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The Competition Ambition

The 2022 competition calendar is out, and there are numerous opportunities for anyone to compete. Even if you are not interested in competing, you can gain a lot by helping your teammates who do.

Competing is a personal choice. Some of us have competitive jobs or other competitive sports, or simply have too many obligations to commit to competing. Every academy in America is full of wreckreational players like this — those who help get their teammates competition ready. Many of them are also some of the toughest people on the mat, without ever standing on a podium.

Competitors are regularly some of the most fit, technical and sound Jiu Jitsu players out there.  This is not a coincidence.  They work hard to implement strategy, stay healthy and never avoid hard work.

Competition requires preparation.  One of the best ways to prepare is train with the competition team every Saturday afternoon.  Professor Alex Huddleston and the team offer top-shelf training and explore all the elements of competing.

In preparing for competition, consider these four elements of being a well-rounded martial artist:

  1. Distance management
  2. Getting to the floor
  3. Implementing our game
  4. Mental preparation

Distance Management

Whether in competition, self-defense or sport fighting, distance management makes an essential fighting skill.  Distance management includes knowing when you can establish grips, angles or strikes. Grip fighting, kumikata, is a discipline in itself. Wrestlers “hand fight.” Generally, the one who gets the grip gets the game. Watch judo matches. The grip usually dictates who has the ability to off balance the other or attack.

Fighters who understand distance have incredible timing and the illusion of speed. Competition requires an understanding of distance management; when competing, it’s good to have awareness of which zone best fits your strategy.

Getting to the Floor

For Jiu Jitsu tournaments, getting to the floor is a matter of a throw, takedown, guard-pull, or a sit.

Guard-pulling gets a lot of bad press these days, and there are some valid reasons for that. However, it offers a viable strategy that we should use. While Jiu Jitsu players find guard-pulling a necessary technique, they should have other tools up their sleeve. Guard-pulling works best as a deliberate and practiced method that leads immediately to an effective offense.

Throws and takedowns comprise a huge subject. Nobody needs to be an expert at either in order to compete, but it helps to have a basic understanding of a few things. This requires understanding distance management and noticing an opportunity – or danger of – a takedown.  You can get lots of practice at Easton’s academies!

When competing, you want to have a couple of ways to get to the floor.  A good guard pull, one or two throws with a gi and one or two throws without. Sacrifice throws, where you drop to the floor pulling your opponent over, make very effective moves for sport Jiu Jitsu — definitely worth adding to your skillset. Even if your strategy involves pulling guard, knowing when and what is needed for throws will help your ability to pull guard skillfully.  

Implementing Our Game

Once the match has gone to the floor, either because we or our opponent pulled guard or there’s two points on the board for a takedown, a good competitor has a plan.

A good plan involves well-practiced and reliable techniques from every position.  A good competitor has a couple of sweeps from the positions they find themselves in most often, and a small arsenal of submissions from every position they know they can count on. 

Competition requires understanding the score and the clock. Matches that are only 5 minutes can be high-intensity if not frantic. A good competitor knows when to slow the game down, stay ahead on the scoreboard and wait for the next opportunity. Competitors may go back to a guard they know they can pass in order to stack points or repeatedly use knee on belly to add them up.

[Training Deliberately: Seeking Feedback to Hone Your Game]

Mental Preparation

The biggest — and most intensely personal — part of competing is mental; how we approach that part looks different for everyone.

We all need different things for success. Some competitors need to get fired up. Some need to be calmed down. Some need an hour in a float tank visualizing their game. Everyone is different.

Whether we compete or not, what’s important is that we introduce ourselves to that chattering monkey between our ears and become friends. Through practice, effort and struggle, we can learn to go farther than we thought we could. We can go past the places where we used to get exhausted and find a place within us that never quits. We can become comfortable being uncomfortable.

Competition brings this out in us. Even if we never compete, helping our teammates by bringing the hard “competition rounds” develops this within us. This part of Jiu Jitsu impacts our whole existence.

IBJJF Denver Open. Image by Greg Streech.

It has been said that every day is a test. In this sense, we are all competitors already. The alarm clock brings the first test of the day, and how we answer the bell might shape the day.

Preparation helps — knowing how far in or out to go, how to get to where we need to be, what to do when we get there. In the end, having the right frame of mind makes up the heart of all competition, both on the mat and in our lives.

Compete with desire and passion, yet temper expectations or disappointment with mental fortitude.

Flowers don’t care if the flower next to them has a bigger bloom or gets more attention. They just do their thing. Orchids can sometimes not bloom for months, like a bunch of ugly sticks while the roses in the garden bloom. In competition, you win just by stepping on the mat.

For adults interested in competing, Easton runs a BJJ Competition Class open to all Easton students (White Belt 4 Stripes and up) from 1:30PM – 3:00PM on Saturdays at Easton Denver.

For kids looking to compete or have more intense training experience, we’re launching an All-Easton Kids Competition Training Class!

Header image by Greg Streech.

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