I entered my first competition as a Blue Belt several months ago having absolutely no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I didn’t want to progress through my BJJ journey without having had the experience. It was terrifying and exhilirating at the same time, and I found it to be a surprisingly emotional experience as well. I immediately realized that it was important to me to continue to compete regardless of the outcome. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on why the experience was so emotional for me and why I believe competition will continue to be an essential part of my development.
1. Competition Provides Clear Goals
This reason really applies regardless of age group, but it’s so important that it’s worth mentioning. It’s much easier to just show up and train several times per week and to go with the flow, but when preparing to compete it’s necessary to be mindful of making weight, proper sleep, training regimen, and developing a personal strategy.
Making weight is especially helpful for those of us in the Masters divisions as it can be more difficult to find the motivation to lose weight and keep it off once we get past age 40. Having a defined goal with consequences is incredibly helpful…and healthy.
I’ve even gone back to wearing my Fitbit watch on occassion just for the sleep tracking feature. It’s difficult to be effective in training and to recover sufficiently without proper sleep. Once we get into our 40’s, it can be difficult to get enough sleep with family and career obligations, so the extra motivation is always helpful even if we’re not always able to achieve our goals 100%.
It’s also incredibly helpful to have to develop a personal strategy for training and rolling rather than rolling aimlessly. I’ve learned more clearly what my strengths and weaknesses are and I’ve begun to work through them thanks to my competition experience.
2. Competing Pushes You Out Of Your Comfort Zone
When we get into our 40’s, it’s easy to settle into a routine and to allow your comfort zone to narrow, which can limit personal growth if pushed too far. I see many peers who begin to lose an “edge” in life simply because they’ve grown too comfortable. As soon as I realized how uncomfortable BJJ competition made me feel, I knew that I needed to do it.
Getting out on the mat in a public situation and competing in a combat sport will do wonders for your confidence, sense of accomplishment, and your gratitude.
I didn’t understand why I felt so emotional after competing my first time (and each subsequent time) until very recently. I finally realized that it was because I was feeling a profound sense of gratitude. Getting on the mat to do a BJJ competition at age 49, my first thought was that I must be absolutely bonkers. However, I quickly realized once it was over that I was simply profoundly grateful to have my physical and mental health and to be able to focus enough to be able to engage in such an extremely physically taxing activity.
I’m also incredibly grateful for my incredibly supportive teammates at Vitor Shaolin Brazilian Jiu Jitsu who help me improve in my sport and in life on a regular basis. To have a world class Jiu Jitsu athlete like Vitor “Shaolin” Ribiero coaching an amateur who came to the sport later in life such as myself is truly humbling and inspiring.
It also fills me with gratitude when I meet the other Masters division athletes who come to compete, and I love the way we’re all so incredibly supportive of one another.
I encourage every BJJ practitioner to compete at some point in their journey, and to do so enough times to feel comfortable enough to be able to enjoy it. The experience is still terrifying for me, but I’m grateful for this opportunity to grow beyond my comfort zone.