Do I Have to Compete in Tournaments if I Start BJJ?

andrew-bowers-guerrilla-bjj-reno-combativesIf you’re considering BJJ, or you’ve already begun, you may be wondering whether competing in tournaments is an essential part of the BJJ experience. Maybe you wonder if it’s mandatory to have competed for a promotion to a black belt. The short answers are no, you don’t have to compete, and no, it’s not required for a black belt. But there are still a few reasons you might consider competing at some point in your BJJ career.

The competition environment

Picture it – stepping onto the mat to face down an unknown opponent with a crowd of teammates and spectators watching. This kind of environment is stressful, and it naturally triggers the body’s fight or flight response. The adrenaline is pumping, nerves are high, and physical reactions can range from unconsciously holding your breath, a blank mind, the loss of fine motor skills, even physical exhaustion.

That sounds miserable, but here’s the thing – you can learn to move past this stage. And you’ve probably experienced something relatively similar, possibly the very first time you came to BJJ class or sparred. These are both examples of confronting your fear, handling adrenaline, making a plan and doing what you can to follow through on it.

It’s normal to feel intimidated in new situations. If you’ve been training BJJ for a while, sparring probably spends totally normal by now, right? That’s probably not how it felt in the beginning!

The value of learning how to handle yourself in a stressful situation – something inherent to that competitive atmosphere – can’t be overstated. If your goal in BJJ is to learn effective self defense skills, learning how to manage that adrenaline dump that comes from high-stress scenarios is key. After all, it’s said that the best way to survive a dangerous encounter is to keep thinking. That’s hard to do when you’re completely paralyzed by adrenaline.

Fine-Tuning Your game

Putting a competition on the calendar dials in your training like nothing else. Suddenly, you have a finite timeline for progress, and for most of us, that means focus. It means picking up more classes, paying closer attention to the instructor, drilling, drilling and drilling again. It means shoring up weak areas and fine-tuning the stronger aspects of your game.

The thing is, this kind of competition mode isn’t necessarily sustainable. That’s a recipe for overtraining, illness or injury. It’s a state that’s valuable precisely because you don’t do it all the time.

Plus, going to a competition means exposure to styles that may be unfamiliar, which is an opportunity to further your own training, knowledge and understanding.

Whether you’re looking to get into combative BJJ or you just want to start rolling, Guerrilla BJJ in Reno is a great place to begin.

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