As one of the best – if not the best – sport jiu-jitsu teams in the world, the Atos Jiu-Jitsu team is big on competitions. Any competitions. All competitions. Regardless of the BJJ promotion, the location, the venue or the ruleset, Atos competitors are always game.
As experts in competition, we know that at different stages in your jiu-jitsu journey, there may be certain jiu-jitsu events that make more sense than others. You certainly don’t want to jump right into one of the biggest events in the world – and expect to win – when you’ve never stepped foot on the competition mat in your life. So what do you do? We’ve taken the guesswork out of all that and compiled a kind of “cheat sheet” of what competitions are best for each experience level. Read on to find out what events you should be investing your money and training into…
As a white belt, you’re at the very beginning of your jiu-jitsu journey, so you may not even be contemplating competition just yet. It’s certainly wise to wait a few months before you sign up for your first competition. The biggest reason is that until you’ve taken enough classes and developed a good sense of how to move in jiu-jitsu, you might be putting yourself and your opponent at risk of injury. If you don’t know how to properly – and safely – roll or fall, you could concuss yourself, break a bone, or tear a ligament. Best case scenario: you’ll be out for a few weeks or months. Worst case scenario is you might be putting an end to your jiu-jitsu career… and nobody wants that. It’s always good to ask your coach “Am I ready?” before you jump into your first tournament.
That being said, we find that a lot of white belts err on the other side; they wait, and wait, and wait, perpetually thinking that they’re “not ready enough.” The fact is, you’ll never feel ready enough. Even at black belt, with years of competing under your belt, you’ll always think you could have done more. All you can do is prepare as best as you can with the time that you have, and go in there and do what you know how to do, whatever that may be. If you win, great! If you lose, no big deal. Take those lessons, go home, and work to improve your jiu-jitsu. I have never heard anyone regret showing up and competing.
So, what tournaments should you enter? As a white belt, you have plenty of small, local options to cut your teeth on. Tournaments like the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) and Grappling Industries are great promotions, and you can almost always find one happening in your state, or a nearby state, on any given month. Because there is a general hesitancy among the white belt population to compete, you might not have a huge division, but odds are you’ll have enough to make a decent bracket.
If you’re a blue belt looking to compete, you’re in luck. The blue belt divisions are consistently the biggest divisions in any tournament, so you’ll always have plenty of opponents. If you made it to blue belt without having compete, you should consider entering one of the smaller, local tournaments mentioned above. These tournaments will allow you to get a feel for competing, without all the pressure to win big. Of course, that’s not to say that you won’t put a ton of pressure on yourself anyway, and then deal with all the nerves and anxiety that comes along with it. This is normal. A part of competing – and competing as often as you can – is learning how to manage that so that your brain doesn’t sabotage your body when it’s your turn to step out there.
Once you’ve had a few under your belt, consider entering some of the larger tournaments, such as the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) Open tournaments. These tournaments are held in major cities around the world and always have a great showing of competitors from teams both large and small. If you feel like you’re competitive at blue belt, don’t hesitate to enter the IBJJF’s larger regional events (such as Pans, Europeans, and Brazilian Nationals) or even the World Championships. The competition will be stiff, but the experience is beyond worthwhile.
Purple and brown belt is when you really start developing your own style and game, and as such, it’s a really exciting time to compete. Think of competition as a way to experiment with the things you’ve been working on; see what works, what doesn’t, and what you need to fine-tune. If you’ve been competing since white or blue belt, this is also the time in which you’ll finally get handle on your pre-competition mindset. If you’re just jumping into the competition scene at purple or brown belt, you will may be at a slight disadvantage compared to some of your competitors, who might already have fought hundreds of matches. But not to worry. You have enough technique under your belt, and you’ve likely trained thousands of hours with a competitive training partner to know how it feels to turn up the intensity. It won’t take you long to catch up, as long as you focus on doing so.
Unfortunately, at this stage you’ll also have fewer and fewer opponents, especially at the smaller, local tournaments. This is because most people who start jiu-jitsu just won’t make it to this level; either they get hurt, burnt out, or just decide jiu-jitsu is not for them. That’s not to say you shouldn’t check and see if you’d get a few matches, as every match is invaluable experience for your growth as a competitor. But you’ll find better competition at the major IBJJF or United Arab Emirates Jiu-Jitsu Federation (UAEJJF) events. Also, at this stage you’ll have more opportunities for one-on-one super fights, on promotions like Fight2Win, Polaris Pro Grappling, Kasai, and Third Coast Grappling.
You’ve made it: you’ve reached the much-coveted black belt level. Regardless of whether you’ve compete or not in your career, that is a huge accomplishment that nobody can take away from you. If you have been competing, you’ll already have a pretty good idea of what competitions are out there, and where you’re the most competitive. Black belt is one of the most interesting belts to compete at, as you could find yourself facing an opponent who has been a black belt longer than you’ve been training jiu-jitsu, or an opponent who just received his/her black belt (and may also have been training jiu-jitsu longer than you have). It’s always a mixed bag.
If you have never competed before, and you suddenly decide that “now is the time”… bravo! Yes, you may be in for a difficult journey trying to make up for all that lost time, but with enough time and dedication, you can be right up there with the best of them. By now, your years of jiu-jitsu will have taught you enough patience and humility that you will already have a “you either win or you learn” type of mentality, which is crucial for a competitor at any level. At this point, you’ll also have a hard time finding enough opponents at smaller tournaments, and even some of the IBJJF Open events. Although there are more and more BJJ black belts every year, not all will be competitive, and of those who are, they may not be your same age, size or gender. So, you might have to jump right into the major IBJJF and UAEJJF tournaments. Super fights are also options, especially with Fight2Win, which likes to showcase local talent wherever they go.
Whatever belt you are, competing is an invaluable experience. Win, lose or draw, you will grow from the experience, that much is certain. So, whether you’re a white belt with less than a year’s experience, or a black belt who has never compete before, we encourage you to try it at least once in your career.