If you follow many online blogs and social media pages devoted to BJJ, you may get the feeling that everyone who does BJJ loves to compete. The front pages of the jiu-jitsu magazines feature World Champions and the stories of their most recent victories.
Many guys around the academy are crazy for competitions and focus their entire training in sports BJJ positions and tactics.
They are so driven by competition that it is difficult for some of them to understand someone who doesn’t want to compete. Malcom Gladwell had a great Jewish folk saying “To a worm in horseradish, the whole world is horseradish!”
It might surprise you to learn that in the average academy only 10% to 20% of the members are active competitors. That means the majority of students training jiu-jitsu are not interested in competition.
And that’s okay!
I have experienced some jiu-jitsu academies where sport competition was the overwhelming emphasis in the classes. The nucleus of the school was a group of guys who loved to compete and pushed each other hard. Sometimes, the non-competitors felt like second class citizens and less valued by the instructor. This might be understandable in the period of preparation right before an important tournament, as the competitors are pushing themselves hard and that requires a lot of focus.
However non-competitors are every bit as important to the life of a BJJ academy as the competitors.
Saulo Ribeiro said in his epic book, “Jiu-jitsu University” that although he loved and believed in competition, it was not necessary.
Some may do jiu-jitsu simply because they enjoy gaining the knowledge. Others perhaps dislike the limelight or just don’t want to compete in this particular sport. I love to do other sports, but I don’t have the desire to compete in those sports.
It has been said that “everyone is fighting some battle.”
I believe martial arts are about:
- facing our fears
- overcoming our limitations
- stretching our abilities
- attempting to achieve our physical, mental, and spiritual human potential
This may include competition but may not, although I believe that anyone who stays with jiu-jitsu long enough to get a blue or purple belt likely has a strong competitive aspect to their personality, even if they are not interested in tournaments.
In my former home academy there were eight black belts, half of whom were not motivated by competition and yet loved jiu-jitsu enough to persevere to black belt.
We are inspired and motivated by the members of our BJJ schools who love to compete, but if you have other reasons underlying your training and are not interested in competition, that is perfectly okay.