This guest post is from DirtyRancher, my favorite poster on Jiu Jitsu ForumsHe’s part “Old Man,” part brown belt, part competitor, all awesome. He has rock solid competition advice. With his permission, I put together a series of some of his best competition advice, starting with “I’m Afraid I’ll Get Hurt.” These were responses to specific questions, so while the advice is solid, it’s not a generic one-size-fits-all.

From “To Compete or Not to Compete

I was supposed to compete this Saturday, but I’ve been sick for the past 2 weeks(just now better) and I’m about a good 10 lbs from where I need to be at class wise. I really wanted to compete in this tournament, but I just don’t feel ready. I’m a job-less college student as well so shelling out $80 when I know I’m very unprepared doesn’t sound so smart. Our gym’s whole competition team is going as well. I’ve been weighing the pros and cons for the past couple days and I still can’t decide. Help?

Let’s break it down:

I’ve been sick for the past 2 weeks(just now better) To me, this is a no-brainer, doesn’t matter, happens to everyone. Other guys will be fighting injured, etc., also…. not all of your opponents are in the best shape of their lives, train 3 times a day, peaking at this very moment, and weigh exactly at the top of their class.

I’m about a good 10 lbs from where I need to be at class wise. If you think you can cut it do it, but if not, who cares. Chances are not everyone in your division dropped 30 lbs to compete and are weighing at the top of their class. Plus, smaller guys can beat bigger guys. That’s why there is the absolute.

I really wanted to compete in this tournament, but I just don’t feel ready. Ready for what?

  1. Having fun with your teammates, getting respect/bond with your teammates for getting out there, possibly winning the tournament, learning from your mistakes, getting competition experience?
  2. Having a guarantee at first place?

I’m a job-less college student as well so shelling out $80 when I know I’m very unprepared doesn’t sound so smart. Kind of two things here.

  • Money: If you don’t spend the $80 for the tournament, what are you going to spend it on? Beer, what?
  • Unprepared: unprepared for what, to compete, or a 99.999999% chance of getting first place.

Our gym’s whole competition team is going as well. Sounds like fun to me, better than watching TV (btw, if you have cable, and paying for it, cancel it, that’ll give you comp fees)

If it were me, I’d go. I don’t know where you live, but how often does your whole team go to events like this? If it’s frequent, like once every 3-5 weeks, sure maybe pass, but if it’s like once every 4-6 months, then I would definitely go.

From “Vaca Week before Comp.”

There is a comp coming up in late August. I have been training hard and have really been considering competing. Here is my dilemma. I have a vacation a week before the comp for 4 days in Vegas. The comp is roughly 1 month and 1 week away from today and I am wondering if this vacation is really going to screw up all the hard work.

I’m a 2 stripe white belt and this would be my first comp.

1) Should I compete regardless and have a good time on vacation?
2) Should I compete and take it really easy on vacation?
2.5) Should I compete and do whatever exercise/sports recreation and healthy eating I can while I am on vacation.
3) Wait until the next comp to compete?

Answers to 1-2.5 (I added 2.5) are it’s up to you. It’s as good to compete very ill-prepared as it is going in 100%. Ill-prepared, you’ll learn a lesson, and be mentally ready next time for when you compete while sick/injured/or due to unseen circumstances unable to train and are out of shape.

Remember, there will be guys in your division who have been sick or injured and they are competing. I’ve competed at the pans the day after totaling my car, so there’s proof. My back was killing me. Then a few years later, I competed against a guy at the pans who wrecked his car the week before! You are just going on vacation.

The answer to 3 is… never ask that question for the rest of your life. Never wait. There are so many things to be gained by competing that they outweigh waiting.

Here are some pros:

  1. You will learn the importance of being in shape (which is why I’m saying go ahead and go in there after partying like an idiot) for fighting someone else, whether it be tournament or self-defense, the closest simulation to a real fight will be a bjj match/standup match/mma match in terms of testing stamina… what you do in the gym isn’t at the same level. Go ahead and go to class 2-3 times a week and drill self defense, then skip out on sparring and then get in a real fight, see how that works.
  2. You will learn your strengths and weaknesses, this will give you something to work on, and what you can give up on for a while in training.
  3. It gives you comp experience for the next competition. I would consider it next to impossible to step on the mat as a black belt and finally be “ready” for the pan ams and take first with never competing beforehand.
  4. Win or lose, you’ll be closer to your teammates that compete, which means they’ll be looking out for you a little extra to help you out on your technique, as they will subconciously think you are one of them and will be competing again.

Why “wait”?

  1. “I don’t want to let my school down” – trust me, no one will care if you lose, except a few d-bags that didn’t show up to even watch in the first place. You let the school down if you don’t compete because then there is ZERO chance of scoring any points for them. Trust me, the guys on your team that compete that day will look at you differently after you step off the mat, win or lose.
  2. “I don’t want to get hurt” – then stop doing bjj. You are more likely to get hurt training 5 hours a week for 5 years than in a 5 x 5 min matches.
  3. “I want a good showing”, “I want to be ready”, “I want…. ” lol… ok, I tap

Seriously, a week off ain’t gonna hurt you physically, but heed this message, it can hurt your mental game. Just by asking if you should wait, you have planted a negative seed. The mental game is soooooo important when competing.

The second you have negative thoughts or start questioning your ability off the mat, you plant a seed that sprouts during the toughest parts of your match, ie. at a key turning point, like you can’t breathe cause the guy is on top is pressuring so hard, but also your belt got wrapped around your gut and you cant get air… you have to make space, but that question seed has now sprouted to “I wasn’t ready for this”.. your opponent was going to shift and move onto something else, but senses you are giving up…  now really starts to grind… pushes harder, hard enough to sink in a choke. If you have been sick/injured/whatever, don’t question your ability to go fight in a tournament. Do that and you perform worse. The only real tournaments that matter are probably the big ones at black belt, unless you need sponsorship, in which case, the big ones matter too. The rest are practice. Win or lose, you want to at least perform your best because it will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. You cannot compete at your best with negative seeds sprouting anti-venomous-performance plants in your head.

Jiu Jiu’s note: I think that this addresses EXCUSES rather than “Reasons” – meaning, someone doesn’t WANT to compete – that’s very different than saying “Well, I’m not ready.” Similarly, someone who is on a strict budget and cannot afford it vs someone who drinks $5 lattes daily and says they can’t afford it – one is Reasons, one is Excuses. This article addressed one of my personal excuses of not being ready, which made me hang my head in a Charlie Brown/GOB style. Once my budget loosens I intend to sign up. What excuses for not competing do you fall victim to or nearly fall victim to?