To compete or not to compete?
Competing. Some love it, some hate it. However you feel about it, it is undeniable that competition is a massive part of the jiu jitsu scene. But is it a viable way of gauging your level, or how you have progressed?
Here is a list of pros and cons to help you decide if competing is right for you, and your jiu jitsu:
Perhaps your team mates have become wise to your de la Riva guard, and can anticipate your berimbolo before you even think about doing it. Whereas a new opponent is none the wiser: different people, from different teams, with different styles of jiu jitsu. Competing can be the perfect opportunity to test out how effective your techniques are on an unsuspecting opponent.
Your coach is watching. Your team mates are watching. Maybe even your partner or a family member is watching. The pressure is well and truly on. It can make or break you, but if you decide to let it “make you”, you could find yourself fighting for that pass, defending that sweep and working to regain your guard harder than you ever have before. You push yourself and your jiu jitsu to your physical and mental limit. It shows you what you’re truly capable of when you give 100%. Something you may not ever know unless you put yourself under the pressure of competition.
A Perfect Match
Train with monsters at your gym? No worries! Competitions offer you the opportunity to fight someone not only of your same belt level, but also your same weight. This can be a rare occurrence for some people, especially females and tiny guys. For the bigger guys; sure- you can throw around a guy the same belt as you at the gym, but you could be 10kg heavier. If that same technique doesn’t work on a guy the same weight as you, then perhaps you are relying on something other than pure technique. If you are willing to reflect on and address that technique, focus on the technique and how it is completed; it could influence how you learn and approach new techniques in the future.
The biggest hindrance to our jiu jitsu is our ego. It can prevent us trying something new, which in turn, can hinder our progression. There will always be someone better than you in jiu jitsu. If you are lucky enough to meet them at a competition, do your best to learn from them! Maybe they have highlighted weaknesses in your jiu jitsu that your team mates haven’t. Chose to have a mentality like, “Ok, I got smashed, but I know what I need to work on now”. Go away, work on it, and then compete again. Iron out your creases. Isn’t a black belt just someone who has ironed out all their creases? Someone who has worked on a weakness, improved, and then moved onto their next weakness until they have very few remaining? That is how you will get better. Embrace any opportunity to have your ego crushed. It may not feel like it at the time, but you are helping yourself get better.
You lose, you learn
“There is no losing in jiu jitsu. You either win, or you learn”- (Carlos Gracie Jnr). When you enter competitions, enter with the hope of fighting people better than you. Those battles against an equal, or a more skilled opponent, where you really test your jiu jitsu. But, you may not be lucky enough to have a fight like that.
Fighting the same person is more common in smaller divisions and smaller competitions. Whilst it’s fun to watch rival black belts who have faced each other multiple times in numerous competitions (such as Caio Terra and Bruno Malfacine), when you find yourself fighting the same dude you beat last competition, you’ll wonder what you have to gain from fighting them again.
Imagine the following. Your opponent manages to secure a takedown on you, and lands in your guard. OK, no worries. They’ll start to advance position in a minute. But, no. They don’t. They have zero intention of trying to pass your guard. They intend on pinning your hips to the ground for 3 or 4 minutes, whilst you attempt to escape them to create an angle to attack. And then, the buzzer goes. You may end up losing and feeling like your opponent didn’t do much, and neither did you. How many 5 minute rolls at the gym finish with nobody having achieved anything? No sweeps, no passes, no submission attempts. Winning by advantages is common in competition. In those particular fights, you may not feel like you have taken away quite as much from the “experience”.
Another make or break factor. You will be nervous when you compete. How you let those nerves affect you can, and will, influence the outcome of your fight. The only way to embrace nerves is to get used to them. And the only way to get used to them is to take yourself out of your comfort zone. Once you do that you’ll either embrace the feeling, or become terrified of it. Many people have competed once and have no intention of ever competing again. It could be due to nerves, and not performing well under them, therefore assuming that they will never do well under pressure. Or, it may be just down to losing. Which brings us back to….
Ego Smash, Part 2
You see, it depends on how you view this. If you want your ego to be crushed, then competing is a good thing. If you don’t like having your ego crushed, then you could feel that competing is a bad thing. Some fear their own ego, and do not want to be tested. Ultimately, through fear: fear of losing, fear of getting hurt, fear of their ego. Very few people leave competitions injured (unless through their own stubbornness). So if we ruled that out, ask yourself why you haven’t competed yet? What have you really got to lose? In terms of your progression- if you want to get better, you need to let go of your ego.
You may not want to be a world champion, or even win a shiny medal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean competition isn’t for you. It can change how you approach your training.
Training is where your jiu jitsu develops and grows, where you practise your jiu jitsu. Practise areas that need improvement. Competition can help identify those areas to you. It provides you with an aim, a sense of direction, something to work towards. How can you gauge progression without specifically knowing what you need to work on, and then testing whether you’ve improved? Competing can provide you with measurable goals. If goals are measurable, you can see your improvement first hand. If you want to progress, having aims that are measurable will help far more than something immeasurable, like a new belt colour. Perhaps competing could be just the tool you need to work that out..?
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