Some of us who study jiu-jitsu for self-defense like to avoid competitions.
But we shouldn’t.
Competitions not only have self-defense applicability, but can help us prepare for an attack in ways BJJ gyms usually don’t.
Here are three ways BJJ competitions can help prepare us for a real fight.
They encourage us to fight hard
In order to survive during an attack, we need to get used to someone coming at us with all of his might.
Unfortunately, most of us roll relatively lightly at our gyms. This is understandable, considering we don’t want to hurt our partners, but it gets us accustomed to dealing with less aggressive opponents.
Most of us roll harder at competitions, though. The allure of a gold medal coupled with the fear of disappointing our teams has a way of bringing out our fighting spirit.
Though our opponents thankfully roll with significantly more control than the average street fighter, they give us a taste of the aggression we will face when fighting off an attacker.
They teach us to deal with anxiety
As average civilians, most of us who don the gi have not been trained to stay calm during an attack. We simply aren’t ready for the heart-racing, stomach-turning, paralyzing fear that comes when someone is ready to kill us.
Competitions, however, simulate some of that anxiety. For many of us, there’s nothing quite as nerve-wracking as standing across the mat from an opponent and knowing one mistake can mean the difference between a gold medal and disappointment.
Frequently competing can calm these fears and help us fight more effectively – both on and off the mat.
They get us used to fighting strangers
If we go to our gyms regularly, we usually spar against people we’ve rolled with before. As a result, we become familiar with our opponents’ strengths, weaknesses, and style.
Our opponents are probably not going to be the ones to attack us in the street, though. Usually, it is going to be someone we’ve never fought.
Competitions help us prepare for these scenarios by pitting us against complete strangers. When we face an opponent at a competition, we usually do so blindly, knowing nothing about her strengths, weaknesses, or moves.
Frequently competing therefore gets us used to fighting strangers and gives us yet another reason to think twice about skipping competitions.