some benefits to competing frequently.
For starters, when I say compete frequently, I don’t mean travel the world looking for IBJJF Tournaments (unless you can afford that and want to do it.) Local tournaments will suffice small in house tournaments, etc. The more the better. Back in October of 2015 I competed 3 times, all of them small local productions. Make sure you still mix in bigger tournaments when possible, as the experience of being in a larger venue, on a larger stage, can bring about stress of its own. But the goal should be make tournaments feel no more stressful than visiting another gym’s open mat.
As you compete more and more frequently, you’ll find yourself sleeping sounder the nights before you compete. Also, you’ll find yourself less nervous as you wait around the venue. Back when I used to compete once every 6 months, I would be completely drained just from the tension of standing around waiting to compete.
The ability to relax before competing will eventually translate to the ability to relax during your matches. And that’s where the fun begins. When your opponent is visibly stressed out, and you come out super relaxed, your chances of winning go up exponentially, regardless of your actual technical level. Also, your chances of pulling off your game plan go up.
This can also mean that you are able to coach your teammates more effectively, as you are able to see and understand more during their matches than you would if you were stressed out. All very important!
One last detail: self defense. I know there are people who insist that competition doesn’t help with self defense but I’d contend that it does. The build up to a fight very often feels similar to the build up before a BJJ match. If you are able to keep your cool, you may be able to avoid the fight altogether. Also if you are able to keep your cool in the event that a fight actually does go down, you’ll be able to react more effectively. Competition is one of the best forms of stress inoculation.
The more you compete, the better you’ll do in competition, and the more you’ll enjoy competing, which will encourage you to compete more, and do better in competition. It’s pretty awesome.
For those of you out there who are able to compete frequently, do you find that my assessment is accurate? Are there any benefits I’ve missed?
Agree. For me, being in the small group that practices martial arts not just for physical/mental reasons but for spiritual pursuits as well, I use competition as a type of Zen meditation… just as some use “waking” meditation to be “present in the moment’ and “go beyond mind” I use competition as my meditation tool…. to focus, be in the moment, face fears etc… and I love the act of physical contact with another human being, to join two as if one…. remain calm under stress etc. I tried to compete at least once a month and started since the first week of training and I do well because of my wrestling background. We always win if we let go of ego and enjoy the experience.