Your First Jiu-Jitsu Tournament

Flickr/Creative Commons: Richard Presley

If you have decided to compete in a tournament for the first time, I’ll share everything I wish I knew when I started. One of the most important is to be ready to compete at all times throughout the day of the tournament. Some of them have a short time between rounds and others longer. You don’t know the time length of the match before yours, so be ready. If there are long periods of time between matches be prepared for what you need to sustain yourself. Bring food and water for the entire day given that possibility. Sometimes a competitor may not show up or get injured during the tournament, so the times will be adjusted. Stay warmed up and ready to go for this same reason. There were times when they asked people to compete at a higher-weight class if they needed extra people. So, if you are willing to do so, then always be ready. You may think you are done but may have another opportunity. 

Have a game plan going into to the tournament with backup options. This concept is why taking private lessons is a huge advantage to practicing a specific game plan for the tournament. It is also important to know who will be cornering you and preparing with them at practice. When you are rolling ask your partners to start standing, so you have the proper prep for the tournament. Whether you are competing or not, it is good for your training to roll with teammates below your level to work offense, at a higher level to work defense, and at the same level to work both. I would recommend rolling with partners that are the same weight as you or above. It is always better for your match to feel easier than it does in class.

Leading up to the tournament, split your time wisely between wrestling and jiu-jitsu. If you are not comfortable with pulling guard and it is not part of your game, then you will need some wrestling. However, it is only a part of the game and is irrelevant in terms of points for sub-only tournaments. Spend the majority of the time on your jiu-jitsu. How much wrestling you practice depends on the rules of the tournament, your game plan, any wrestling background, and the amount of time in your schedule. You need to take into consideration all of the rules of the tournament while prepping for it. Outside of class, do extra cardio leading up to it especially if it is your weakness. Strength and flexibility both need to be practiced year-round and do not result in significant changes in short periods of time like cardio does.

Sign up early to commit to your goal of competing which usually benefits in a lower fee as well. You also may need this time to make weight. Determine when you weigh into prep properly for that day. If you have never had to make weight, then ask your teammates/coach who has. Ask about the process of dropping weight and also rehydrating if needed. I suggest not dropping any extreme amount of weight, especially for your first one. It will be a learning process for making weight and so many other factors. 

One of the most important areas of the prep, in my opinion, is about preparing for any nerves. If you don’t meditate, then I’d suggest you start. If you do, then increase it with visualization of your match going exactly as planned. It is normal to get nervous, but this can vary greatly between individuals and also affect your breathing which will negatively affect your performance. Plan your day as much like practice as you can by eating similarly, wearing the rash guard and spats you like the most, and having supportive friends and teammates come to watch you. Videotape the match, so you can review it and learn from it. Whatever the outcome, let go of the results and always remember “The Man in the Arena” quote by Theodore Roosevelt.


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