I Competed at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Tournament

Photo Credit: Blanca Marisa Garcia / EBI (Gordon Ryan submitting Yuri Simoes)

Two months ago, I competed at a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu tournament. This is how I prepared, how the competition went and a few takeaways.

Competing is common in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This was my 3rd competition since I started training. There is a belt system in bjj and weight classes in tournaments. So you are fighting people at your level and at the same weight class as you are. 

I walked around about 180 lbs, so I decided to sign up for the 185 lbs division, which meant I had to weigh in below 185 lbs on the day of the tournament. I weighed in at 176 lbs, which surprised the guy at the weigh-in table, he even asked if I was sure. Because there was a 170 lbs division as well and if I had cut around 5 lbs like most fighters do, I would’ve had a strength advantage over my opponents. I didn’t care, because I thought I was going to go through all my opponents and get the gold medal no matter what.

How I decided to compete

Two to three weeks before the tournament, my coach came up to me and asked if I wanted to compete at a tournament. Couple of my teammates and my coach were going to be there as well. I said “hell yes, I like competitions.” 

The tournament was in a different state and it was a 4 hour drive from where I lived. That made me think about whether I wanted to go or not. Then I thought it would be a fun 2 day getaway by myself and decided to go. 

The preparation

I didn’t specifically train for this tournament, I had limited time anyway. I just kept going to practice 3 to 4 times a week. After I decided to compete, I started sparring harder than I normally would to mimic the tournament. You can’t fully mimic the tournament at your gym because you know the people you go against, there is no medal at the end and you don’t care if you get tapped. But the best I could do was push my cardio by going harder, and think about my best moves and try to hit them as much as I could. 

The competition day

After my second match

The tournament was on Saturday. I decided to be there on Friday since I was going to drive 4 hours and I didn’t want to be tired on the day of competition. I checked in at my hotel, chilled in my room then went shopping. Bought fruits, Gatorade, water, protein bars and snacks for Saturday night. I was ready for the next day. 

On Saturday morning, I went to the sports center in the morning and weighed in. Watched some of my teammates’ fights then went back to my hotel to chill in my room because my first fight was going to be in the afternoon. 

Couple of hours later, it was almost my time to fight. I had around 20 people in my division and in order to get the gold medal, I had to fight 5 or 6 times. Before my first match, I was not nervous at all, not one bit. Saw my opponent right before the match and told myself I will choke this guy easily. It was harder than I thought but I choked him in 4 minutes. After my first match I was very tired but I had to be ready for my second match. 

It was time to go again. My second opponent was much bigger than the previous one. I still thought I was going to choke him. After some hand fights and a takedown, managed to arm lock him and finish him in 3 minutes. I won my third match by points but somehow hurt my right knee during the fight. If everything went as planned, I had two more matches to win the tournament. My knee was hurting but I thought I could manage to fight two more times. I lost my 4th match by points and my knee was much worse than before. I sat on the floor to rest my knee, because even though I lost my 4th match, I was going to fight for the bronze medal. After sitting for 10 minutes and talking to my coach, I wanted to see how my knee felt and tried to stand up. That’s when I realized I’m unable to stand on my right knee, and could not fight one more time. My coach told me not to fight as well, he didn’t want me to hurt my knee more. So we left the tournament. 

Aftermath

Snacks for the tournament and aftermath

To be completely honest, I was looking forward to Saturday night more than the tournament itself. There was a huge UFC card that day, I was waiting for that event to happen for weeks. I planned out that night a week before. Right after I placed first at the tournament, which I didn’t, I was going to order a large pizza, and devour that in my room, on the bed that was in front of the TV. 

Everything went according to plan except getting the gold medal. I got a large pizza, went to my room and turned the fights on. The fights were as good as I thought they were going to be, and I had a great time.

I left the next morning, which turned out to be another relaxing road trip by myself. Here are a few takeaways from the tournament about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and competitions in general. 

Takeaways

Always remember to breathe. 

Breathing is very important in everyday life. It will help you think clearly, provide you with mental clarity and reduce your stress levels. 

Breathing is also one of the most important concepts of sports. If you don’t know how to breathe correctly, you will probably have endurance issues. So remembering to breathe plays a vital part especially in combat sports. 

It’s ok to be nervous. 

Before any of my matches, I was not nervous at all, even before my first one. I just thought I was going to run through all my opponents. I was very cool before my first match, so I just chilled at the stadium. I realized though it’s actually ok to be nervous before my matches because I didn’t warm up at all, because I didn’t think I needed to. I should have warmed up though. It would’ve made the first match a lot easier, and I might not have injured my knee so soon. 

Competition is much different than training. 

Fighting at a competition and someone completely new is much different than training with the people you know at your gym. You know almost everyone’s fighting style at your gym, so you can adjust your game according to your training partner. At a tournament, you have no idea about your opponent most of the time. That provides you with a completely different experience. 

At your gym, you are not trying to win no matter what, same goes for your training partners. So it’s ok to get tapped and lose, you shake hands and keep going. Your main priority is not winning there, getting better and not hurting your training partners. In a tournament however, your goal is to win no matter what, and your opponents’ goal is the same. So you might have to break an arm or choke someone unconscious if they refuse to tap. They’re not your training partners, so if they refuse to tap to a submission, it’s their choice to get a broken arm or leg, or to go to sleep. That’s why you have to be very careful and willing to hurt your opponent in order to not get hurt. 

Competitions give confidence. 

Combat sports tournaments make people become more confident, especially kids. I believe every kid should do some kind of sports where they have a chance to compete in, preferably a combat sport (wrestling, bjj, muay thai etc) in my opinion. It definitely helps them gain more and more confidence every time they compete. I don’t have any kids but if I do someday, I would definitely want them to train and compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu or some other combat sport. 

Overall, I just love to compete and to fight people I don’t know. It’s a great thing to experience. I can’t wait to compete again.

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