After some time doing BJJ you’ll more than likely find yourself debating on whether or not to compete. From what I’ve heard some school will push you into competing just to be considered for a belt promotion. For me I was lucky enough to find myself in The Harris Academy, a school that believes in the importance of competing but doesn’t make it a prerequisite to move up. I never felt forced into it which made it a much more enjoyable experience. I toyed around with the idea for a few months, asking around to see how others felt about the idea. The first reactions I got were of caution. I was told that it wasn’t a great idea because too many guys out there enter competitions with such intensity that injuries often happened. Being that I was in my 30s and working full time, the last thing I needed was an injury that would prevent me from working.
Even with all the negatives that were floating around I really had an interest in seeing what it was like. After getting more serious about it I signed up and started training with a group of guys that would eventually be known as the Grinders. A group of us ended up competing at Mira Mesa High School which was just a few minutes from where our school was. Going into it I was wide eyed, my heart would race every time I thought about getting on the mat in front of the crowd. I must have looked like a wreck. I was worried about missing my name being called for my match, how much water should I be currently drinking. What if I needed to go to the bathroom, would I have enough time, would they wait or just DQ me?
What helped out a lot was having two great coaches around. Jeff and Will let me just focus on me and not worry about anything else. If things were running late they would ask when my weight class would get started and when my name was finally called over the horrible speakers they came and got me. It was honestly competing for dummies. They practically held my hand up until the moment that I stepped on the mat. That moment when you are looking across empty space at your opponent always fills me with a nervous energy. We shake hands, ref instructs us to go and nothing else matters. Nothing.
I honestly don’t remember my overall comp record but I’ve come home with 3 golds and 2 silvers in 8 competitions. By no means am I stating this to brag but more so to show what hard work and a good team can push you to accomplish. I’ve never competed in organized sports with any seriousness yet here I was training with guys that worked hard and expected the same from others.
I didn’t medal in 3 attempts but found far more useful information from the losses and failures than I have any of my golds or silvers. The losses stung more so the lessons were more potent. So don’t harp in a negative way but let them fuel you as lessons of what you need to fix and work on.
Overall I’m against being forced to compete but I do believe that if you’re serious about the sport and getting better quicker then you should push yourself to compete. It’s an experience you can’t duplicate at your school and with your teammates. With your teammates you can never know if they are going a 100 percent or just working on something specific. Their motivations may not even be genuine while training with you but when you step on that mat with a guy who want’s to win and move forward in his own journey, you will get his or her all. So compete and just have fun with it.