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White Belt BJJ Tournament –  How to Prepare for Your First BJJ Competition (Top 5 Tips)

Considering doing your first bjj tournament as a white belt? Here are our top bjj comp prep tips and insights you should check out before stepping onto the competition mat.

I’ve competed over 15 times in jiu jitsu and currently hold a purple belt in bjj. I’ve won some competitions and lost some competitions, but I’ve always tried to improve.

Some basic bjj comp prep tips are to gain confidence in the training room by working on defenses, try to simulate competition environment as closely as possible, create a competition game plan and practice it both in drilling and live sparring, and get fully warmed up before your first match.

Lastly, doing jiu jitsu tournaments are a great way to get better at bjj faster. However, they come with a lot of nerves so preparing properly is key. Check out our key tips and top 5 tips below:

BJJ Comp Prep – Key Tips

  • Preparation
    • Understand tournament logistics (rules, weight class, location)
    • Work on your specific game plan
    • Practice guard retention, pins escapes, and submission escapes
    • Try to simulate competition environment as closely as possible
      • (ie. with points, boundaries, matches against those in your gym as similar weight and skill level)
    • Also if possible record your competition simulated rounds
    • Train hard up until ~a week before then do some light rolling/drilling
  • Day of Competition
    • Pack your gear bag the night before (with apparel, water, and snacks)
    • Get a good night’s sleep (can also use meditation, positive visualization, NSDR techniques)
    • Arrive early to the competition venue
    • Get a good warm up in before your first match
      • you can do sprints, jump rope, light takedowns and rolling
    • Focus on your breathe and/or listen to music (instead of thinking about all the various scenarios that may go wrong)
    • Try to record all of your matches
    • Have fun (the first match may be anxiety inducing but I promise the second will be easier)
  • Post Competition
    • Win or lose celebrate by getting some good food!
    • Go over your matches and try to pull three improvements from them
      • Make these areas your focus over the next couple months

Bonus Tip: Compete as often as possible to get over competition nerves (I noticed after ~10 competitions I felt much more confident competing)

What to Expect in a BJJ White Belt Tournament

Doing a bjj tournament as a white belt can be quite daunting. However, if you train properly and focus on a specific game plan it can be much easier.

1. Understand Competition Rules and Logistics

BJJ competitions can be anxiety inducing so you’ll want to control what you can and make sure you have all the logistics handled.

This means that you should:

  • understanding the rules of the tournament (points based, submission only etc)
  • know where the venue is
  • know what submissions are allowed and whats a disqualification

2. Train Hard and Smart

Training for a competition should be different than your average weekly jiu jitsu training. Some key things that have helped me in my own competition prep have been:

  • Practicing Defenses (this will give you a ton of confidence)
  • Simulating Competition Environment
  • Creating a game plan based on my most effective positions/techniques
  • Recording my competition matches (this helps narrow down weaknesses or common mistakes
  • Going to nearby open mats to also simulate competition training environment and get exposed to different styles/techniques
  • Lastly, easing up on training a couple days before is ideal. During this time you can focus on light rolling or drilling so that your fresh for your tournament

3. Use Visualizations and Breathing Techniques

This is something I picked up when I was doing my psychology degree.

As someone who happens to be over anxious at times, I’ve found visualizations and breathing techniques to help immensely the day of the tournament or when I’m struggling with anxious thoughts about it.

Some good resources are:

4. Warm Up Properly Before Your First Match

This is something that I didn’t do for many of my earlier competitions. I would just jump right into my first match after some light stretching and looking back it really negatively effected my performance.

Some good ways to warm up are:

  • jumping rope
  • interval sprints
  • light rolling
  • drilling takedowns

5. Review Your Matches and Aim to Improve

BJJ Competitions are excellent at pointing out and exposing your weaknesses. For this reason along they are an excellent tool to use for improving.

After you’ve celebrate your win, lose, or draw with some good food, it’s time to review.

  • try to watch your matches objectively
  • choose 3 things to improve on
  • now during training try to put yourself in those exact positions

Jiu jitsu is about putting the pieces together and competing shows you what pieces are missing

BJJ Competition Resources:

Videos: NSDR (Non-sleep Deep Rest) with Andrew Huberman, Box Breathing
Podcasts: Roger Gracie on the Lex Fridman Podcast.
Books:The Inner Game of Tennis” by Timothy Gallwey, “Mind Gym” by Gary Mack, and “Legacy” by James Kerr

Related Frequently Asked Questions

How Do BJJ Tournaments Work?

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) tournaments tournaments typically follow a single-elimination bracket system, where two participants face off in a match. The winner of the match advances in the tournament, and the unfortunate loser is eliminated from the competition. While most are single elimination like ones held by the IBJJF, some are in round robin format like those held by Jiu Jitsu World League which guarantee at least two matches.

Matches are usually timed, with the duration ranging from anywhere between 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the age and rank of the competitors. During this designated time, participants aim to outscore their opponent using various BJJ techniques such as takedowns, sweeps, and submissions to earn points. Keep in mind, points are awarded based on the BJJ position hierarchy, with the ultimate goal being the submission of the opponent, resulting in an immediate victory.

