If you are (or were) a BJJ competitor then you know exactly what the title of this post is all about. For many competitive athletes just the idea of being able to compete is one of the biggest motivating factors behind playing sports along with the exhilaration of the competitive arena. Even though competitive athletes hate to lose, it is not winning that necessarily drives them but the enjoyment they get out of the challenge competition brings. For many people, competition is fun and a great challenge and can to motivate you to train harder.
In BJJ, as in any other sport, there are the ones which love to compete and use every opportunity to do so and those which never compete under any circumstance. There are many more people that are closer to the second extreme, but one thing which is certain is that different advices are suitable for different types of BJJ practitioners.
If you are a beginner, don’t go out to compete if you are scared of getting hurt – this is usually a foolproof sign that you’re still not ready. That kind of fear really tells that you don’t have enough experience with BJJ and if you start a match with that mindset, the injury can easily happen in reality. Also, if your instructor tells you that you are still not ready for your first competition don’t insist too much.
If you didn’t compete for a long period of time don’t compete at some major tournament immediately – first try yourself at some smaller one, feel the vibe of competition that you didn’t feel for a long time and go to compete at a tournament where you can perform without pressure. First try to restore the old feeling of being an active competitor and then test yourself at some bigger tournaments.
If you are seasoned competitor more or less you should compete every time when you get a chance, except if you are seriously injured. Even if you are out of shape you should compete because you can learn from it.
Don’t compete at small tournaments if you don’t feel 100% and you have major one approaching – you can lose more than you can gain if you have to rest because of the injury. This way you lose your preparation time for the main goal.
If you have big injury you usually shouldn’t compete, but there are exceptions. If you have competition which is important for your career and after it you have time to heal sometimes you should do it for the sake of higher achievement. People have different characters and aspirations so this is totally individual decision.
If you are not “hungry” or motivated.
Whenever you compete being 100% motivated and focused, you will almost always do well. If you don’t medal, then at least you will give 100% of your capabilities and lose honorably. The same motivation and focus is not only present on the day of the competition but through the months of hard training before D day, where you have to train at least 2 times a day, lift weights, eat well, not go out on weekends, drill all techniques like crazy, work on your BJJ stand up, go 100% in sparring etc…
On the other hand if you compete unmotivated, under-prepared, or even over-trained, you have very big chances of not doing well. The worst is when you don’t even feel nervous before a fight and you suddenly wake up in your opponent’s guard and think to yourself “How on earth did I get here??”. If that is the case then you should never have competed in the first place!
There are also situations in which you should definitely compete. If these things happen to you and you still decide to compete, you will grow as a person and as a fighter:
You know that there is not enough time to make desired weight – change your weight category and compete anyway.
If you have registered for competition but you are not happy how you’re prepared – just get out there and try to do your best. You will much more then by quitting.
If you had some accident or tragedy in your private life – getting out to compete will take your mind off life problems, you will end up stronger in any case – win or lose at competition.
Competing will make you grow but sometimes it can be counterproductive, try to find what works for you and always seek for balance. Use smaller regional tournaments as a testing ground for your game and see what you need to change. However don’t compete in the bigger BJJ international events like Worlds, Pan, Europeans, if you are not 100% motivated and not ready to train like a madman for a few months and sacrifice many things in order to win. It’s not worth showing up there like a tourist and collecting a T-Shirt. All you will learn in losing is what I already just told you in this article: If you want to compete, then you have to be motivated and ready to sacrifice!
Good luck next time competing!