I signed up for my first tournament in 3 years. It’s a nogi tournament, King of Grappling in Seoul on August 11th. Deciding to do this has shaken my snowglobe of emotions. It’s also affected my training in ways I didn’t expect.

Background: I’ve been doing jiu jitsu for 3 years and have only done one other tournament. My only other tournament was after about a month of training and it was not the best experience for me. My BJJ training is 95% done in the gi.

Initial thoughts

  1. Dread: Oh god – what if a brand new, 50 lbs lighter girl beats me?
  2. Scramble: I have no gameplan! What if I don’t actually know how to do jiu jitsu against a fully resisting opponent!
  3. Fear: Oh shit I never train nogi. I don’t know what to do!
  4. Focus: I’ll ask Good Guy Brown Belt and another teammate (who competes) for advice.
  5. More focus: Okay, time to buckle down and stay after class and practice.
  6. Reality: Time to work on those dreaded takedowns – I’ve avoided them because I hate them. Now I need them.
  7. WIN mentality: I will totally use my bodyweight and strength to my advantage.
  8. Rules: Hmm I need to learn what will earn points.
  9. Analysis: Since there is only one bracket for women, I’m sure to fight at least once! No free medals!
  10. Scheduling: How many days a week can I do jiu jitsu?

I was surprised to find that I was afraid of losing to a beginner. That was out of left field. The reality is, I’m most likely to be put against a white, possibly a blue belt. It was strange to have that fear, and I know it comes from feeling not good enough. It’s about the ego,
and it was easy enough to assuage. Hell, even if I lose terribly, I’ll analyze why and learn from it, probably even more than if I dominate completely.

I also realized I had to change my mentality and focus on doing what it takes to win. You’re not in there for a conversation – it’s a debate and you want to win. Yes, there’s back and forth, but at the end of the day you want to win. I’ve not focused on that in the past, so this is a new idea for my brain, including using all my advantages, such as weight or strength.


All the gross emotions (and some good) that BJJ brings up in me.

All the gross emotions (and some good) that BJJ brings up in me. (That’s me wearing a Hyperfly gi!)

I felt a shift in my thinking, focusing, and processing. My brain went from sleepy to sharp.

The classes

Already this week in 2 days I’ve trained more hours than I normally train in a week. On Tuesday I stayed late, and on Wednesday I did 2 classes. I’m totally exhausted. I could feel my approach to training was different. Like I am trying to wring all the learning I can out of class – get as much physical training, advice, and practice as I possibly could. This was vastly different than my happy-to-just-show-up mentality.

In class on Wednesday, we divided into those training for the competition and those who were not. So I was literally in an elite training group. Again, not something I’d experienced before, and it felt good. I was singled out for something awesome.

Gold Medal for Effort!

This is truly the first time I’ve had a short term goal in jiu jitsu. I am training with purpose. It’s very exciting to me. Even if no other women sign up, that one month of focused training has made it worth it, and I will stand proudly and take my “you passed go, collect your medal” medal. It’s not a participation medal, it’s a “what amazing work you put into your training” medal – a gold for effort, and I put in a crap load of effort.

This is vastly different than the feeling I had when I went to my tournament before. As a 205 lb 5’4″ woman, when I got a gold medal for being the only person in my bracket, it felt humiliating and excruciatingly embarrassing. I sobbed afterward. It felt like I got a gold medal for being a fat chick. A lot of it was that I’d been a tournament virgin and had zero idea of what to really expect. I have different expectations now, and I understand more.

Dirty Rancher and everyone over at jiujitsuforums.com were right – tournaments are excellent for helping you progress. They’ve pounded it into my head again and again, and I would say “yeah yeah yeah, whatever.” Just two of the points he made for why tournaments are important apply here:

  1. […]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.

  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.

In short, this is awesome. Yes, I hope I get to compete, but I’m so proud of the work I’m already doing. It’s completely worth it.

What can you share about your own mental process for tournament prep? If you’ve been in tournaments, what surprised you by the process, or what did you learn? Do you feel that the overall gains were worth it even if you didn’t get to compete?