This weekend was the 2011 No-Gi World Championship. As you probably guessed from its name, it’s one of the biggest no-gi tournaments in the world (perhaps second only to ADCC). Two friends from my jiu jitsu academy made the trip to Long Beach, CA to compete, one of them taking a bronze medal in his blue belt division. Needless to say, I was ecstatic to hear the news (and perhaps a bit regretful I wasn’t there to compete alongside them).
Tournaments are the best way to gauge your skill level and to help shore up holes in your game. It’s easy to fall into a rut in day-to-day training; you’re always training with the same few people, and you’ll quickly find that you learn each others’ strengths and weaknesses. As a result, you might find yourself (and your partners) always utilizing the same positions, submissions, and escapes. Consequently, exposing yourself to skill sets outside of your own academy, especially when opponents are using full resistance, provides invaluable learning opportunities.
The tournament setting also teaches you to deal with nerves. You’ll probably find your first couple tournaments overwhelming. If you’re like me, you’ll get tunnel vision and your heart will start to race from the moment you weigh in until you step onto the mats. You’ll find yourself sizing up every person in the building.
At first, it will amaze you to see other people sleeping in the bleachers between their matches. Soon enough though, you’ll learn to relax and enjoy yourself. You’ll treat your matches as learning experiences, and rather than feeling like a death-row inmate slowly marching towards the electric chair, you’ll actually start enjoying yourself. Believe it or not, your opponents aren’t the heartless tendon-snapping machines you initially thought. In fact, you might even make some new friends while you’re at it.
In competition, whether you win or lose you’ll learn new things about jiu jitsu and new things about yourself. Well, after you throw up a few times from nervousness and/or exhaustion, of course…