It’s Competition Time: A BGWG Guide on How to Prepare for Jiu-Jitsu Competitions
Updated: Mar 11
Deciding to compete in a BJJ competition is a big deal! Check out this guide on how to prepare for jiu-jitsu competitions!
On your BJJ journey, chances are the opportunity to compete will come up. Some people feel more inclined to compete than others. Although I believe it isn’t necessary for you to compete as you go along your BJJ journey, I think that it’s a great experience and a good way to gauge where your level is at compared to people at your belt level. Also, if you want to rank up fast, constantly competing is a great way to keep yourself improving at a faster rate, as that you need to adjust your bjj game and competition strategy every time.
As I write this, I’ve competed a few times at blue belt and once at purple belt. I go in and out of wanting to compete. I’ve had really great times competing and feeling great about my jiu-jitsu and other times where it has made me want to quit. All in all, I think that competing is more beneficial than not as you train more and more.
In this article, I created the ultimate preparation guide for Jiu-jitsu competitions so that if you’re thinking about competing or you’ve started to train to compete, then you know what the steps are and things to think about for competition time. I’ve also made a competition day checklist to make sure that you have all the things you need the day before you go compete, so you don’t forget anything.
Before the competition (2-3 months ahead minimum):
Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to sign-up to compete in a BJJ competition. There are a few things you should consider before signing up:
o If you’re a white belt and you’ve decided that you want to compete, talk to your coach about your decision and ask them what their suggested game plan is.
o Recognizing what rule set the competition is (ADCC, IBJJF, etc.)
o Deciding if you want to do gi, no-gi, or both (again depending on what type of competition it is)
o What weight class you want to compete in to decide if you want to or need to cut weight.
To cut or not to cut: Weight cutting
When it comes to cutting weight there are many different schools of thought. For BJJ, I’ve never cut weight because I didn’t want to stress myself out about eating and competing. I’ve only cut weight for a boxing match because it was absolutely necessary. Lemme tell you… it wasn’t fun towards the end. From what I’ve heard about weight cutting in jiu-jitsu: people usually cut down to a lower weight class so they can be monsters in that weight class. So, knowing this, you can make the decision to sign-up for a lower weight class and condition yourself for competitions, eating a specific weight cutting diet (not an expert but I will definitely look up some resources to help), and working out to make weight.
So, after you know your competition date it’s time to get into training. Usually if your BJJ gym has many people competing at the same time, your coaches will set up some kind of training camp where everyone conditions and trains together in order for the team to get better together. Here are some things you should consider in the time you train before the competition.
o Your game plan
After talking with your coach about competing, you should be analyzing what the rule set is for the competition. For example, if it’s a point-based competition or if it’s submission only. This will give you direction on how to train for the competition. You should also be thinking about and drilling things that you are good at that matches that ruleset.
o How to train
The training time before a competition is crucial to your mindset and fully solidifying what you will do when you get to the competition. In my opinion (comment below or @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj if you think otherwise.), training 5 times a week is a good amount to make sure you’re getting technique, conditioning with hard sparring/rolls, and drills. I think how you do these three things are up to you.
For example, you can split it up by day and say 3 out of 5 days you will roll hard and the other two days you will drill and roll lightly. Or you can split it up training time and say that you will do minimum 5 rolls for 6 minutes (depending on the time limit in competition). It all depends on what your coach think is best. The other 2 days out of the week can be used for recovery or other kinds of exercise outside of bjj.
When you get closer to the competition time: LESS HARD SPARRING, MORE DRILLS and cerebral stuff like visualization can be helpful. I think that a day to two days before your competition that you shouldn’t spar at all. I would just drill if I want to train. You don’t want to tire yourself out or injure yourself before the competition.
Day before the competition
o Prepare for weigh-ins
Some competitions require you to weigh-in the day before the competition. If you need to weigh-in, make sure you get to the location nice and early so you can go in and out quickly. My last competition I went a bit too late and was stuck in a long line. Then it turned out because I was in open weight that I didn’t even need to weigh-in. So, I basically wasted like an hour for no reason.
Keep in mind they might ask you to weigh in a gi, so have your gi handy.
Bring your ID so they can identify you and check you in properly.
o PACK YOUR BAG
With all the excitement of competition coming up, you want one less thing to think about when the day of the competition arrives. So, I suggest that you pack your bag the day before so you don’t have to think about what you need the day of. I’ve also created a BJJ competition checklist that you can download right to your device so you can check them off as you go along.
There are two color versions:
Hope these can be helpful to you in your competition preparation!
Here are somethings you should consider putting in your bag:
· coconut water, bananas, protein, sandwiches, aka food that isn’t too heavy but can energize you.
Gotta stay hydrated!
Your belt if you’re doing gi
· I’ve seen people who have forgotten their belt believe it or not. So, this one is important.
Make sure your gi matches the standards of the competition with the proper pant and sleeve lengths, patches in the correct positions, and the right colors (white, blue, or black).
Bringing two gis might be overkill but I would say bring an extra pair of gi pants that matches your first gi just in case something rips.
Extra Competition clothing
· Rashguard that matches your belt color
· Shorts/spats that go under your gi just in case you get too sweaty and need to compete multiple times in one day.
· Shorts and spats for no-gi competitions (you can use the ones that go under your gi of course.
· Just in case they ask you to identify yourself before stepping onto the mat for your match.
· If you have long hair, having extras help just in case one breaks and you can be helpful if someone else needs one.
Sweatshirt and sweatpants
· To keep yourself warm while you wait to compete or so you can be comfortable after you’ve competed.
· Main toiletries: deodorant, perfume, small towel for sweat, etc.
