I am thrilled I was able to participate in the 5th Korea Open Jiu Jitsu Tournament. I originally contacted the tournament organizer and asked if I could be notified if women signed up. I told him I would love to enter ANY and ALL brackets where I would have an opponent. The registration deadline was August 20, and the tournament was August 31. On August 28 my coach asked if I wanted to compete. They found me a gi AND nogi match! Excellent!

Before the tournament

SPOILER: I ended up with this AWESOME shirt and a free silver

SPOILER: I ended up with this AWESOME shirt and a free silver

I found a tournament checklist at BJJbrick, adding a few items, such as scissors in case I had to remove a patch. I’d intended to be in bed by 11pm, as I had to leave at 7am, but between concern that I would forget something, and getting ready, it was midnight.

My friend gave me a wakeup call, which resulted in a mini panic attack. OMG DID I MISS IT?? WHAT TIME IS IT?? AAAAA!Β  I was fairly exhausted.

All day I tweeted and post pics on Instagram.

During the tournament

There were a TON of people who competed!

There were a TON of people who competed!

I got there around 8:20am. There were only 2 weight divisions for women: plus or minus 62 kg (nogi) and 64kg (gi).

I brought a spam single pack, mozarella cheese, 2 bananas, carrots, cucumbers, bell peppers, trail mix, and gummy worms. I wish I’d had more spam. Not knowing when my matches were, I worried about eating a lot and being full right before my match. Grazing is better.

I really loved watching the kids grapple.

I really loved watching the kids grapple.

I was surprised by how many women and GIRLS I saw! It was so exciting to see them already starting to compete!

A friend joined me for the first half. It was nice to have someone sitting next to me, but I think in the future I would prefer going alone or just with teammates. Turns out competing at a tournament saps a lot of energy, and not just because you’re fighting. The waiting wears you out! I was there for 9 total hours!

The two women who did best in the tournament

The two women who did best in the tournament

First, there was a slow drain from having to pay attention. I was worried I would miss my name being called. “Julia” sounds a lot like “Jiu Jitsu” in Korean, so I kept thinking they said my name. I was also concerned that I was ignoring my friend, that he was bored, etc.

Intermittently, there were larger drains on my energy because of random surges of adrenaline. I’m competing soon! What’s going to happen? How hard is she going to go? What if I get hurt?

Finally, a massive drain on my energy when I competed. By the end of the tournament I was So. Exhausted.

This was my view for 2 hours.

This was my view for 2 hours.

The waiting was awful. Our names were called, we’d wait in a waiting area, waiting for our names to be called again, then we’d go near our mats and wait for our match.

Thankfully I had time to take a nap. It was one of the best decisions I made. Next tournament I’m bringing a small pillow. I was also really glad I’d brought flip-flops. There were 6 total mats, and even so, they were about an hour behind schedule. I don’t know if that’s typical of tournaments or not. I wanted to listen to music but was too afraid I’d miss my name. Next time I will listen to music, but be visible to tournament folks. As a white woman in Korea, I’m hard to miss.

My nogi match

I met my partner, Yoo Jin Jung, a 19 year-old aspiring MMA fighter. This was her 13th tournament. We chatted before the match and agreed not to aggressively stack or slam one another. Whew. A serious relief.


She won in 1:18 by armbar. There was a holy crap! feeling when it started. She came hard and I didn’t match her aggressiveness. Once she got me on the ground it was over in 1 minute. I was not upset. I was thrilled, and gave her a huge hug after. She was better than I was.

My gi match

By this time I’d been at the tournament for nearly 8 hours. I was really exhausted and it was hard to keep energized. I had the same partner, so I knew she was going to come hard. I brought a LOT of energy and gave it my all.


She won by points rather than submission. 11-0. She dominated the whole time, but she wasn’t able to submit me. I fought hard for 5 solid minutes. I also felt when she was setting up the same scenario from our nogi match, and escaped her submission attempts. What you might not be able to see: she had a SERIOUSLY uncomfortable mount. She was doing some sort of pelvic tilt that felt like I was dying. It was awesome.

What I learned from my matches

1. My matches are representational of how I roll at my gym with the aggressive guys. I was TRYING to defend against an aggressive opponent, so feedback I receive should translate well into regular rolling.

Me, looking a bit "poindexter-y" with my partner

Me, looking a bit “poindexter-y” with my partner

2. I am damn proud of myself. I feel like a badass. I was elated, not defeated. I went to learn. I came out ahead. It was awesome.

3. I have no freaking clue what I’m doing with takedowns. Apparently I think that in gi it means pull really really hard. It looks like I’m thinking pull, pull pull, okay I tried, now sit down and GET IN MY GUARD! Not terribly efficient.

4. I used what I’d been working on! In the gym I get put on my side a lot, and generally (in gi) can defend well in that position. Lately I’ve been working on transitioning from there to turtle, or to invert and hip up and try to go to open guard. I attempted these in both my matches. Go me!

5. Everything flew out of my head. I was vaguely aware of the referee awarding my opponent points, but had no concept of time. It didn’t move slowly, but instead seemed very fast, even though I was stuck under her crushing mount. I did what I did most in the gym. Turns out I use what I practice AND feel comfortable with.

After the tournament

This was shortly before I took a nap

Hooray for OK Kimonos! I LOVE CUTE TIGERS!

Never again will I make plans after competing in a tournament. Instead I will just go home and die. I was SHOCKED at how fatigued my muscles were. I had difficulty climbing stairs. I was aggressively yawning. My muscles ached.

In the morning I felt like I had a hangover or had been hit by a truck. My legs weren’t so tired, but my neck was, as well as the muscles in my torso – near my arms. Next time I will plan to go to a sauna the next day.


I LOVE THIS SHIRT! All fighters got it. And that's my free silver.

I LOVE THIS SHIRT! All fighters got it. And that’s my free silver.

Tournaments are to gym rolling as debates are to conversations. Training for a tournament helped focus my training. My brain felt razor sharp, and I found I was making better use of my time – both in hours spent per week and time spent in the gym. It helped me think about everything I know, then distill it to simple and best. It gave me a concrete, short-term goal.

I’m glad I had observed a tournament before so I knew what to expect. I’m glad I had the opportunity to try both gi and nogi. I think that I would generally choose to compete in gi only, but after I hit purple, nogi will be my only option in Korea, as it is divided by beginner/intermediate/advanced rather than belt level – and there are no purple women in Korea that I know of.

I had an amazing time at this tournament. What are your thoughts on tournaments you’ve participated in? Did you decide to do a second one after your first? What did you learn from your tournaments? Also, how da fuq did you deal with tournament fatigue? Any other tournament tips you can share?