How to Overcoming Yourself in Grappling Tournaments and Play The Game of Human Chess

4 min read

How to Overcoming Yourself in Grappling Tournaments and Play The Game of Human Chess

How to Overcoming Yourself in Grappling Tournaments and Play The Game of Human Chess

See how competing in Jiu-Jitsu will force you to become a better person

location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Photo by: Gabe Sagman

With martial arts in general, but especially with Jiu-Jitsu, we have this sort of divide between recreational practitioners and those who choose to embrace more of the competitive lifestyle. 

Jiu-Jitsu competition and emotions intertwined 

While being physically in shape and skillful is crucial to success on the competition mats, no doubt, the mental aspect is paramount. Training Jiu-Jitsu will evoke all sorts of different emotions, and namely, fear is one emotion that most will be forced to face, especially in a competitive environment. It should go without saying that competition and emotions are tightly intertwined. Let’s take a closer look then at how competing will allow the practitioner to better manage their emotions and overall being.        

Get out there and compete 

When it comes to the competition and fear relationship, fear of competing is essentially fear of losing. In a recent guest feature on Choking Hazard – The Podcast, Jiu-Jitsu professor and Jiu-Jitsu For Life Team co-founder Jorge Britto expressed, “The fear of losing to me, it can only be measured in competition. That’s why I advocate so much for competition.[1]” 

How often should we compete

Britto goes on to recommend, “An average Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner should be competing at least twice a year, once at least. Why? Because it’s the only moment that you face yourself. [1]” Multiple time IBJJF (International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation) world champion and Hall of Famer Saulo Ribeiro happens to be one of Britto’s original instructors, and he holds similar ideas surrounding facing yourself through competition. 

Developing confidence

As Ribeiro argues, “When competing, you will not even be able to think about overcoming your opponent if you are too worried about yourself. However, if you are comfortable with your preparation, you will have the confidence to perform.[1]” Developing confidence in oneself through the training will be the key to having a strong mind for competition.

BJJ… a Game 

While many practitioners may be afraid to compete and lose, as discussed, some have an unhealthy obsession with winning. These individuals are less afraid to compete, but they are overly devastated if they lose. I’ve seen it first-hand with teammates who’re serious competitors, and if they lose, the agony sets in; they can be seen mat-side in a state of shock. Ribeiro argues, these competitors “fail to realize it is just a game. It is a game where you mix knowledge, strategy, timing, health, and attitude [1].” 

Photo by Gabe Sagman… man landing a takedown

Human chess…. Jiu-Jitsu 

This idea of a Jiu-Jitsu match as a game can also be likened to chess, or as some would characterize, “human chess.” Concerning this human chess analogy, Britto argues, “It’s a game of emotional control. If you don’t learn how to control your emotions, you try the wrong move at the wrong moment [1].” As Britto goes on to argue, “When you compete more, you have a lot of tricks to control your anxiety, to control your ego when you win, to pump yourself up when you lose, because you now know, you have to practice those emotions; otherwise you’re going to quit.[1]” 

Britto raises an interesting point here because emotions are at play not just during the match, but in the aftermath as well. Controlling your ego is a legitimate consideration when celebrating a victory. In the IBJJF, you can actually be penalized for unsportsmanlike dancing or running off the mats to celebrate before your hand is raised.  

Reap the benefits 

In sum, competition should be focused on less the results (winning or losing) and more on how it can develop both your Jiu-Jitsu and emotional awareness. By focusing on yourself and the training, competing will become easier and more natural. Competing shouldn’t be seen as the be-all and end-all of success in Jiu-Jitsu. However, competing when you can and reaping the benefits should still be encouraged. Whereas in other combat sports, there’re gaps in age and skill level, Jiu-Jitsu offers many divisions to accommodate competitors, such as the Master divisions, so they’re more opportunities and fewer excuses!      

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