You can learn a lot from competitions whether you win or lose.
I competed in a local tournament here in Belgrade, Serbia yesterday. I think the last time I competed in gi before this one was around this time in 2019. So… it had been a while.
I won two matches in the open weight division and won the first place. One by points, one by triangle. But I lost two matches against a good brown belt around my size. One by points, one by armbar.
Here are some of my lessons:
- Your mindset matters a lot. In a strange way, I wasn’t mentally there against the brown belt. I didn’t do what I would usually do in a competition setting and didn’t care so much about the result. Big mistake. He beat me pretty convincingly twice (more about this later).
On the other hand, I was way more determined to win the open weight division because… I had two other Montenegrin black belts who were much heavier than me (probably about +30kg/66lbs), and winning the open weight division is much more difficult when you are a featherweight (-70kg/154lbs) player.
Of course, this desire shouldn’t have gotten in the way of my weight category matches to the point of doing not much & saving my energy as a consequence… but that’s what happened.
- The ruleset matters a lot. This competition was under the AJP (Abu Dhabi Jiu Jitsu Pro) Tour rules. I’m familiar with the IBJJF ruleset and its match durations, like 5 minutes for white belts, 8 minutes for brown belts, and 10 minutes for black belts. The AJP ruleset is different in this regard – every match lasts for 5 minutes. Sure, I mostly do 5-minute rounds in training sessions, but when it comes to competitions… I’m not used to doing 5-minute matches anymore. The best preparation for any ruleset is probably to train to finish your opponent within 2-3 minutes, though.
Also, under the AJP Tour rules, if there are only two competitors in a given division, they will have 3 rounds, and whoever wins 2 rounds first will be the winner of the division. That’s why I fought against the same brown belt twice… and lost twice.
With the open weight division, there were three of us. I beat one of them, and he fought against the other guy and won. So the other guy got eliminated, and I fought against the same guy. I feel I was lucky because the other guy seems to go for toe hold and kneebar without hesitation of breaking his opponent’s leg. Well, no, thank you, especially when you are 30kg heavier than me.
- The size difference matters. Except I’m actually used to dealing with bigger opponents now, having spent a lot of time in this region. Most of my training partners weigh 80-100kg, and I know how they play. On the other hand, I’m not used to dealing with people around my size anymore, especially more advanced players. The pace is just different. I feel I will need to train with people around my size more if I’m preparing to compete in my weight category.
- You need to be prepared for the so-called modern jiu jitsu. The primary reason why I had huge difficulties against the brown belt is that he used berimbolo & lapel guard stuff effectively. Currently, I don’t have any training partner who uses these techniques. So I’m not used to dealing with advanced players who use “modern” techniques (I think it’s a silly label, but it’s still useful… you can imagine what kind of techniques I’m referring to). In reality, such techniques are prevalent in lighter divisions these days, and you just gotta know how to deal with them effectively.
- Guard passing skills will solve most of your jiu jitsu problems. People often complain about guard-pulling and butt-scooting (and, to some extent, leg lock maniacs) as well as berimbolo-ers and lapel-guarders, but if you have strong guard passing skills… there will be no problem. So, keep working on improving your guard passing skills. It is probably one of the most challenging areas of jiu jitsu to learn, though.
Reminder: Anything and everything can give you an opportunity to learn something and improve yourself.
Always keep learning and enjoy this learning process.