How long should you train before competing in BJJ?
Competing in BJJ is one of the most difficult and rewarding aspects of the BJJ journey. In terms of growth, improvement, and building self-confidence and camaraderie with your team, there are few activities that rival BJJ competition.
If you are new to BJJ and interested in BJJ competition, you may be wondering “how long should I train before competing in BJJ?” While there is no one right answer for everyone who competes, there are a few considerations to help you decide exactly the right time for you to do your first BJJ competition.
In the following post, we break down these considerations. By the time you are finished reading, you will be able to determine how long you should train before competing in BJJ.
The difficulty of BJJ competition
BJJ competition is exciting, nerve-racking, and incredibly satisfying. While you may ‘roll hard’ at your gym, competition gives you the most intensity outside of real-life confrontation in terms of rolling as hard as possible. Additionally, you will face someone of similar size, strength, age, and skill level. As such, it is the fairest roll you can get, and gives you the most realistic feedback in terms of your current skill level.
Timeline for competing in your first tournament
There is no specific timeline for the bare minimum competition readiness. Given the relative safety of competing in BJJ compared to the risk of serious head trauma in striking arts, even getting absolutely annihilated in competition is putting your ego at more risk than your body itself. However, most of us prefer not to get needless smashed in front of everyone we know, although this is always a possibility when competing in BJJ.
Your best bet is to train long enough to have at least a move or two you can work from the major BJJ positions. Since you will not likely be in a heel hook legal tournament, you should focus on the traditional positions of standing, guard, side control, mount, and back control. You should be familiar with both attacks and escapes from both the top and bottom positions in these overall categories.
It is worth knowing a bit about single-leg X and straight ankle lock positions as well. Advanced leg entanglements such as honey-hole, double-outside ashi, and 50/50 are less of a concern until you are high-blue or purple belt level competing in No-Gi BJJ.
If you are confident with your options from each traditional position, win or lose, you will be a strong opponent against your first match in BJJ competition.
Managing your ego
As mentioned, the chances of physical injury in grappling are low compared to many other sports, even in BJJ competition. Despite this, there is a good chance that your ego will take a beating, particularly in the event of a bad loss. While this is all part of the learning experience and BJJ journey, some students may get discouraged and quit BJJ before they hit their stride as a grappler.
Learning to manage ego is arguably the most important aspect of getting good at BJJ. The fact is that for 99 percent of grapplers, there is always going to be someone far more skilled than you. In fact, this is as true for black belts as it is for white belts. The skill gap between an elite world champion black belt and a decent local competitor is vast.
If you can learn to manage your ego early on in BJJ, the journey towards black belt and beyond will be far more rewarding and less fraught with emotional distress. If you do not manage ego, competition will become a burdensome and unrewarding task when you face the near inevitable experience of losing a match.
Consulting your coaches
It’s normal to have doubts regarding your skill level and overall readiness for competition in BJJ. One of the best ways to get past this is to discuss the matter with your coaches before signing up for competition.
By the time you are considering competition, you should be comfortable discussing your journey with your coaches and trust them to give you honest feedback. If your coach tells you that you are ready, trust them, sign up for the tournament, and have fun. If your coach suggests you improve a bit before competing, consider their advice and spend some more time honing your skills. Most often, by the time you are thinking about competition, you are ready for the challenge.
You cannot control the outcome of a tournament. Your opponent may be an absolute animal nearing promotion while you are still relatively fresh at your belt level. You might get a terrible night’s sleep and be run down when you step onto the tournament mat. In either event, you might still win, or you might not. On the other hand, you could feel amazing, have a beatable opponent, and make a critical mistake in the heat of the moment that costs you the entire match.
The one thing you can control is showing up to practice. If you are consistently training leading up to the tournament, you have done all you can. Suffering a loss knowing you did everything you could to prepare is far better than losing knowing you were not training consistently beforehand. Focus on the one thing you can control: consistently going to BJJ.
Putting a number on it: the bottom line
Hopefully, you understand that there is no right answer for the proper amount of time to train before your first competition. However, assuming you are a white belt and are training 3 to 4 days per week, you should be more than ready for your first competition within 9 to 12 months. You can always compete sooner than that, or wait a bit longer, however, the average individual will be prepared for a tournament within that rough timeframe.
Once you have signed up, you should train consistently, develop a game plan, and have fun during your first BJJ tournament.