Am I Ready to Compete?
By: Daniel Frank
“Am I Ready to compete, coach?” “I’ve been training more at the academy, but I don’t know if I’m ready to go out there and do a tournament.” “Does competing accelerate your promotions?” “I’m too old to compete and don’t want to get hurt by some jacked up youngster out there.” “My game is getting worse. I’m going to take a break from competing.” I have heard so many statements and fielded so many questions regarding jiu jitsu competition that my answers have become second hand. If you are ready to ask me this question, then yes, you are ready to compete.
A Jiu jitsu competition is one of the most exciting, nerve-wracking, boring, peaceful, exhilarating, tumultuous, intense, calming, and terrible experiences a jiu jitsu practitioner can have. So many different emotions and experiences are to be had at just one competition. I believe that everyone is ready to compete and should try it, at least once in their jiu jitsu career.
Nervousness and anxiety are all a part of jiu jitsu competition. There is no eliminating this. There is only controlling it or letting it control you. Up to the purple belt level I would do anything to avoid thinking of the matches that were ahead of me. I would coach others, do work, and distract myself all the way up until the time that I was to step out onto the mat. That way, I believed, I would be able to keep the butterflies and the nausea subdued until the adrenaline would take over. I have competed so much more at brown and black belt. I could no longer run from my competition anxiety. I was forced to embrace it. Now, I use it to my advantage. I give myself a systems check before my matches are to begin. If I need to run to the bathroom for the hundredth time, I go. If my hands are shaking before my name is called I do a quick warm-up to burn that nervous energy. By the time that I step onto the mat I am ready to get to work. I am mentally and physically prepared and am excited to be there.
Am I Good Enough?
Another common question that I get from students who are questioning whether to compete or not is, ‘Am I good enough to compete?’ Of course you are. If you are good enough to begin your jiu jitsu journey and enroll in classes, then you are good enough to test yourself at a tournament. Many potential competitors have a fear that they will step onto the mat and get embarrassed by some young, phenomenal jiu jitsu prodigy. I cannot lie, there are always going to be people better at jiu jitsu than you are. That’s why competitions are so great. You get to go test your skills against those people. However, the prodigies are few and far between. The people that you will test your skills against are going to be people who are just like you. Sometimes you will win and sometimes you will lose. The question posed should not be, “Am I good enough?” It should be, “Am I good enough today?”
Age is Only a Number
So many competitors and practitioners get caught up in the age and numbers game. Twenty- five is not twenty. Thirty is over the hill. Forty is close to death. Fifty is ancient. Forget the numbers game. Your age is just a number and does not condemn you to an early retirement and a seat in the stands. Competitions have age brackets to accommodate almost everyone. It is true that the higher the age the less competitors in the bracket. It does not have to be that way though. Jiu jitsu is practiced by people of all ages and those brackets can be easily filled.
I’m Getting Worse
I have heard and seen a lot of competitors get into their heads and question their ability to compete. They take a loss or two at a tournament and think that they should ‘retire’. They might have a rival that they just can’t beat. They get onto the podium, but never get handed the gold medal. That does not mean that the practitioner is getting worse at jiu jitsu. That just means that jiu jitsu is hard. It is a difficult sport that requires practice and commitment. What better way to practice for tournaments is there, than getting out and competing in tournaments?
Jiu jitsu competitions might not be for everyone. There are countless jiu jitsu hobbyists who do jiu jitsu for the desire to learn it. There are many who learn jiu jitsu strictly for the self-defense aspect of the martial art. However, for those that are interested in competing and have asked themselves, “Am I ready to compete?” The answer is, most assuredly, yes.