Whether you realize it or not competition is a natural occurrence that is part of our daily lives. Such is the way of man’s natural born instinct to survive. It is the very part of our genetic makeup that leads us to achieve success for ourselves. For the prehistoric man, being a lousy competitor almost certainly spelt death. Fortunately for a Jiu Jitsu athlete it might only mean a couple extra beers or pieces of dessert to mend the wounded ego.
While some simply do not share the competitive aspirations others do, I believe, that most people refrain from competition due to the belief that they do not belong unless they are full time athletes. This is often rarely the case as there are plenty of students who are absolute savages on the mat yet never enter the competitive stage. Let there be no doubt that Jiu Jitsu competition is for anyone who desires it and there are also reasons why they should.
For one, there is truth about yourself and the people around you. On competition day, you will be surrounded mostly by the friends and family who truly want to see you succeed or help you through your failures. There is also the truth of knowing where your skills stand, rather than guessing. You could be the king of your gym and a pawn in the competition circuit or the exact reverse. I for one have witnessed both.
There is naturally a self improvement aspect that comes with such a test as competing. A defeat can lead to many positive changes in your life whether it is learning how to cope with failure, better health or the technical improvements that you can make. It can also make you deeply evaluate what you are doing wrong technically and what changes you should make.
Those of us who practice Jiu Jitsu for self-defense reasons, know it must be tested under strenuous and stressful circumstances. For many a tournament is as close to real fighting as they can get without the consequences of an actual fight. Those who wish to experience the adrenaline and fatigue that can can come with fighting an equally matched opponent should allow themselves to experience this.
My view, is that those who wish to improve and fully embrace the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle must eventually bring themselves to compete. For some of you this will mean competing once a year or maybe a few more times. But do not let the fact that you are not a professional athlete discourage you. There are skill, age and weight requirements that will match you up with someone close to your level. The IBJJF Masters Worlds (30+) has consistently been one of the most attended events with almost 5000 athletes. If my 67 year old father can fight in it, so can you. 😉