Laments of a Terribad Competitor

Yes.. I said "terribad". That is an amalgamation of "terrible" AND "bad" that somehow makes the resulting word far worse than either of the words alone.  Unfortunately, I have found that this is what best describes my performance in jiu jitsu tournaments.

As a third-stripe white belt, I've had privilege/misfortune of participating in about 5 tournaments. While I can certainly see a progression in my skill from my first tournament to my most current, I've still managed to lose all six matches that I've taken place in. Aside from one disputable match, I definitely got outmatched by my opponents.

After my last loss at one of our local NAGA tournaments, I decided to take an assessment of my performance in tournament situations. After a couple weeks of self-reflection, I have come up with a small list of things that I can work on to improve my chances in the future.

1. Wrong Mindset

One of my biggest problems with tournaments is that I have a lot of fun at them. That may sound confusing, but let me explain. I think that I'm having so much fun leading up to my matches that I don't know how to switch into competitor mode. I've slowly been able to curb my desire to turn tournaments into social functions, but as a former bartender/salesman/teacher, I find it really hard to not want to talk to everyone.

2. Fear vs Anxiety

Fear is a naturally occurring response to a perceived threat. I don't really mind fear in the tournament setting, because I know that the "perceived threat" is very minimal in actuality. I wouldn't say that I thrive of the feeling of fear (like some guys =P ), but it certainly doesn't bother me before a match.

Anxiety, on the other hand, can occur without stimulus, and can absolutely cripple someone's mental function. Anxiety problems run in my family, and sporadic attacks have affected my performance on more than one occasion. While there are medications for anxiety, they oftentimes impair your cognitive functions. This is extremely detrimental to a jiu jitsu fighter.

3. I Started Competing Before I Was Ready

I participated in my first tournament approximately 5 months into my training. Only one of those months was actually focused on technique, rather than weight-loss. Honestly, I probably shouldn't have entered a tournament until a couple of months ago. My last two matches were easily winnable, but I made costly mistakes that cost me in the end. Compare this to my first four matches, where all I did was get smashed, and you can probably see where I'm coming from.

With that being said, I think that I'm more prepared to fight in a tournament now more than ever. I've been focusing on grip fighting, takedowns, and controlling the mount. I was completely clueless about most of these things until I started taking private lessons. If I can match my new-found technique with a new "competitor" mentality, I believe that I have a great chance at doing well in my next tournament.



  1. LOL I have such different takes on your issue. I did my first tournament when I'd been training about 6 weeks. (Nogi round robin, co-ed, went 1-5!) Then a month later, won my gi division. A month after that, won another gi division at NAGA. This was horrible for me because it ended up making me feel pressured to keep up the success and represent my school well. I was promoted way early to blue and tanked my first blue tournament (NAGA last May.)

    The difference between my first and second tournament? First one I was playing around and having a great time, as I do when training.. second one, I went in telling myself "I will get the tap if I have to break their &*$! jaw to do it." (NOT literally, but I tried to be more determinedly aggressive, and it worked.)

    The flipside though is that there's a tremendous competitive advantage if you can be social and friendly with all your competitors before and between matches. May I suggest you look at a post I wrote a while back about competing and tell me what you think?


    :) Nice blog. Looking forward to reading more. Watch for me at FTW this weekend and NAGA 2/20 as well.

  2. Sounds great Georgette! Thanks for the advice! I'm sure that I need to strike a balance between the two extremes, but I won't know where that balance is until I've experienced both sides.

    But I will be in absolute "BREAK HIS F'ING ARM" mode this weekend at FTW. It might be my undoing, but I'll never know unless I try.

    See you in Austin!