Starting your Jiu-Jitsu journey can be a bit overwhelming and many white belts tells us later that there were things they wished they had known at the beginning to make the process easier. We’ve compiled some of these into the following list of advice for our new white belts who are preparing for their first tournament.
Every tournament is different. You’ll find the rules will vary slightly from one tournament to another so it’s important to make sure you understand the rules for the tournament before you get started. Your instructor can help with this but if you still have questions, don’t be afraid to ask. The last thing we want is for you to get disqualified in your very first tournament simply because you didn’t know what was allowed, or not allowed, at your belt level.
You will be nervous, but so will your opponent – when you walk out on to the mat for the first time, or even the first few times, your adrenalin will be pumping, your heart will be pounding, and you’ll be a bit nervous. Take a deep breath, understand that this is normal, and remember that your opponent is feeling exactly the same way. It simply takes doing it a few times for your nerves to calm down, but they definitely will.
Prepare mentally for the type of competitor you’re going to be. Points are assigned for different moves and take downs. You need to know what suits you best. If you’re more comfortable taking someone down verses sweeping them after a guard pull then you should play to that strength. Have a plan when you go out on to the mat for how you’re going to get your first points. Listen carefully to your instructor’s advice.
Remember that there will be multiple matches. Whether you win or lose the first match don’t allow that to alter your mental preparation for the next one. You need to go in to every match with the same level of intensity and focus as you did the first one. Most tournaments will consist of several matches for each participant so be prepared for that going in.
Ask someone to record your matches. Whether you win or lose there will be things you can improve on for your next tournament, but you’ll find it very difficult to remember what those are after the tournament ends. Having video footage that you can review later is incredibly helpful in identifying your areas of weakness and the ways you can improve. There are often things you didn’t realize you were doing until you see them on film.
Finally keep in mind that this is just the beginning of your journey. There will be many more tournaments in your future and at the end of the day, the outcome of this single day won’t impact your Jiu-Jitsu career. Continue to practice and improve and every tournament will be a step in the right direction.