Competitors can win by points, submission, or even disqualification of the opponent due to illegal moves or unruly conduct depending on the tournament rules.

What to Expect for your First BJJ Tournament?

How to Deal with a BJJ Competition Loss

Expect the unexpected during the tournament! You may have been replaying this event in your head even before the day itself. However, trust us when we say it will be a whole different experience. A great and thrilling experience. 

Here is what you can expect during your first competition: 

  • You will get nervous or anxious. This is totally normal. These butterflies in your stomach are actually adrenaline running through your veins. Enjoy it! Allow this feeling to make you perform your best on the mats. 
  • The opponent in front of you worked hard like you. They have been training as well and prepared for this match! So give it your best shot. 
  • You will get tired. But this is why you trained hard and prepared your mind and body. This is because you will be giving your 100% during your match, and the same goes for your opponent. Therefore, stay hydrated and snack if you have to replenish your energy. 
  • Prepare for a take down. Not everyone pulls guard at the start of the competition. Hence, if your opponent takes you down, you must know how to land properly to avoid any injury. 
  • Well, you are a winner! You are a winner because win or lose, you gained experience and knowledge. 

How to Deal with Competition Nerves?

Do not worry, feeling nervous and that mild anxiety is normal before a competition. We all know that there are different things you are looking forward to or at least thinking about. 

What we want to tell you is, there are different ways to calm your nerves during this exciting event! Here is the brief overview of the things that you can do not to feel that anxious or nervous: 

  • Positive Visualization – You can create the event or the match in your head and visualize yourself calm and confident in the setting. Moreover, you can also try to picture the different techniques and submissions that you want to use during the match. 
  • Mediation – Another thing that goes a long way, on and off the mats is meditation. One of the meditative sense is called mindfulness. This means, allowing yourself to completely focus on your breath to help clear your mind. 

How to Prepare for your First Competition

Each and everyone is different when it comes to preference. However, there are some things that we highly recommend doing in preparation for your first BJJ competition. 

  • Check your weight and monitor it. Make sure that you are able to stay within the weight class that you signed up for. 
  • Train consistently. The more you train, the more you learn and the more mat exposure you have. Thus, allowing you to practice your skills and techniques. 
  • Lifestyle change is needed. This is not something that you can do overnight, but you can start with being consistent with your diet and your sleep schedule. This allows your body to be replenished. 
  • Get advice from your coach or professor about their competition tips and what things you can improve on in your next training session. Hence, you can apply these on competition day. 

What Takedowns are Best for your First Competition?

Like I previously mentioned, be prepared for a take down. But also be ready to take down your opponent. Here are some of the takedowns that you can utilize in your first competition. Or at least start learning already: 

  • Single Leg 
  • Double Leg 
  • Foot Sweep 
  • Arm Drag
  • Uchi Mata 
  • Ankle Pick 

If you are unable to learn all, at least learn 2 or 3 of them and master it. Try to use it as much as possible during your training sessions. Moreover, try to apply it during live sparring and find opportunities to improve your skills.

What Are Some of the Best Competitions For Beginners

There are different competitions to choose from that you can join as a beginner. Although we recommend that you start with organizations that hold smaller local tournaments, namely: 

  • NAGA
  • Grappling X 
  • Jiu Jitsu World League 

The reason behind this is that, since it is your first competition, you want to be able to gauge your skills and knowledge first. 

In addition to that, if possible, we recommend that you avoid large tournaments such as IBJJF World, ADCC Trials, etc. because some of the competitors joining here are highly experienced already and have most likely been exposed to local competitions already. 

What Should You Bring to Your First BJJ Tournament?

Some of the main things to bring are:

  • competition attire (gi and no gi) and make sure to have spares!
  • lots of water and healthy snacks
  • protective gear

Are BJJ competitions hard?

BJJ competitions bring intensity, adrenaline, and uncertainty. They are very challenging purely due to the variability and intensity.

A competition match is way more intense than training in the gym. You’ll find that opponents may be more aggressive and move at a higher pace.

So yes, bjj competitions can be hard, but they are worth it since it very closely mimics the intensity of a self defense situation as well as helps you truly test your BJJ skills.

Are there white belt tournaments?

Yes, there are tournaments made for white belts only. This will depend on the competition host. 

White belts are also allowed to join big events made by different competition hosts like: 

  • NAGA
  • Grappling X 
  • ADCC Opens
  • Grappling Industries

If you’re a white belt should you do a bjj competition

Definitely join a competition even if you are a white belt. We actually highly encourage you to sign up for one, as long as you are prepared. The reason behind this is that joining a competition allows you to test your skills and gauge your knowledge of the sport. Moreover, it will be a fun and thrilling experience for you! 

When Should You Do Your First Competition?

We recommend at ~6 month mark is a good time to do your first competition. However, if you have a background in Judo or wrestling, you can definitely compete before then.

We strongly recommend checking with your coaches prior to your first competition to help guide you too.