When Should I Start Competing In BJJ?

when should I start competing in BJJ

When you are new to Brazilian jiu-jitsu it might be hard to know if you are ready to start competing. You might have heard that competing will help improve your game and help you advance at a faster pace. But since you have not competed yet it is hard to know when you are ready. So when should you start competing in BJJ?

There is no one answer on when you should start competing in Brazilain jiu-jitsu. My professor suggests to his white belts to wait until they have two or three stripes. That said, it is probably best to ask your BJJ instructor if they think you are ready to compete. 

I do however encourage you to start competing as soon as you are ready. It is a great way to test your skills and improve your jiu-jitsu. Personally, I was training for about 7 months before I entered my first tournament. But it can be different for everyone. For example, if you have a background in wrestling you might be ready to compete much earlier than most other people.

Are You Ready To Compete In Your First BJJ Tournament?

As previously stated, the best person to ask this question is your BJJ instructor. Since they are the ones watching you every day they will have a much better insight. That said, your first tournament really is not about winning but more about simply getting out there.  Just go compete and have fun.

Yes, you should try to win but just getting out there and testing your skills is a win in my book. Testing your skills is the ultimate way of improving them. That said, you should probably have at the very basics of BJJ down before you compete. Simply ask your professor if you are ready.

If so then you are also going to want to make sure you understand the rules in whatever competition you are competing in. If you are competing in an IBJJF tournament then it will be governed by different rules than a submission-only tournament.

Most likely if you do Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu you will likely be competing by IBJJF rules. That said, my first tournament was a submission only tournament so make sure you understand the rules in the competition you are competing in. Spend time watching people compete online and start to understand how the game is played.

After all, you would not want to enter a football game until you understood the rules on how to play. It is hard to win a game that you do not know how to play.  That said, understanding the basic rules is critical to know before your first competition.

What To Expect In Your First BJJ Competition

It is hard to know what to expect in your first competition. It can also vary greatly from person to person. I for one was very nervous the night before and all the way up to my competition. In fact, I was so nervous that I even was having a hard time eating the day of the competition.

That said, it is common for many people to feel nervous or anxious about their first BJJ competition. Honestly many people that have been competing for years still deal with nervousness and anxiety when competing. If you know you are likely to deal with this I suggest checking out this video from chewjitsu. He has some good tips on dealing with BJJ tournament anxiety.

Competition Adrenaline

Another thing you are going to experience in BJJ competition is an adrenaline dump. As soon as your first match starts you will likely go into fight or flight mode. Take into consideration that your opponent will also likely be dealing with this as well.

I for one had major tunnel vision and all of my matches were kind of a blur. I had a game plan but had a very difficult time remembering what it was at the moment. My muscles were super tense and I ran out of energy very quickly. It was a totally different experience I was used to from class.

It is important to know that the people you are competing against are likely going to be way more aggressive than you might be used to in class. I know this might be obvious but it really did catch me off guard in at my first competition.

One thing that seems to help me with this is warming up my body before I compete. You do not want to work out so hard that you are wasting energy but definitely enough to work up a small sweat. It seems to help prepare your body for what is about to happen. Otherwise, you might find yourself setting down all day and then having to go from 0 to 100 in a matter of seconds.

Weight Classes

Another thing to understand is what weight class you are going to be in. Find out what weight class you need to be in for a particular competition. You also need to understand when you will be weighing in. As well you need to know what you will be wearing at the weigh-in.

If you are competing in the gi you will need to know how much your gi weighs as well. This is because you will be wearing your gi when you are getting your weight checked. Understand the weigh-in rules before you compete. It is likely that if you miss weight you will be disqualified without a refund.

You also need to know when you will be weighing in. Some completions you will weigh in the day before you compete. In other competitions, you might weigh in directly before your match. That said, understand what weight class you will be in, what time you will weigh-in, and what you will be wearing. My gi and belt, for example, weighs just under 5 pounds. So I will need to account for that extra weight when figuring out my weight class.

Should You Cut Weight For Your First BJJ Competition?

I do not think you should cut weight for your first BJJ competition. This goes back to your first competition being about the experience and having fun. Honestly, unless you are a very serious competitor cutting weight is probably going to do more harm than good.

It takes time to learn how to cut weight correctly. Even if incorrectly you will probably find yourself drained and left with no energy for the competition. You can decide later on if cutting weight is something you want to experiment with. For your first tournament, however, I would recommend avoiding doing a weight cut.

Just to be clear when I say cut weight I am referring to cutting water weight. If you have a good amount of time before your competition you might consider losing some weight. I’m talking about cutting back on calories and burning a few extra pounds of fat through diet and exercise. Not from dehydrating yourself.

You really might consider losing a few pounds if it will put you in a lower weight decision. The best way to do this is to cut back a bit on calories while burning extra calories from training for your competition. That said, be realistic if you are going to try and lose weight for a tournament.

Trying to lose 20 lbs of fat in one month is probably not a realistic goal. Shoot for .5 to 1% of your body weight per week. So if you are 200 lbs you should shoot for one to two pounds per week. To lose one pound per week you will need to consume roughly 500 calories less than your body burns per day. It can be hard to perfectly predict how much weight you will lose so try and give yourself a little wiggle room.

In Conclusion

Only you will really know when you are ready for your first BJJ competition. The best person to ask is your BJJ professor. They will be able to guide you on whether or not you are ready to compete. Consider doing a private lesson with your instructor to get a game plan.

You should understand the rules of the game before you play and have a game plan. Also, understand that it will be different than rolling in class. It is ok if you are nervous but just remember that your first BJJ competition is all about the experience. Don’t go out there with too many expectations and just have fun.


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