In Brazilian Jiu Jitsu we are always learning.
We learn a lot about the art and about ourselves.
We learn a lot on the mat listening to our instructors and training with our friends and family, but there is another place we can learn a lot about Jiu Jitsu and life.
The place I am referring to is of course the competition mats.
While competition isn’t for everyone; there is a lot that we can learn under the Jiu Jitsu spotlight. You don’t have to have super high goal or expectations like winning worlds or the ADCC’s in order to use competition as a learning tool. I believe competition may be one of the most under-utilized learning tools in the BJJ world and here is a short list of a few of the top benefits to putting yourself out there.
The first and probably the most obvious thing you can learn from competition is your weaknesses. Every time you leave the arena win or lose you gain knowledge and even footage to study about what you do well and what you may need to work on. You can see how you deal with certain situations that you may not normally be put in and learn how to develop your game to improve.
The second and also fairly obvious thing you can learn is what you can do well. So many times I have seen people lose their first or second match and only look at what they did wrong. While you need to be somewhat critical of yourself in order to improve it is also important to give yourself props for the things you did well. Maybe you lost by a triangle choke, but you managed a very well executed double leg takedown on the way in. It is important not to just beat yourself up on all the negative things. Except the outcome, analyze the situation for the future , but don’t let the past dictate your future by holding onto an error you made.
You can also learn about how well you handle pressure and work on improving if needed. We have all felt it at one time or another from white to black belt and from weeks before, to the moment you set foot on the mat. The feeling is hard to describe but most people refer to it as the butterflies. You are a combination of nervous and fearful, but everyone experiences this on a different level and as you compete more the feeling is more controllable. Maybe you handle the pressure well and no work is needed. Maybe you puked before stepping on the mats and need work.
What You Really know
Related to the former you also learn what moves you truly know and can apply under pressure. Competition shows us what we can do with a resisting opponent who we most likely know nothing about. In the academy we sometimes learn each-others game and thus learn how to shut it down, but in competition we usually know very little about our opponents and thus a new problem is created. This also somewhat mimics the idea of a self-defense scenario where adrenalin is pumping and nerves are acting, so in a way it also prepares us to defend our self should the time come.
These are of course only a few of the things we can learn from challenging ourselves in competition, so as the saying goes ; “you don’t ever lose. You either win, or you learn.”