First of all, good on you! Definitely a great BJJ goal. I’ve learned competing in BJJ isn’t for everyone and most people who practice Jiu Jitsu don’t compete. So you should be proud that you want to put your body through the competition submission gauntlet.
Being a no stripe white belt when I competed was great for me (May 2022). It focused my training and goals for Jiu Jitsu. I now know I want to compete in this sport. I bet that most people who join and do Jiu Jitsu do it for self defence and exercise, whatever gets them to show up to the mats is cool with me. Also, for my hard work and dedication towards training I received two stripes at once after the competition. I didn’t know someone could get two stripes at once, I was surprised and pumped.
I lost my match 6-0. But survived the five minute round without being submitted, barely. I almost got choked out with a cross collar choke while I was in my opponents closed guard. I got put into a high full mount but then rolled out of it with eight seconds left. I survived my first BJJ match. What a feeling.
For the person who’s never competed and isn’t sure if they want to, here’s what I did for my first comp last May, about 4 weeks before competing:
-created an eating schedule
-ate whole foods and cooked meals more often than not
-went to every class I could, especially the ones with sparring, picked two attacks, two guard passes, two sweeps to learn
-focused on defence more
-create realistic goals for my first competition (didn’t care about winning but cared about showing up, making weight, trying my moves, and surviving a round)
-found a supportive community of likeminded folks
Creating an Eating Schedule and Eating Healthy
I had help with this. I first did a bit of research and then someone showed me the work of Mike Dolce of the Dolce Diet. I did not do the workouts but instead focused on the nutrition aspect. It is basically eating whole foods, veggies, and fruit – and eating a breakfast, lunch, and dinner with healthy snacks in between. At least that was my simple interpretation on it. And I didn’t follow it exactly. My wife helped a lot with this part of the training. She prepared many meals and snacks for me.
The frequency I ate and portion control (that was hard!) was the main reason I believe I was able to lose the lbs in order to make my weight class. The meal schedule went like this…
-Breakfast at 9am
-Snack at 11pm and 1pm
-Lunch at 3pm
-Dinner at 5pm
-Snack at 7pm
-Fast for 14 hours until breakfast the next day
I wasn’t perfect with this. If there were days I didn’t eat well I would just fast the next day, which was also challenging.
I messaged my wife just now and asked her what I ate because I forgot:
“Breakfasts was poop well pudding [a pudding my wife made that has lots of fibre – fruit chia seeds, flax seeds and other stuff]
Eggs and maybe some veggies
Lunch was normally some salad with a meat of beans or legumes
Dinner was the same or similar to lunch
Snacks was fruit. Peanut butter
Smoothies but just half of one”
Here are some pics of the foods I ate…
Went to Every Class I Could
I go to a Gracie Barra academy. They have GB1, GB2, GB3. GB1 is for fundamentals, GB2 is the advanced class (three stripe white belts or higher), and GB3 for higher belts. However, the academy I go to is real chill and anyone can go to the advanced class. When there is a tournament we are going to, they allow lower belts to go to the GB3 class as they also call it the ‘comp class’ where they do competition specific training. They also have No Gi classes as well. Basically, I went to as many of all of those classes I could that had sparring in it, especially the Open Mats on Saturdays that have a full hour of sparring – 5min rounds then 1min breaks in between for an hour.
At the height of my training I was going Monday to Saturday, 8 hours a week, that happened for about two weeks. It was intense. It was a lot. Maybe too much at one point. But even during all of this I was able to take days off and relax. Besides, Jiu Jitsu is for fun and if I don’t want to go I don’t go. The mats aren’t going anywhere and I’ll be doing this for as long as I’m interested.
Create Realistic Goals
What the heck did I do during all this training? Well whatever was in the GB curriculum we would learn. But for me, since I am a white belt, there can be way too much info coming in and not a lot retained. So what I did was focus on the moves I understood and did well at. And although I didn’t perform all the moves I wanted to during the match, at least I prepared myself in a way that I didn’t overwhelm myself. I came up with a Game Plan. For example, I chose some submissions, escapes, passing guard, my guard, and some takedowns. Often times when it came to sparring I would forget to practice those moves, but again at least I didn’t overwhelm myself or put pressure on myself to have to do all those moves. I had to be realistic, it was my first completion after all.
Winning wasn’t even on my mind. Sure, I did think now and then that ‘wouldn’t it be cool if I won a match or the whole thing?!’ – but I quickly shot that down and focused on my goals. There’s no point in building myself up and creating unrealistic expectations and then end up failing badly and feeling horribly. Once I have more competitions under my belt, I can start to focus on winning matches and tournaments.
Find a Supportive Community
Did you know there is a great BJJ community on Twitter? I have no idea how I found them but I did and they are encouraging and great. I haven’t experienced anything bad from them and have in fact got a good amount of info and perspectives I wouldn’t have got as quickly if I didn’t find them online. For example, I can post a newbie white belt question and have back belts give me their advice or perspective on it, whether the questions are about certain techniques or proper mindsets to have in Jiu Jitsu. I’m glad I found them and encourage you to find a similar group online or in real life if you can.
To sum it up, when it comes to your first BJJ competition – for the Physical aspect go to as many classes as possible and eat well. For the Mental (Mindset) aspect create realistic goals for yourself considering it’s your first competition. If you try these things I mentioned, you’ll at the very least get healthier and have fun. If you have fun then the chances are that you’ll want to compete again, and that will help improve your BJJ game.
Is There Anything I Would Have Done Differently?
There are a few things I would have done differently and will work on them next time…
-show up earlier to the comp
-warm up for longer at the comp
-and not worry so much about losing weight
These are minor things but overall I will follow my BJJ Game Plan pretty much the same for next time.
Overall I had a ton of fun and can’t wait to compete again this year. With my rough training formula of eating well, going to as many classes as I can, and having a few realistic goals – then I should be well prepared for my next competition.
Also, here are some reading resources that I found useful to help me prepare for my first tournament. They go over some technique but mostly mindset and expectations.
1. White Belt Survival Guide by Jiujitology (not an affiliate link, I just liked the book)
2. Tournament Quick Start Guide by OneSmallBJJTip @BjjTip on Twitter (download for FREE below)
Remember have fun, good luck, and you got this! And see you out there on the mats!