Some BJJ students get super excited when they hear that a competition is coming up. If it is their first ever try at an IBJJF tournament they will suddenly think of a pile of questions.
“What are the rules?”
“Can I do this technique or that technique?”
“Will I have to fight blue belts in my first competition?” (Not unless YOU are a blue belt yourself!)
Let’s address a few of the important things regarding your 1st ever BJJ competition.
1) Familiarize yourself with the rules
I notice that even competitors who have a few tournaments under their belts do not understand some of the rules.
Ex. No, you do not get points for side control. Escaping the mount by bridging to the top does not count for sweep points.
You need to understand how points are counted (ex. hold the position for 3 seconds) and what techniques are illegal (ex. knee reaping and jumping to closed guard).
Your instructor can answer many of your questions but for the more specific details I would recommend looking at the official IBJJF rules book online.
2) Step up your conditioning!
A major difference in the amount of adrenaline and nerves leads many 1st time competitors to quickly fatigue in their matches.
Especially the forearm muscles from all of that ferocious gripping.
You must be able to match the pace of your opponent or quickly find yourself in a bad position. In addition, you may have multiple matches in the day.
You want to be in your best physical condition to be able to display your jiu-jitsu techniques, so pay increased attention to your running, weights and intense rounds before the tournament.
3) Pass the guard / defend the guard
The majority of matches in a tournament between evenly matched competitors will involve battles to pass and defend the guard.
So, much of your training preparations for the tournament should involve both passing and defending the guard, top and bottom.
Guard retention drills to hold and recover the guard. Different passes to deal with a wide variety of guard styles.
Lots of specific training where you start in guard and try to pass / sweep or submit.
4) Have Fun!
There are 2 ways to look at competing: Dead serious and if you lose that means that your jiu-jitsu is terrible :-(
Or you can choose to look it as a new experience in your jiu-jitsu and a way to find out where you are in your learning. One competitor said that a single tournament taught him more about his jiu-jitsu than a year of training at the academy.
It is perfectly normal to experience nerves before a tournament. Even World Champions who have been competing since they were in the kids division admit to nerves before a match.
You are not alone.
Remind yourself that you are there to test your skills and have a new experience in your jiu-jitsu, hopefully with some valuable lessons and new friends along the way.
And most of all, have fun!
see also : GB Interview: Professor Draculino on Competition
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Saigon, Vietnam