If you’re like me, just the thought of an upcoming bjj tournament makes my stomach do loops. Let’s all agree that competitions suck, but winning a bjj competition is one of the best feelings in the world.
Below is some info for how to get ready for your first bjj tournament and deal with bjj competition training.
These will be explained in detail further, but:
To answer the question of how to get ready for your first bjj tournament, you should gain confidence in the training room by working on defenses, create a competition game plan and practice it both in drilling and live sparring, create a plan to deal with competition nerves, and finally, compete as frequently as possible.
The best way to get ready for your first bjj tournament is to gain confidence through your regular training. This is something that I’ve found has helped me the most when approaching my first bjj tournament and any thereafter.
Among all jiu jitsu belts, bjj tournaments or competitions are something that is highly recommended.
These are the factors that have helped me the most as well as others at my gym who have competed:
- Gain confidence in the training room by working on your weak points as well as defenses
- Compete as frequently as possible (know that after ~10 competitions it will become much easier)
- Create a game plan and be sure to drill it and work it into live training as often as possible
- Create a plan to deal with competition nerves by being prepared, keeping things routine, and focusing on your breathe
BJJ competition training
BJJ competition training is one of the obvious things that can help you deal with competition nerves.
Confidence comes from your ability to perform in the training room.
If you are a white belt and are getting ready for your first competition and you frequently submit blue belts, you are going to feel much more confident going into your first bjj tournament.
Through your time with bjj training you should be acutely aware of all your weak points and work towards improving them and to have answers for them.
If you notice that you are frequently getting caught in guillotines or other submissions that may come from the front headlock position, it is extremely important that you are spending time in those positions/submission in both drilling and live training leading up to your first competition.
Furthermore, spend a good chunk of preparation in bad positions and submissions. If you are confident in your pin and submission escapes you will be all the more fearless during competition time.
Just as you are working on those weak points, it is important to know your most effective take downs, passing positions, sweeps, and submissions.
Have your specific game plan in mind and attempt to perform it as much as possible during your live training.
Once you know where you are good at it is time to tailor a bjj game plan to those strong points.
If you are going to pull guard (which I recommend for many first time competitors) have your favorite sweeping position ready to go and deeply ingrained into your muscle memory.
Ignore all the people and accept the competition nerves of the event. For me, trying to fight the nerves just makes them worse.
Finally, I spend a majority of time working on my escapes and submission defense, these should be a huge part in your bjj competition training.
The truth is if you are confident in these it will almost make you fearless. I like reinforce the idea in my mind over and over again by thinking:
BJJ competition nerves
BJJ competition nerves are very normal and something every competitor has to deal with. It sucks, but honestly your own mind is what can sometimes hold you back the most.
The two biggest things that have helped me personally are:
- focusing on my breathe (and nothing else – using box breathing)
- visualizing the techniques and positive outcomes
Making sure I show up on time, dealing with checking in at the event, finding my mat, waiting around for my match to start – these are all things that lend themselves to my personal bjj competition nerves.
In addition to those twp tips above, the way I deal with bjj competition nervers personally is by
- Maintaining my usual routine as much as possible
- I try to eat the same type of meals I usually eat the day of competition
- I keep my same sleep schedule
- I don’t attempt to cut more than a couple pounds of weight.
- Finally, after each bjj tournament, I go out to dinner with my wife.
For me, it’s a celebration after surviving the roller coaster of nerves while competing that I look forward to.
All of these things comfort me.
As my first match approaches, I accept that the nerves are there and focus on my breath.
In the actual matches themselves, look for opportunities to focus on your breath and aim for control positions (which I know if very difficult in the high intensity of a tournament match).
As your adrenaline begins pumping and scrambles start, breathing will undoubtedly take a back seat so try to bring it back into the forefront of your mind whenever possible
As soon as that first match starts you will be going back to your instincts that were ingrained in throughout your previous bjj competition training.
Take comfort in knowing you are there to do the same thing you do every week at your gym.
Finally, I strongly recommend playing a conservative game for your first match.
If for you personally this means pulling guard, only relying on your highest percentage submissions, or heavily playing from your back feel free to do just that.
The first match is always the scariest so I tend to play a safe game. The matches after that will always feel smoother and less daunting.
What should you bring to your first bjj competition
I like to prepare my jiu jitsu bag the night before if possible. Some of these items may seem obvious, but these are things that I bring to every competition:
- a ton of water and/or sports drinks
- quick and easy snacks like an apple or fruit snacks
- extra rashguard and/or gi
- casual clothes to change into after
- pain relief meds for any bumps or injuries
When should you do your first bjj competition
If you are looking to compete, I recommend that you should do your first bjj competition at ~6 months – 1 year into training depending on prior grappling experience.
At this point in your training, you should have a grasp of the fundamentals and a general idea of what your weak and strong points are. Many believe that the earlier the better, but you should compete when you are comfortable.
Keep in mind you may never feel 100% ready to go out and compete, but if you are getting results in the training room with both those at your level and others at higher jiu jitsu belts you should consider giving your first competition shot.
Finally, if you want to get better at dealing with the nerves of a bjj tournament, I recommend competing as much as possible.
I know this is not the answer that everyone wants to hear, but If you do just one bjj tournament every year or two the nerves will likely throw you for a loop every time.
However, if you do a bjj tournament every weekend for one month, the feelings that come with competing become much more normalized.
By competing more often and at a higher frequency:
- You will know what to expect in the competition
- How to better deal with your nerves
- Be okay with the aggressiveness of someone going 100% during a competition match.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, during my first couple competitions I moved very stiff, and I didn’t take any risks, and I was afraid of every negative, possible outcome, but at ~10 competitions I felt much better.
After 10 competitions, I felt I finally moved how I moved in the training room, the nerves got a little easier to deal with, and my performance definitely improve both at competitions and in the training room.
To reiterate one last time – how to get ready for your first bjj tournament? You should gain confidence in the training room by working on defenses, create a competition game plan and practice it both in drilling and live sparring, create a plan to deal with competition nerves, and finally, compete as frequently as possible.