Tips For Your First Jiu Jitsu Competition

Competitions are an amazing way to put what you’ve been learning into action, it can be tons of fun, rewarding…… and also make you a nervous wreck. Especially the first time.  Here are some tips to help you be ready to rock at competition.

1.  RELAX.

I can’t stress (no pun intended) this enough. It’s also one of the hardest thing to do. Especially the first time. You are standing on the mats and the person standing across from you is mean-mugging you while their friends and family are cheering and screaming á la Cobra Kai “PUT HIM IN A BODY BAAAAG!” …..well….maybe not that last part, but, I know my first competition I was a nervous wreck.  I was watching the matches before mine and thinking, “They look like they are trying to KILL each other… what was I thinking?!?”  Everyone is different so the way that I reacted to the pressure might not be the way you react, and that’s okay too, you just need to find your own personal zen.

Some people crank up the tunes before a match to chill out a bit, some people chat up their friends and family, and some people meditate, visualizing the match ahead of time every move, every step.  For me, I try to go into it looking at it like just another day on the mats training. Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous, but as soon as I bump fists with my opponent a switch flips in my head and I am in the Jiu Jitsu zone, just like class, in my personal zen.

Just try to remember the person across from you might look cool and collected….or mean and rabid… but they are most likely just as nervous as you are… or even more! No joke.  And if you try to relax and go with it, you’ll have a better chance of hearing your coach in your corner telling you to hit that sweep or go for that sub! Not to mention…you might even have fun!


ESPECIALLY if you are cutting weight. And DOUBLE especially if it’s the first time you are cutting weight.  As a woman, I don’t need to worry about cutting weight as much. (There isn’t always a wide variety of weight classes for us ladies) But you want to be the best version of you possible, and that means fending off dehydration cramps mid match and being healthy!

3. K.I.S.S.

Keep. It. Simple. Stupid. Stick to what you know and have at least a rough idea of a game plan. Your first competition (or any competition for that matter) is NOT the time to try some flashy new move you found on youtube.  You’re best bet is to spend some time leading up to the competition drilling what you know the best and working on any trouble spots you’ve identified.  Your match will most likely not be predictable and you should keep an open mind to go with whatever is thrown your way. Don’t go crazy over analyzing ahead of time….otherwise you can’t RELAX!

4. “There is no losing in Jiu Jitsu. You only win or you learn.” – Carlos Gracie Jr.

Don’t fret about the outcome of the match.  You will either be successful and maybe take home some hardware, or you will learn some valuable lessons you can take back home to the mats and work on.  Competing is the best way to see the holes in your game. I personally get more value out of losing in a tough match, than the medal around my neck when I win.

You’ll be nervous. You’ll be going through adrenaline rushes and crashes and it will show you just what you need to work on! The next time you come back, you’ll be a better version of you! And that’s pretty awesome.

 5. Lastly, Have FUN.

Don’t forget that you are there to do the thing you love! Jiu Jitsu! Cheer on your teammates, make some new friends, and feel the energy all around you!  Competitions can be a super fun and rewarding experience if you let it.  Seriously, go out there and have a ball.  Don’t stress about winning or hitting a specific move, just go out there and be you.

Do I Need to Be in Shape Before Training Jiu Jitsu?

One of the major misconceptions about training Jiu Jitsu is that you need to be in shape to do it.  I can’t stress enough how wrong that is.  I mean, I get it; if you’ve ever watched a class, it can be pretty intimidating.

There really isn’t a good way to train to do Jiu Jitsu…. except to train Jiu Jitsu.

Let me take you back to June 3rd, 2012, my very first day at Neutral Ground, and paint you a mental picture.  I work in a call center, which results in me sitting in a beige colored cube for 8+ hours a day, surrounded by nothing but fast food and vending machines, and lets just say working out wasn’t in my vocabulary yet.  BUT, I was a black belt in couch sitting and channel surfing!

In my channel surfing prime, I found myself being drawn to mma/UFC fights and being fascinated with what was happening when it went to the ground.  I wanted to give it a try, but watching these ripped, god-like creatures grappling had me more than a little intimidated that I might not be able to do it.   I thought you HAD to be in this shape to be any good at it.  I was convinced that eight pack abs were a requirement. (Boy was I wrong!)

So I mustered up all my courage and decided to try it anyway so I walked into Neutral Ground, started watching the class and decide to give it a try.  Halfway through the warm-ups, I am breathless, sweaty, and need to sit down and watch the rest of class.  THE WARM UPS!

I remember thinking to myself, “Seriously?!?! I can’t even get through the warm ups, how am I supposed to do this class?!”  And I remember, feeling completely defeated wondering if I should work on working out before I came back….but I didn’t.  I just kept coming back, took breaks when I needed to, and jumped back in.

Fast forward to present day, a year and a half later, I am 30+ lbs lighter, and while I’m still not a ripped, chiseled, statue of health, and I still have yet to find a single ab that I can call my own, I can successfully get through the warm ups, the class, and sometimes even the class after that!

So if you are interested in checking out Jiu Jitsu, but are worried you wont be able to keep up, just come anyway, chances are you wont be able to get through the entire class… and that’s okay, just keep coming, pace yourself, and take breaks when you need to.

You’ll notice that everyone takes breaks when they need it, and there isn’t some drill instructor watching your every move and screaming at you to get back at it.  That being said, you will only get out of it what you put into it.

You will need to challenge yourself to see progress, it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to suck sometimes, but you’ll also have an amazing support system to help you along the way.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but eventually you’ll be able to do a little bit more each time until you are in the best shape of your life.  Ask around, you’ll notice that nearly everyone struggled with the class when they started, even people who were “in shape.”  It’s a different kind of workout.

Think about a baby learning to walk, their parents aren’t spotting them while they do their squats and leg presses to prep for that big day when they take their first steps, they climb something to get to a standing position, they fall…. a lot, and get back up… a lot, until eventually they are running around the house destroying everything in their path!