Wednesday, December 15, 2010

You Should Compete

Yes, you.

If you want to know when, the answer is now. Not once you have gotten to a certain level, not once you are a blue belt, not once your cardio is in line. Go Compete. And do it now.

Today is the day of Champions, Tomorrow is a day late.

I’ve competed 16 (or 17, not sure) times now. I’m still a beginner at it. My reasons are individual (namely, I’m bad at it and this challenges me.) Tournaments have done a number of good things for me...It’s been a profound education for me that has extended into day to day life more so than any other aspect.

As rolling on the mats is a learning tool, competing is a whole other realm of education.

Do it because:

It scares you.
Competing isn’t easy. It can be nerve wracking. Things that provoke fear in you need to be beaten. Don’t take the easy path. If you don’t already know, the best way to defeat something is to embrace it first. Then choke it good.

I change my mind; competing is easy. It’s training for life, it’s a small example of how to live and do enormous things while you are scared. Life? Life is hard! A BJJ tournament is going to teach you about fear and what motivates you. How best to face challenges, and how your guts and forearms might go haywire while you do it.

You will win.
You’re going to learn some fantastic things about victory. You will begin to grasp that you are capable; and that your power, and the power of the individual, can surmount any obstacle. You’ll take this back to everyday life.

Can I do this? Just watch.

You will lose.
...and how you react is going to reveal a lot about you. I sense that this is where the real fear lies in competing:

What happens when you put your all into something and you fail? What will happen to you?

This will be a good test of your spirit. Can you fight, lose, and try again? Or are you going to slap your hands on the mats in anger, and never come back again? Will your losses make you stronger? Or will you crumble?

I tell you, you’re already on the mats, working hard. Loses make you better, smarter. This is what BJJ is, and this is what life is.

You will be a better BJJ’er for it.
I’ve already beat down the important ways that competing makes you better; the mental ways. You’ve also got the fact that training for tournaments will make you grow as an athlete. You will have to get into the gym more and work harder when it’s time to roll. The addition of a goal, the end result, will give you something to work towards. Pick up a barbell, develop a “game,” learn your strengths.

There is a subtle yet undeniable difference between competitors and rec players. Respect for anyone on the mats, but competitors have pushed their limits and seek to push them further. They know a comp will test them from top to bottom. They know that how hard they work right now will determine their success in the future

It will guide you
Everyone you fight in a tournament is going to do things differently. Every time you face someone, you’re going to learn something. Whether you’ve fought before or not.

In your club, everyone knows your game and they know how to react. You also know their games.

When you get called on to the mat at a tourney, you look over and see the guy you’re about to fight. You know that he’s a black box. What does he do well? What are his weaknesses? It’s a truer litmus test of your Jiu-Jits. Will you react correctly? Do you just not have an answer? Either way, there’s something he’ll do that you’re not completely familiar with. You will learn about how your game reacts against someone who doesn’t know it, and how you will react to theirs. It’s a whole new bag of hammers.

You will not be hurt
Well, I guess I can’t say that definitively. People get hurt at tournaments. These are physical pursuits. Regardless, people don’t get hurt very often at all. I routinely see more injuries in a week of club rolling than I would at a Tournament. It just doesn’t happen that much.
Either way, I don’t ever see someone injured due to someone else’s malice. If people get hurt, same as in the club, it’s usually rolling the wrong way, or just an unlucky scramble

It’s fun
When we’re not trying to beat each other on the mats, competitors are great people. I’ve made a few hundred friends from academies other than mine. These people have invited me out for dinner after, these people have helped coach me when I showed up without a team. That is camaraderie. It’s honestly a fantastic and beautiful brotherhood, in ways that you wouldn’t believe. You’re going to show up, fight people, and make friends for life. Are there better things to do in a day? No, there are not.

Start right now
Competing does get easier. The fights never do, but the time spent before hand does. You should start now, as soon as you can. Get your feet wet. Experience will eventually make it easier, and the more you have the better. Go sign up.

Do you compete? Tell me why, or why not.

Interesting, I found this post on Starting Strength that basically says the same things. Different sport, same ideas. Cool.


