By Mike Leng
Competition. It’s something that comes up eventually for every martial arts practitioner.
Why should you compete? Is it worth it? Do you even have to?
I’m going to start this article by saying that my experience is extremely limited and this is simply my own point of view. This is an article on why you SHOULD compete, from a guy that hates to do it.
Competition is a funny thing in BJJ.
As you are sparring in every session, it’s safe to say that you already get a good idea of what a competition would be like. You’ve tried your techniques out on resisting opponents and have a good idea what works for you. If you have been having some success in the gym then, chances are you have thought about putting your skills to the test in the bid to win some nice shiny metal to hang round your neck.
However, a competition is a daunting thing. You can probably think of a hundred reasons right now why you shouldn’t do it, and very few reasons why you should.
So why do I compete?
I do it to improve.
There are a lot of great athletes out there that will tell you how much they hate training, but they love competing and winning. I’m the opposite. I love to be in the gym training. I love playing and experimenting. I love trying new things and trying to be creative. I like looking for new ways to do things and seeing different peoples’ solutions to the same problems (that’s what I think BJJ is about, solving problems).
The problem with this is that it doesn’t take me closer to my goal. Having great BJJ.
It just leaves me with a mish mash of techniques that only fit together when my opponent does the right things. I’m left with a semi linked, defensive type of BJJ. Everything that works for me is dependent on my opponent doing specific things (if he put his leg here, I’ll do X. If he puts it there I’ll do Y. Sh**t, he has put it over there! He is smashing my X with his Z!!! etc etc).
I don’t have a PLAN, and I’m not going in to training to work on specific things. This is a terrible idea to improve any skill set.
I think that you can fool yourself in the gym. People roll lighter, you give up on things easier, people don’t try to smash you all the time and apply chokes 100%. Because of this you can lure yourself into a false sense of security. Does my BJJ in fact work at all outside of nice fluffy training world (which is not really that nice and fluffy when I think about it)? What happens when someone does something I’ve never seen before at 100% effort and I don’t have a solution?
The answer is competition.
At a competition you are going to face people that are the same weight and level as you. They will be roughly the same age and have been training a similar amount of time (apart from the odd cases). This is where you will see if your training actually works. You may win or you may lose (someone has to), but that is what your skills looked like on that day, at that time. Even if you do indeed lose, it would not all have been in vain.
For me, competition gives me perfect look at my training in horrifying HD. When I lose, I see my mistakes in detail that I torture myself with by re-living it in my private moments. When I’m sat there reading or watching TV, when I’m walking the dog or eating, I’m re-living it. This is not pleasant. However this also means that I never make these mistakes again. Ever.
It is like someone got the world’s biggest spotlight and shined it on my lack of skill (or stupidity) in a certain area. This gives me a fantastic motivation to improve it. This gives me better BJJ.
Training is a consequence-less environment. While you tap or get dominated, it doesn’t haunt you any further than possibly the drive home. This is a good thing and all training environments should be like this in my opinion; a place to learn and try new things. Losing in a competition in front of your teammates and spectators is a different matter all together. It MEANS something. It DOES make you feel like crap, and it’s SUPPOSED to! If you didn’t feel bad then you didn’t care.
This alone is enough to put most people off. Please don’t be one of them. The purpose of this is not to put you off but to be honest with you. You could lose. You will feel bad. However I guarantee that you will have a jump forward in your training after it.
If you look at the best people at each belt level in your gym, I bet they all compete. Competition gives a focus to training that brings out the best in people.
Does this mean that you need to be a champion to consider yourself good at your art? Well no (although you should always strive for that). It’s about being the best that YOU can be, and one of the best ways to do that is competition.
It’s about getting a real life view of where you are at and what your strengths and weaknesses are. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone and testing yourself. It’s about meeting new people and travelling to weird halls in far places that smell like sweat and old people. It’s about watching people do the ‘scale dance’ so that they can weigh in. It’s about seeing that weird kid that takes it too seriously. It’s about living life and not just reading about others living it (or something else equally motivational).
It’s about BJJ 🙂
I hope that this made some sense and helps a few of you to take the plunge and start competing. And, if it doesn’t, great! That’s one less person I have to worry about when I compete (I kid…).