· Some competition locations might have a place for you to shower after you compete so it’s good to have stuff to shower aka shower gel, soap, a small towel, perfume, shampoo, etc.
· Most competitions won’t have somewhere to shower, or the shower is so gross you might not even want to so having wipes is great too.
· Obvious thing here but you need to make sure you have enough space to capture your matches, especially if you have more than one going on for the day.
· This may also seem obvious. Music really helps get you into the game, pumps you up, and keeps you focused before your matches.
IT’S COMPETITION DAY!!! You've prepared for this. You’re ready. Win or lose you’re still going to kick ass. Here are somethings you should consider on the day of the competition:
· Arrive a few hours before your event. There's no need to go super early.
o In my first competition in China, I arrived more than 9 hours before I competed. Because I was overly excited and wanted to cheer for all my teammates, by the time my first match came up, I was really tired which I believe contributed to me losing my second match. I think a sweet spot is to arrive maximum 3 hours before your event. It gives you some time if the competition is running late or if they suddenly move your event up.
o If you must go early because you’re traveling with your team, I would suggest finding a nice comfortable area where you can relax, chill out, or even nap before your event. It might seem selfish to not go and cheer for every member of your team, but you got to make sure your energized for your own matches.
· Make sure you arrive early enough to do a weigh-in if it’s not done the day before.
o Sometimes weigh-ins happen right before it’s time for you to compete. Again, it all depends.
· Constantly check your event
o Most competitions give you your weight class bracket and/or match time a day before the competition but sometimes they are running super late. Make sure that you’re checking the competition’s website or listening up for any announcements at the competition site to make sure you don’t miss your event. You don’t want to give your opponent a win just because you didn’t show up on time.
· Jam out to some tunes
o Create a playlist that gets you hyped for competing and gives you the positive mindset you need. Every time I’ve competed in my life, including when I did competitive swimming, I always had a playlist that got me hyped. It really does help. If you’ve gotten this far in the article, write your go to song for competition in the comments or on my Instagram @blackgirlwhitegi_bjj
· Make sure your hair is secure.
o You want to make sure when you’re competing as a person with long hair that your hair is secure. You don’t want your hair getting in your face or other people’s faces when you compete
o Usually there is at least 1 person who can braid on your team. You can ask them to help secure your hair.
o Check out my article for the best hairstyles for training here.
Make sure that you warm-up before you go compete!!! You don't want your muscles to cramp up or for you to get injured right when the match starts. Every competition has a place for competitors to warm-up before their match or for you to go over anything with your coach before your actual match.
When it’s time to compete:
Around your event time, make sure you're close to the mat you’re supposed to be on. Again, you don’t want to miss your mat call and lose on a technicality
Don’t get psyched out by your opponent’s appearance
You’re prepared for this. It doesn’t matter what they look like, how many stripes they have or how big they are. You got this.
·Have one person take a video
You will want to review this video later with your coach in order to see what went right and what went wrong. This is a great way to monitor your progress and see how you can and will improve for the next competition
Remember your training.
If it’s a point match (the only ones I’ve competed in), gauge your techniques for points.
If you’re up in points do your thing to maintain and prevent your opponent from scoring or submitting you.
If you’re down in points, don’t delay or get discouraged. Try to sweep, or get those points back.
If it is close to the end of the match, and you’re really down by points, go for submissions.
Listen out for your coaches’ voice and coaching
This means YOUR coach not the other opponent's coach. The other coach will probably say things to their student that will make you feel like you’re down bad and psych you out.
Get into the practice of tuning everyone out and listen for your coach’s voice in all the chaos.
When the match is over, display good sportsmanship
o If you win, don’t yell and be extra.
o If you lose, don’t sulk, and catch an attitude
o In both scenarios, shake your opponent’s hand, tell them, “good job”, and thank the referee.
· If you have multiple matches
o Make sure to clear your mind and breathe before the next match.
o Get some water and electrolytes in you and go rest.
o Maybe eat something small like that banana you packed earlier :D
· If you won a medal
o Make sure that you listen for your weight class announcement to get to the podium on time.
§ I personally missed two podium announcements because I am always trying to run around and talk to someone after competing. Luckily in my first purple belt competition, they did the podium ceremony over for me and my opponent because we were the only ones.
· Take pictures and be sportsman like
o Everyone is going to want to take pictures so just be around to take them with your teammates, with your opponent, with your coaches, etc.
o If you lost, again don’t sulk around in public. Be happy for your teammates if they won. Congratulate them.
o If you won and your teammates lost, be understanding. Say some encouraging words and just make sure they feel okay. Some people take losing harder than others.
· Refuel your body, eat something good
o If you cut weight and limited yourself, this is time to go out and enjoy your life. I know that some fitness and nutrition professionals will say “food isn’t a reward.” All I’m saying is that after all that hard work, you deserve to indulge a bit.
· Set up a time to review your video with your coach
o As I mentioned before, you want to review with your coaches so you can be better if you plan to compete again.
o Your coaches are definitely going to be busy on competition days. So, what I would do is ask them if you can send the video of your match and ask them if they can watch it before if they aren’t too busy or if you can review it together after class within the coming week. Your coaches are always willing to help.
I personally think that competing is something everyone should do at least once while they train bjj. It’s nice to gauge your skills and sometimes the rush of competition is good for morale. The decision to compete is a big one and you should be proud of yourself for making that decision in the first place.
I know there were a lot of things mentioned in this article, but the main things are that you train well, be prepared, stay safe, and have fun! If you’ve competed before, what are some of your competition Dos and Don’ts? If you haven’t competed, are you thinking about it? Why or why not? Let’s chat in the comments or on Instagram!