Three Ways to Enjoy Jiu-Jitsu Competitions Besides Winning a (Gold) Medal

Three Ways to Enjoy Jiu-Jitsu Competitions Besides Winning a (Gold) Medal

Competition is a key aspect that separates Jiu-Jitsu from other martial arts. We are not judged by our ability to break a board or perform a set of choreographed techniques. Instead, we are often judged by our ability to perform techniques against trained and resisting opponents. Maybe this occurs in the academy during rolls or in a more formalized grappling tournament. Pick your poison, but competition is integral to the Jiu-Jitsu journey. 

Tournaments are an odd beast, though. You drive across town or maybe fly to another city just to bump fists with a complete stranger who is approximately your same size, age, and belt rank. Adrenaline surges through your veins. Anxiety creeps through your thoughts. You’ve likely been eating way too many salads and not enough pizza. You’ve been obsessing about your training instead of finishing those TPS reports your boss keeps bugging you about. Be honest, this all sounds terrible.

So why do we even bother? Why are there numerous grappling tournaments offered all over the world? Fundamentally, it’s the pursuit of a $10 gold-painted medal. Is that the only reason we show up to tournaments?

Here are three ways to seek enjoyment in a Jiu-Jitsu tournament that have nothing to do with winning a (gold) medal:

1. When preparing for a competition there are a number of sacrifices we make. This may mean watching our diet or spending more time at the academy therefore taking time away from our loved ones. These sacrifices help us steadily creep closer to our competition goals. Once the competition ends – no matter the outcome – you can look forward to and plan a reward. For me, it’s now tradition to eat a pizza and some donuts (and maybe some ice cream). Because of sacrifice and discipline, I’ve earned this reward. You can also plan a fun post-competition event with your family or simply ease back from all the training. Win or lose, a guaranteed reward gives you something to look forward to.

2. Participating in a tournament makes everyone nervous. You, your opponent, your buddy…everyone is nervous. We’re nervous because we’re pushing our boundaries and doing something with no guaranteed outcomes. It’s not unlike jumping into the ocean or climbing a mountain or public speaking. The tickle of butterflies fills your stomach as you question your life decisions. What happens when you dive in or conquer the mountain or finish that presentation? Relief and a sense of pride washes over you as you confront your fears. That’s the roller coaster of competition. No matter the outcome, you confronted your fears and came out stronger.

3. A competition is not economically sound. You’re paying close to $100 for the chance to come home with a $10 medal and maybe a t-shirt that you wear to change your car’s oil. Yet at the end of the day, you start to recall little moments that create a memory mural. Remember when Chris napped through the open weight sign-up? Remember when we kept chanting “Ruthless” when there was almost no one left in the stadium and Ruth won double gold? Remember when Kennith danced his way onto the mat? These are the moments you’ll remember much longer than the nerves or the wins and losses.

Grappling competitions are designed to be challenging. That’s part of their appeal. It’s great to stand on top of the podium, but that feeling quickly fades as another tournament comes to town. Instead it will be the preparation or confronting your fears or the memories you made with your teammates that end up lasting longer and making it all worthwhile.

Tom is currently a purple belt at Buckhead Jiu-Jitsu in Atlanta, GA under Sam Joseph. In his free time he enjoys travels with his wife, Jiu-Jitsu, and better incorporating the two.

You can find out more about his adventures in Jiu-Jitsu on Instagram.