  1. The big reasons I don't compete:

    1. I'm a wimp.

    2. It's expensive.

    3. I really, really hate sparring with takedowns.

    4. I worry about injury (especially when I see things like this, though I'm sure that's rare).

    5. I feel I get enough out of training in class already, especially as I analyse the crap out of every lesson, and I've also had a chance to travel around seven different clubs now, so different training partners, teaching styles, techniques etc.

    Although I'd agree that there is nothing like competition for truly testing whether or not you can actually apply technique on a resisting opponent, which is why I still plan to do it at least once per belt level.

  2. 1. No, you're not. That's not innate. That is something you have the power to change.
    2. You live reasonably urban I assume? with club mates who compete? Sounds not bad. Just the reg fee really...which isn't something I like to pay either, I'll admit.
    3. So did I! It's another skill set, it's a beautiful thing to know, and to feel good about.
    4. After reading your Judo horror story, I can understand an aversion to injury. That being said, I don't think the risk is higher at tourneys than club rolling, quite the opposite. I'd say with the addition of EMS type services at tourneys, risk of injury is lessened even more so.
    5. Yeah, you do analyse the bejesus out of stuff. I still don't think though that club rolling will ever replicate the pressure you get at tourneys.

    It is awesome to visit other clubs! Walking into a club as a visitor can sometimes get you some tourney type experience! ha!

  3. Heh - I don't particularly mind being a wimp. That's probably because it ties directly into my dislike of aggression, which seems to be an important part of competing.

    There are a few relatively cheap, well run comps here in the UK, which is probably what I'll eventually go for when I fancy ticking off 'competed as a blue belt'.

    Stuff like the IBJJF seems pretty expensive, so it will be very interesting to see how the proposed London IBJJF event turns out, given it has a fair number of cheaper, more established and well run competitors (though arguably the IBJJF is tough to beat for prestige).

  4. I think it's important for people to try competing, but I don't think it is for everyone, nor does it have to be.

    Also, I don't see how EMS reduces injury rate. That doesn't make sense....

    nice hat.

  5. Slidey: I'm not sure that aggresion is a big part. I've been doing it long enough that it just feels like a game. I'm not angry, neither is the other guy.

    Ash: EMS guys have Ice on hand and know how to relocate shoulders. I guess I should have said Latent/long term injuries.

  6. That reminds me of something a friend of mine who competes a lot (and just got his purple, which is cool) once said about how he approaches competition.

    Apparently, he finds it helpful to look at competing as just an opportunity to spar somebody you haven't trained with before, which sounds like a positive outlook, although I'm sure that is tough to adopt until you've had a lot of competition experience (and therefore learn how to better deal with nerves etc).

  7. Exactamundo. It's another challenge, another obstacle, another skill.

  8. With a couple friends that I started with (and after) me, competing soon, I've been thinking about this. I've been training about 14 months now and haven't competed...why? Well, I needed a break from certain parts of myself that I'd been running into the ground for the past few years. I started training the second I finished grad school...I spent 5 years studying business and 2 foreign languages like a fiend, and I know how I am about throwing myself at things.

    I started BJJ to relax and do something just for the sake of doing it...nothing to defeat or accomplish...just doing it for enjoyment.

    I'll likely give it a shot in the future though.

  9. @Megan: If you're looking to compete for the first time, try and do it before you reach blue. At blue belt, there is probably the broadest range of skill, so much better to get in the experience earlier in your jiu jitsu career (I'm sure that isn't the right word, but not sure what else to use: journey? Something like that).

  10. @Meg I concur with Mr. Slidey. Except I say compete ASAP. I started at 2.5-3 months in. Get in there and get your first experience in the bag. They start to get easier once you've been there. Then, just keep signing up.

    Also, it does get weird at Blue... you can have fresh blues with who knows how much experience, to guys who are just about to get their purple.

    As far as defeating and accomplishing, my biggest enemy is myself...I don't seek the destruction of others. I seek to find out what I can do, or where I need to go next. In testing myself against others, I learn and I grow.

  11. I'm competing in muay thai from early age and i totaly agree with your opinion. great post man...