Tournaments for the Non Competitive

With the recent In-House Tournament at Pacific Top Team Kelowna this past weekend, and upcoming tournaments this fall (Katana in Vancouver, CBJJF in Calgary and Vancouver, and IBJJF in Seattle), many of us have our thoughts turning to tournaments.  And competing.

Why would someone voluntarily step on the mats? Knowing that for the next few minutes of their life, they are going to physically exert themselves to the extreme. Knowing that the person they are fighting with is doing the same. In hopes to… win a medal? For some competitors, they’ll spend weeks training, dieting, dealing with injuries, and focusing all energies on a tournament.  You might see them a bundle of nerves the day of, maybe even puking in the garbage before stepping on the mats; or they may be deadly calm, talking to no one. They step out on the mats and fight harder than they ever have before, to win by points or submission, or to lose seconds into the match by a fantastic submission.

bjj tournament

To someone that competes regularly, it’s a no brainer as to why they compete.  The adrenaline and rush of competing, combined with testing your skills against others like you, gives an experience that you can’t find on your club’s mats on a daily basis.  Competitions allow a competitor to find out exactly what type of jiu-jitsu player they are, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they need to do in order to win gold.  In other words, in the process of trying to win, they learn.

But, what if you don’t consider yourself someone that likes to compete? Why would you take the risk to step out on the mats, in front of your team mates, family and friends, only to possibly lose? For the exact same reason that a competitor steps on the mats to compete: to learn.  If you consider yourself a non-competitor, you should try to compete, at least once in your Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu career. The opportunity to discover your knowledge & skills when tested and pushed, and see what type of Jiu-Jitsu player you are, is an invaluable learning experience. If learning becomes your intended outcome, you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you also have the ability to win.

bjj tournament

How does a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player start to compete? It’s fairly simple – start early, set realistic expectations for yourself…and knowledge is power.

Many white belts won’t compete because they think they’re not ready.  But you will never be 100% ready for a tournament. Ask anyone who has competed before and they will say that they should have lost another 2 pounds, trained an extra month, upped their cardio – there’s always room for improvement. It doesn’t matter if you’ve trained for three months or three years, a good time to try a competition is now.

Set realistic expectations for your frst tournament experience. Go into the tournament with the mind set that you are going to win. If you are already expecting to lose before you step on the mats, expect that to be your outcome. However, don’t make winning be your only goal for competing. Don’t forget it’s a way to learn exactly where you are at in your Jiu-Jitsu development. If you haven’t been training hard or are not in your physical prime, know that you might find your fights to be hard and that they make t take everything that you have. But don’t let that stop you.


Finally, knowledge is power. Read the rules, check out the tournament website for pictures, schedule and brackets.  Talk to your team mates about what they’ve experienced from their competitions and get advice from them. Ask your professor what you should work on, what to expect, and what kind of support you’ll need to be successful. Go to the venue in advance of your fights so you can see the setup, know where the change rooms are, where you need to weigh in, and how the tournament is being run. Watch other competitors and see how they warm up, where they go to warm up, and what happens during the matches. And, as always, ask questions if you don’t know.

You don’t have train daily, eat spinach and boiled chicken regularly, or be the best in your club to compete to learn.  In the end, it’s not all about the medal.

In the words of Carlson Gracie “There is no losing in jiu jitsu.  You either win or you learn.”



Photos Courtesy of In a Breeze Marketing

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