Why You Should Compete in BJJ

Published on
Updated on
3 minute read

My coach back in Japan doesn’t state this explicitly, but he promotes his students only after they achieve certain competition results.​

My coach’s stance is more on the extreme side because promotions are at stake. You won’t get promoted to the next level unless you compete and win. Simple.​

The good thing is that there are competitions regularly in major regions of Japan (or at least were before the pandemic). So, his students don’t have to struggle to find competition opportunities, which often are scarce in countries/places where BJJ is still in its early development stage. When they are ready, they could probably participate in the next tournament in a few weeks or so.​

Most coaches would promote their students based on how they do in training, and possibly that alone, though. Positive competition results would be nice, but not a necessary condition.​

Now, here’s a question. Should you compete, especially if your coach doesn’t seem to emphasize your competition results much when considering your promotion?​

I know some people aren’t interested in competitions at all. I’m sure they all have different reasons for deciding not to compete.​

And I’ll probably overlook some of them because I’m biased towards competing… after all, I competed often enough in the past, and I intend to keep competing when I’m older, too. I know there are people in their 40s, 50s, 60s, or even 70s who compete. There are BJJ practitioners with disabilities who compete. So, personally, I wouldn’t stop competing based on my age or general physical condition unless I get a severe injury that prevents me from even sparring.​

Perhaps it’s more important to consider why you should compete at all in the first place.​

I think competition plays a vital role in your development. You get to test your skills in a more stressful environment and often against an unknown person. You have been practicing certain skills in your training environment, but do they really work in a competition setting? It’s hard to know unless you compete.​

Whether you win or lose, you can get new inspirations from your competition performance. This information, again, is something hard to get unless you compete.​

In many cases, you get to compete against people with similar skills as you. And if you keep competing and training, you will and should eventually win first place in your division. That’s a realistic goal you can aim at, too. Be better and win something.​

But… what if you are really not interested in competing or competition results? If that’s the case, why not just compete? Consider it as part of your learning process (which basically is the case anyway), and just test your skills in a competition context from time to time.​

If you train in an environment where you get a lot of visitors, especially high-level visitors, and these visitors try to kill you, then perhaps you may not really need to seek out opportunities to test your skills against unknown opponents.​

Perhaps you use your grappling skills outside of the mat for your profession… you could be a bouncer, and if that’s the case, again, you know what works and what doesn’t work in a stressful environment. In this case, you may not need to bother about competing either.​

Did you notice? I basically just described something like John Danaher’s past situation. I suppose people often bring him up as someone who is completely legit, but didn’t compete. If you think about it, his situation was not really typical.​

So, overall, I encourage you to compete and see it as part of your learning experience, especially when you start getting into competitions.​

Once you get used to competing, start cultivating a winner’s mindset… but that could be a topic for another email.