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How You Level Up Before You Ever Compete in BJJ
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How You Level Up Before You Ever Compete in BJJ

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BJJ competition can be a great way to test your skills against practitioners of similar skills, ages, and physical sizes as you.  You've already distinguished yourself and set your self apart from the average person by choosing a hobby or sport where you are physically, mentally, emotionally and sometimes in those tight triangles, spiritually tested.  Why not try your first BJJ compeititon?  You really have nothing to lose and alot to gain.  Much of what you gain happens long before the competition ever happens.

BJJ competition is typically not a requirement for belt advancement and progression in most schools, but it can be a way for you to challenge yourself and represent your instructor and academy on a slightly bigger stage than normal at a local tournament, or perhaps a large stage for an event like the IBJJF Pans or Worlds.  

The vast majority of people who train BJJ do not compete. And that's perfectly fine.  Competition is one more way to challenge yourself and can be an exciting way to test ones skills against new opponents. The reasons to compete and to not compete are ones of personal choice.  Academy owners who have competed at the highest levels, like Tom DeBlass, allow their students to make the decision on their own.  They are not pushed to compete, but if they choose to do so, it is not a choice that should be taken lightly.  By stepping onto those competition mats, you have chosen to represent your school and your team and therefore, are there to give your best performance.  And that best performance begins as soon as you commit to the tournament or competition.

Let's look at some positive things that happen long-before you ever put yourself out there.  In preparing for a competition, we yield a number of very important benefits and these can be the most beneficial aspects of entering into the competition.  At the end of the day, we train for a variety of reasons, and little gold-plated medals on ribbons will never mean as much as some of the changes that we undertake as people to get there for that chance to compete.  Here are some things that happen before you ever arrive at your first BJJ competition.

Your BJJ Levels Up

From the very first moment when you sign up, your BJJ begins to level up.  At that moment, you will begin looking at all aspects of your training with a different set of eyes.  This increase in intensity will translate into many other areas of your life and resonate throughout your day.

When you have a competition coming up, you are far less likely to miss classes.  It also may be an opportunity to train more often.  How you approach the time within your classes or during your open mat rolling periods is going to be different as you begin to develop a competition focused mindset.  You will be focusing more intently on your coach and instructor's teaching.  You will be more serious about your repetitions, probably achieving more than you ever had before.  Knowing you have a competition in a few months, heightens your training like nothing else.

You will find yourself rolling differently.  You will be thinking more in terms of submissions and dominant positions, keeping track of points.  Whereas previously, you may have had a tendency to roll in a relaxed, laid back style, you will find yourself working your top game, your passing and your submissions more.

The sum total of all of these changes to how you approach your BJJ study as you begin to move closer to the competition will do a lot to level up your BJJ.  So even without having competed yet, you will be a better grappler than you were before you signed up for the competition.

Your Fitness Levels Up

The increased BJJ workload will help build an increase in fitness levels.  You will be rolling more.  Depending on your training game plan, you may also want to look at adding some cross-training into your schedule.  Whether it is some sort of strength and conditioning like kettlebells or weight lifting, more cardio like sprints or long distance running, or even something more restorative like yoga, the additional work will go a long way to not only helping you prepare for the tournament, but also help level up your fitness.

Your Comfort Zone Levels Up

One of the biggest positive impacts of BJJ training in general is the way that it challenges our comfort levels in so many ways.  It can challenge us physically, mentally, and emotionally on a daily basis.  Adding the element of competition to the mix can raise the level of challenge greatly.  Learning to deal with and manage this increase and the potential competition anxiety that can arise, can teach you a great deal about how to manage stress and deal with performance anxiety in your life.

So if competition is something you want to try, give it a shot.  Consult with your coaches and instructors and get their advice.  Chances are they will be more excited than you are that you are willing to join that elite group of practitioners who wants to test themselves even more.  You have much more to gain, simply by committing to the first competition than you could ever lose.  It could be the best thing you ever decided to do.

One of the most important elements of our BJJ games that we can always look to improve is our ability to sweep or reverse our opponents.  Check out Leonardo Saggioro's "Sweep the World" series here at BJJ Fanatics to give yourself some new wrinkles in the reversal game.  That way if you find yourself stuck in a position during your competition, you're more likely to find your way out.

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