What To Expect In Your First BJJ Competition

Joining a BJJ competition is possibly one of the most nerve-wracking experiences you have to endure if you want to test your improvement and skills in the sport. Training for months preparing for your first BJJ competition is certainly daunting, but it is invaluable for your development as a grappler and as an individual. Today, we will talk about the things to expect in your first BJJ competition.


BJJ As A Combat Sport

BJJ nowadays is gaining popularity because of its proven effectiveness for self-defense and physical altercations. It is a unique martial art, as practitioners get to spar often in their training sessions and can even go full throttle without having to worry about the long-term side-effects compared to striking martial arts.

BJJ is for everyone, as it is one of the safest martial arts to train, with observable positive effects for its practitioners, such as improved confidence, fitness, and motor skills. It does not require much athleticism, as people of any age can freely train BJJ. This is on top of the fact that it is an enjoyable activity that gets the body working.


Things To Expect In Your First BJJ Competition

If you have been training in BJJ for some time, it might have crossed your mind about joining a competition to gain experience or to test your skills to see if competition is really for you. Joining a BJJ competition can be a wake-up call, as you will be facing an opponent filled with adrenaline going against you. Below are some things to keep in mind for your first BJJ competition.


1) Monitor Your Gas Tank

two female students rolling in bjj

In your first competition, you will face many opponents and thus many unknown variables. Although this comes from experience, knowing when to press an attack or to stall for a few seconds to catch your breath will be helpful. An example of this is after relentlessly passing the open guard of your opponent. Take a few seconds to catch your breath while pinning him in side control before going for your next move.


2) Prepare For A Takedown

In a beginner’s tournament, whoever lands the first takedown typically gets to control the match physically and mentally. Setting up and landing your takedown before your opponent does gives you a huge confidence boost, especially in novice tournaments. Successfully landing your takedown can put you in an advantageous position (side control, mount, and back mount) as there will be a few seconds before your opponent can recover right after your takedown, so make sure to capitalize from it and go for the position!


3) When To Contract And Relax

bjj students grappling in gi

When doing active work such as playing the guard, passing the guard, or doing a submission, it is important to understand when to burst, contract, or relax. Take the rear-naked choke as an example. Squeezing early as hard as possible in a rear-naked choke without clearing the hands of your opponent that protects his chin and neck can be a waste of energy and effort.
Learning when to contract your muscles to go for a submission and to relax is a good thing that will benefit you in the long run, as it can be used as an element of surprise. Try to apply this in your first BJJ competition so that your opponent will keep on guessing.


4) Don’t Set Any Expectations

Ironically, setting expectations about what you should achieve in your first competition may lead to disappointment. Remember, it is only your first competition, so it is important to view it as an opportunity to assess your skills and have fun!


5) Warm-Up And Drill Properly

bjj rolling with partners

On the day of your competition, try to have a partner with whom you can do drills repeatedly when you get to the venue. Warming up and drilling before your matches will give you the confidence to execute your go-to move later on in your match.


6) Throw Your Flashy Moves Out Of The Window!

While being able to execute a flashy move can do wonders for the camera, stick to the fundamentals, and have a simple game plan. Perform the fundamental moves you have been practicing countless times in sparring during your BJJ classes. Unless you have repeatedly been doing flying submissions, keep it safe and injury-free for later.


7) Expect That Your Opponent Has Worked Hard

bjj students shaking hands in gi

Expect already that your opponent has drilled, sparred, and trained a lot before the competition – just as you have. Show respect by not underestimating your opponent.


8) Your Opponent Is Just As Nervous As You Are

The butterflies in your stomach and the adrenaline pumping through your veins… these are the exact feelings your opponent is experiencing. Every athlete, even in the highest levels of competition, still experiences anxiety before their matches begin. Enjoy the feeling, use your anxiousness to push through your matches and bring your A-game!


9) Trust Yourself

bjj females competition in gi

This may be the most important aspect before joining a competition. Even though there are a lot of factors such as skill, strength, and experience that will decide the match, remember that you are there to compete. Many competitors lose confidence due to fear and anxiety. This is when skills get thrown out of the window despite training hard in the gym. Remind yourself what you can do and what you are capable of!


Final Thoughts

As the famous BJJ coral belt Fabio Santos says, a tournament is the equivalent of taking 30 classes. It is a slap of reality to face someone and go at you 100%. No matter how your first competition turns out, there is plenty of time for improvement. Take note of the things you did well and the things you need to work on.

Some BJJ practitioners are excellent teachers, some are good competitors, and some are both. The result of your first BJJ competition will not determine how well you are going to be in jiu-jitsu, although it can be a huge confidence boost to get a gold medal. Do not be discouraged, as Gordon Ryan, one of the best no-gi grapplers of all time, didn’t win any major competitions until he was about a brown belt in BJJ.


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