First Jiu Jitsu Tournament Experience (Long Read From A White Belt)
I am a white belt, 2 stripes. Been at this for 6 months. I am 34 years old and train 3 times a week. I have a 3 year old kid and a wife.
I heard there was a submission only tournament coming up soon so I checked the website, saw the weight classes and decided right then I needed to get out of the heavy weight division. I was 232 when I started in March (250 at the beginning of the year) and when I decided to sign up I was 213. WELL that gave me 2.5 weeks to get below 205.
I weighed in at 201. I overshot a little but was NOT in the monster class so that was good. Considering there was a few absolute gigantic human beings in that class, and one from my school who constantly works me.
I show up early, support the one kid of a teammate that was competing and was starting to get nervous. There was a few of the tykes I was glad I didnt have to face. Holy shit they are fearless.
My teammates start in the blues and purples and I am watching feeling scared now. I also now know how easy some of my friends were taking it on me. NOW I have doubts.
The little white belts start getting called and I know then I need to check the brackets posted. I tried sizing up the guys in rules meetings but I am not finding ANYONE my size. Now the fear starts to roll in that I am going to get moved up. Nope. I was right. I was having a hard time because there was just me and one other white at that range that were going for Gi.
Some of my friends are at the brackets and I hear “That’s cantreed right there”. So I turn around and see the guy I am rolling with. He has an inch on me, maybe more. But by the look of him, I have multiple t-shirts older than him. So I introduce myself and tell him it’s my first comp. Find out he is actually younger than MOST of my clothes that I have just thrown out because of weight loss.
Only takes about 15 minutes and its my turn. I remember removing my socks and stepping on the mat. It was squishy. Would really consider it soft compared to the mats at my gym. I get to my place, am informed this would be unlimited time because its for the gold, loser gets silver. I am stoked. I get a medal. It had dawned on me before but now its real. Now I can’t look at him. I kneel down to stretch my knee ligaments out prepared to be in guard for at least a bit before this guy sweeps me or takes me to the deep end of my cardio and drowns me.
I still cant look at him. I am looking at the ground. Hands tap. Heart pounds then stops. I hear my breathing and my coaches and teammates. Arms in elbows tight. The guy looks a bit hesitant. I am freaking out. I haven’t done much stand-up. Hurt my shoulder trying just recently. But I can’t feel it.
SO f–k it… I shoot. I grabbed a leg. Shoulder in, push and boom I am in top half. Top half guard. Something 6 months ago I barely knew what it was. I go for paper cutters. He is trying to gain guard and gets it. I bring my foot up and pin his arm. Wiper back leg out and break guard. I pass to half. I am ok with half. Paper cutter again. He is just letting me get that grip. I feel my heart again. I have got it. We grip fight for a few seconds but this grip is going NO WHERE! Cat 9 hurricane could blow through and it will be just me and this gi. I get light and pick up my hips. He rolls me.
I am devastated. I get guard and try to break posture. The guy leans up… and up… too high. I hip bump him and sweep him back down. He nails half pretty quick. But its almost quarter… I am high on him. So I slip my hand under his head and I hear my professor “I like what you are thinking… do that!” He turns his head away from me and I lock the Ezekiel and push. Took a second or two but he tapped. We hugged. I probably hugged him harder than I should but I wanted to cry. I had accomplished something I was not sure I could do. I did something that seemed crazy away of my abilities.
He tapped. I won. I won gold. I won the weight cut. I won the fear of competition. I won in front of my family. I won.
Then the pain in my forearms set in. The breathing was wrecked. The nightmare of having to do that again jumped in my head. I knew I would have been worthless if I had. I thanked everyone I could see. My coach hugged me for at least a minute. My professor said he was so proud. I felt like a kid. Being that fatherless kid most of my childhood these actions and these words were not doing well for my manly accomplishment because I was breaking.
Podium time. I am standing on top. I kneel down for my medal and it’s really real. I hug the guy next to me, I hug my mother who as embarrassed as I was she showed up I was so happy she did. I hugged my teammate/rolling partner for basically the whole of my bjj training. I hugged the other guys coach.
Then I thought about what I needed to do next. Learn armbars, better sweeps, takedowns, work cardio and forearms apparently. MAYBE stay at this weight just gain some more strength? Either way, compete again. Cause that was such a damn rush. Losing might have taken some of the shine from it, but I am a zero ego kind of guy. I don’t think I would have been to down on myself.
Either way, first comp, first win, first gold medal, won’t be the last of either, and still more firsts to come!
– Thank you S. Reed, a JJ Machado White Belt from Knuckle Up Jax for allowing us to share your story!