15 Tips And Strategies For White Belt Jiu-Jitsu Competitors
1. Decide whether you’re going to do takedowns or pull guard. If your standup strategy is a single technique like a “double-leg”, and you are unable to make it happen, just pull guard. If you started Jiu-Jitsu with takedown experience, make for yourself a set of parameters. For example, “If it’s halfway through the match and nothing has happened in terms of standup, I’ll pull guard to get the match going.”
2. Relax Relax Relax. What I mean by relax is to maintain a presence of mind.
3. There’s nothing wrong with being nervous. Don’t spend all your emotional energy fighting your own nervousness. Just accept it.
4. If it’s your first competition, remember that you only have to win each match once. In the training room, you can be lazy because you know there will be more rolling. You think, “Why burn up all my energy fighting this position now when I have another 30 minutes of rolling left?” This doesn’t apply to competitions. When competing you have to go full throttle each match from start to finish.
5. Most White Belts start strong. Few White Belts end strong.
6. I remember feeling extremely nervous watching competitors perform certain “advanced” techniques. For me, it was the flying armbar. I was deathly afraid of flying armbars – despite never having been flying armbarred. I’ve heard other people get nervous because they see someone do a Berimbolo or attacks feet a lot. Believe me when I say that styles make fights. You can have the fanciest, jitz-flow, surfer hand sign grappler look amazing in one match, and get completely shut down by a “boring” pressure oriented grappler the next.
7. Patches and stripes don’t mean a person is good.
8. Muscles don’t mean a person is good.
9. School affiliation doesn’t mean a person is good.
10. You will experience time distortion. Everything might seem much faster (or slower) than it seems in the training room. Once you watch it on tape, you’ll realize the match was the same speed as training.
11. You don’t have to mean mug or be friends with everyone before the match. Do whatever makes you comfortable and don’t let your competition dictate your pre-match ritual. You don’t have to look people in the eyes (the “staredown”), perform the Catholic hand sign, or reenact Russell Crowe’s prebattle routine from Gladiator in order to win the match. Just do what makes you comfortable.
12. Put competition into context. The first time you step onto the mat, you’re just trying to get your nerves right. You’re not going to look like Bruno Malfacine out there. That’s ok.
13. You have to learn to compete as much as you have to learn Jiu-Jitsu. They are related but separate skills.
14. You don’t control winning or losing 100%. The referee and your opponent also play huge roles. That being said, the biggest variable that you control is yourself. Win or lose, keep your focus on what you could have done better.
15. Enjoy it.
About Julius Park: I am a Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. I’ve produced BJJ World Champions from Blue Belt up to Brown Belt. My next goal is to get a student to the Black Belt World Champion level and into the UFC. I have an English Bulldog, Ghostface, who has so far resisted all training methods. I teach out of Crazy 88 Mixed Martial Arts gyms in the Baltimore area.