Everyone who is able to do so ought to compete at least once in their BJJ career. Regardless of the reason you may have gotten into Jiu-Jitsu, competition can help further those goals. It’s one thing if you’re physically, mentally, or even financially unable to compete. No one can hold that against you.
However, if you’re able, but choose not to, you’re missing out on one of the most valuable learning opportunities you will ever come across in your Jiu-Jitsu life.
Adversity makes us stronger. There is no secret about that. There are hundreds of witticisms that illustrate this as well, and we’ve all heard them. I’m not going to bore you to death by telling you how a tree grows stronger roots when it faces high winds. We get it.
However, what I do want to talk about is how competition exposes our weaknesses in ways that rolling in the gym could never do. When we roll in the gym, we are with people who are familiar with our game. They know how we move, the techniques we tend to use, both offensively and defensively.
This is both a help and a hindrance. It helps because we get to improve our game against specific opponents. We’ve all got that one guy at the gym who we specifically plan for. We pick new moves, watch videos, and ask around about ho to beat whatever it is that they’re good at.
The downside is we’re always planning on beating just a handful of people. We’re never really looking outside of our own gym for improvement. You and your gym partners may not realize what your weakness is, because it isn’t part of any of your games.
Once you step onto the mat of a competition though, your weaknesses will often be revealed. Maybe it’s a hole in your game someone exploits that you never noticed before and taps you out. Awesome! Now you know what to work on next time you head back to the gym.
Maybe we go to compete and get overly nervous. We find we can’t calm ourselves under such a stressful situation. There is only one cure for this: more competition. In BJJ, we tend to treat the sport side and the self-defense side of the art as completely separate. I disagree. People who take up Jiu-Jitsu for the martial arts side of things have a overwhelming need to compete. If you find you can’t calm yourself in a controlled, sport environment, how can you ever expect yourself to remain collected enough to defend yourself should occasion call for it?
You might argue that point fighting is very different from fighting for your safety. However, as BJJ Bishop has shown us, the points fighters are the same who finish with submissions.
Another weakness we might find in ourselves through competition is a lack of heart, strength, or conditioning. These are all easy fixes. But we too often remain blind to them until we compete.
Losing at a competition is a way to see the most honest, naked version of the truth regarding our skills. You might make excuses (you were sick; he was just too big; you were too tired; injured; etc.), but that’s all they are, excuses. At that point, you are only lying to yourself.
So if you’re able, compete! Find the areas you need to improve. Even when you win, you will see things that you could improve. Through the adversity of competing, you will find excellence.
“Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives – choice, not chance, determines your destiny.” – Aristotle