You Don’t Lose, You Learn – First BJJ Competition

That came around quickly. I only wrote about entering my first competition a while back and then it was upon me.  The competition was last weekend and it was a really enjoyable and well-run event.

I did a bit of preparation for the competition but unfortunately, I was not 100% fit on the day. I’ve been having shoulder issues from my day job sitting at a desk and this got progressively worse and on the weekend I had no grip strength and pins and needles in my right hand. Add to this a laceration on the same hand from gardening the day before and I was effectively a limb down for my fight.

Furthermore, I was carrying more weight than I would like. Over Christmas, I had ballooned to over 80kg where my average weight for the last 20 years has been 74kg. So I was struggling with the weight category that I should fight in. Your fighting weight on the day includes your gi and belt which is just over 2kg so I needed to drop to under 80kg to fight in the 82.3kg category or get back down to under 74kg to fight at 76kg. I made weight for the 82.3kg on the day but I was carrying too much body fat. I was competing against very lean and much younger guys in the 82.3kg category.

My weigh in was at 12:20 so I got there a bit early to acclimatise myself and catch up with the guys from my club. I was surprisingly less nervous than I thought I would be. But from watching the other fights I became aware that

  1. Competitors are a lot more aggressive than when ‘sparring from the knees’ at the end of a class.
  2. Although I know a few takedowns, I didn’t really have any defense against them.
  3. I wasn’t prepared for the show of strength and explosive power from some of the fighters.

So, I weighed in and started to warm up. After about 20 mins we were lead out onto the mat and the repecharge started. I had two fights. In the first, I was totally overpowered. The takedown was explosive and quick. I found myself in side control and had no idea how I had transitioned from standing to being on my back. I did my best to escape but just completely burned myself out in doing so. I submitted to a key lock hold which I didn’t find in the least bit uncomfortable. Maybe it was adrenalin but I thought I could’ve continued and tried to escape but there was an audible crack and referee stopped it. Surprisingly no pain so I’m not sure what made the noise.

I was better prepared for my next fight. I tried to slow things down and control the game. I fell to a sloppy takedown/guard pull that my opponent got 2 points for and these were the two points that he won by. I held my guard and I tried for triangles, armbars, and sweeps from guard but nothing was working. In retrospect, I should have just gone 100% for the last minute or 30 secs to get the points to win but there was no clock and I had no one telling me how much time was left in the round.

My advice is to start entering competitions as a white belt. You will get used to the competitive environment and experience some slightly alien ideas like not wearing a rash vest, the referee’s gestures and language (IBJJF rules) to performing in front of an audience. As a white belt competing against other white belts you never have to fight anyone with more than a 12 to 18 months more experience. I’m early stages blue belt so I could’ve been fighting guys that have had their blue belt for years.

I’m so happy I entered and I can’t wait to do another. I learned a lot and I have, at least, got my first competition out of the way.  I can take the experience back to my training and onwards to my next competition.