Competing in BJJ is one of the most difficult endeavors you can do on your Jiu Jitsu journey. 

BJJ competition is hard regardless of whether its your first tournament or a black belt world championship.

Nevertheless, your first tournament in BJJ is often the most nerve wracking. It is the first time you experience the pressure of going 100 percent against an unknown opponent whose roughly your weight, age, and skill level.

BJJ Tournament

Your first tournament is also a major milestone in your journey towards your development as a BJJ artist and if you are a white belt, your first belt promotion.

While there is no way to completely get rid of the first-competition jitters, here are 5 tips you can use to help you get the most out of your first time competing in BJJ.

Tip 1: Train As Much As Possible Leading Up To The Tournament

During a Jiu Jitsu tournament, there are so many factors out of your control.

You cannot control who your opponent is or what their skillset happens to be.

You might wake up feeling great or sleep terrible and be run-down.

Nevertheless, there is one thing you do have control over.

Specifically, showing up to practice, drilling, and soaking in as many hours of training in as you can.

At the end of the day, the best thing you can do is consistently train leading up to your tournament.

It is one thing to lose knowing you put everything into preparation and the chips fell the way they did.

It is another to lose knowing you did not fully commit to training beforehand.

Tip 2: Do Not Try To Cut Weight

BJJ Weight CutYou have probably seen videos or read about fighters cutting anywhere from 10 to 30 pounds to be as competitive as possible in their weight class.

While cutting weight has a place in combat sports, your first BJJ tournament is not the time to worry about it.

In fact, there is a solid chance the opponents in the weight class below will be more skilled than the weight class above.

Additionally, weight cutting takes time and practice before you have your routine down, and you will probably receive tons of terrible advice from people who do not understand the process.

Cutting weight is simply not a headache you want to worry about with everything else leading up to your first tournament.

As mentioned, your best bet is to focus on training. 

Worry about cutting weight once you find your groove in the sport.

Tip 3: Only Take Advice From Your Coaches & Experienced Competitors

Before you establish credibility as a martial artist, be prepared to have everyone you know who does not train weigh-in (no pun intended) on what you should do when competing.

When your boss or coworker gives you grappling advice based on their middle school wrestling career or karate yellow belt, smile, nod, and thank them for the tip.

However, when it comes to competing, you should only listen to your coaches and experienced competitors, preferably higher belts at your gym who know your game and the higher levels of sport Jiu Jitsu itself.

Tip 4: Avoid Stalking Your Opponents On Social Media

If you are in a competition where the brackets are posted ahead of time, it can be tempting to look up your opponents on Instagram.

While you may break down and do it anyways, I highly recommend avoiding this, particularly at the lower levels of competition.

You should always focus on your own game first and foremost.

If you see an opponent’s white belt highlight, you may be tempted to drill the counter to whatever move they are showing, even though this may detract from what you are already good at.

At the highest levels of BJJ when you face well-known opponents, opponent-specific training might make sense.

However, for your first tournament, social media stalking your opponents is likely to result in you psyching yourself out and is unlikely to affect the outcome in any positive way.

Tip 5: Let Go Of The Outcome and Focus On The Process Itself

First BJJ TournamentWe all want the experience of winning.

Nevertheless, your first tournament is the time to focus on the process itself.

The biggest benefit of competing is the opportunity to test yourself, your game, and learn from mistakes.

Avoid getting caught up in obsessing over the potential outcomes.

At the end of the day, there probably is not any money on the line, and no one cares that much about whether you got gold or got submitted in your first match. You’re making your teammates proud by stepping on the mat and representing for your team.

The Bottom Line: It’s Just Your First Tournament

Competing in BJJ is difficult and challenging, but that is first and foremost why you should do it.

Your first tournament should be a thrilling, fun experience, not a process wracked with headaches, bad advice, mismanaged weight-cuts, and psychological distress.

While you will never get rid of tournament jitters, following the above tips will serve you well towards getting the most out of your first time competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

January 11, 2021