At Jiu Jitsu Times, perhaps the best part of our blog is that we are able to connect directly with the community and provide news and information that may otherwise be unavailable. We also really like taking reader questions!
We recently got a fascinating question that I wanted to touch on:
“How long should I wait before competing?”
This is such a simple question yet the answer can be really complicated!
For starters, you need to know something: you’re probably not going to win your first tournament. In fact, you’re probably not going to win your first 5 tournaments. In fact, you’re probably not going to win any of your first few matches!
The reason I say this so casually is that if you haven’t competed yet, the first time you do you will be so stressed and caught up in your own feelings and thoughts that you will be unable to effectively apply the few techniques you’ve been able to absorb thus far. The more you compete, the less this will be a problem for you.
I’ve watched very tough jiujiteiros crumble under the pressure of competition, and I’ve watched guys who aren’t really very good beat people they normally would be unable to roll successfully against at open mat. The reason for this is that competition is chaotic and emotionally taxing.
I’ll take it a step further: competition isn’t for everyone. I know guys who have attained legitimate rank without ever winning a gold medal. Jiu Jitsu and, more specifically, the quality of your jiu jitsu is not reliant upon competition. However, competition is a possible avenue to challenge yourself and gauge your own progress.
So how long should you wait before competing? Wait until you know how to tap. If you’re still at that new white belt phase where guys are telling you “Hey it’s time for you to tap” you’re probably not ready because when you go out there you don’t want to sustain permanent injury. Once you begin to understand when you’re in trouble, talk to your instructor and ask them if they’re okay with you doing your first competition. And do it. Don’t wimp out.
Personally, I think that a good choice for one’s first few competitions are small local tournaments. Get your feet wet, don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to travel stay somewhere and compete. Once you’ve gotten to the point where you’re no longer crapping your pants as you walk in the door, do a bigger tournament if it’s available to you, and from there work your way up.
I started training seriously as a white belt in 2011, and did my first competition in December of 2011. Including my first competition I did a total of 8 competitions between 2011 and the end of 2014, earning a total of 4 gold medals (2 of which were at a single tournament at the end of 2014.) I didn’t bring home my first gold medal until May of 2013. In 2015 I competed in 12 competitions, and brought home 13 gold medals. The point I’m making is that the more you compete the better you do, so if you want to be a competitor start early and compete often.
For those of you out there who compete, what do you think of my assessment? Is there anything you’d add? Any words of wisdom our fellow jiujiteiro?