Should you compete in a jiu-jitsu tournament?

If you have competed before, most likely you have noticed that you have more focus, discipline with your training, and diet when you are getting ready for competitions. This helps with the process of developing and refining your jiu-jitsu game. For those who have never competed before, they may ask: “That’s it? Refine my game? What else can I gain from competing?”


Well, it all depends on your perceptions and opinions. Those are some of the benefits of competing, but another benefit that is often forgotten and neglected is how jiu-jitsu competitions, with the proper guidance, can be an amazing personal development tool. Competitions teach you valuable lessons that can be beneficial on and off the mat. You learn a lot about yourself when you are under pressure in situations like a tournament. You learn how to control your emotions, be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and how to become more mentally prepared to overcome adversities, failures, and all the “curveballs” that life throws at you when you least expect them.

Having an external motivator like competition will help you push your training.

Having an external motivator like competition will help you push your training.


Don’t self limit

If you are a competitor or aspiring competitor, you might be fighting internal battles that no one knows about -only you know!
Asking questions like: “What if I lose? I don’t want to disappoint anybody”, or “Can I beat him/or her? Am I good enough?” are only a few common self-limiting beliefs that might be holding you back from performing to the best of your ability and preventing you from even signing up for a tournament because you are allowing your mind to control you, instead of you controlling your mind. Oftentimes, negative patterns such as fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, and perfectionism that have been holding you back in jiu-jitsu, might be holding you back in your personal and professional life. Your job is to find the source of the issue and do something about it.

I’m going to share with you three steps that can help you with the process of discovering what is holding you back from being the best version of yourself.

A positive attitude will pay dividends win or lose.

A positive attitude will pay dividends win or lose.


Do you think about what you think about?

Before I give you the three steps, I would like you to think about the question “Do you think about what you think about?” The reason I ask is because we often get so caught up in the rat race of our lives that we function in autopilot mode; we don’t stop to think about what we think about. When you do realize what you think about, you will realize that you have a lot more negative thoughts than you ever expected. Researchers say that human beings have an average of fifty to sixty thousand thoughts per day, and seventy to eighty percent of them are negative. We don’t realize how often we criticize and judge not only others (“that guy is out of shape…that girl is wearing a horrible t-shirt…”) but mainly ourselves: “Am I good enough? What if I don’t succeed?” It’s so automatic that we don’t even realize the internal damage this can cause.

With that said, your first step to locating what could be holding you back from performing to the best of your ability on and off the mat is:

Self Awareness

Step # 1: Think about what you think about! You must be aware of your negative thoughts, doubts, insecurities, and assumptions caused by your “Dark Passenger”. Who is the Dark Passenger? It’s the voice that tells you all your negative patterns. This voice will be with you for the rest of your life, but the good news is that you can learn how to control it, and the first step is self-awareness. When you notice a wave of negative thoughts, you must stop, take a deep breath and use the second step:

It’s not over until it’s over.

It’s not over until it’s over.

Challenge The Thought

Step # 2: For example:
“What if I don’t succeed? I don’t want to disappoint anybody. ”. You need to challenge this thought: Is this a rational or irrational thought? Do I have control or no control of it? So let’s analyze it….

Do you have control of the outcome of your challenge (i.e. tournament, job interview)? NO. Do you have control of the expectations that others may have of you? NO! You’re making an assumption based on the story that you’re telling yourself. Now that you are aware of the issue, you are aware of what you can and cannot control, you need to take the third step:

You control how you think.

You control how you think.

Make a Decision

Step # 3: Are you going to stick with the thought that is going to help you to move towards your goal? Or the thought that is going to hold you back and move you away from your goal? If you choose the first option, you must focus on things that you can control, for example, if you are in a warm-up area getting ready to compete, the only thing that you can focus on is your performance. You can repeat affirmations such as: “My goal is to perform to the best of my ability and be the best version of myself with the tools and knowledge that I have right now.” Sometimes your best is enough to win, sometimes it’s not, but at least you are at peace with yourself and in knowing that you truly did the best you could.


Don’t let your negative self-limiting beliefs prevent you from living your life to its fullest, to accept new challenges, and to enjoy your life’s journey. There is a great book called “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”, written by Bronnie Ware, where she mentions that the most common regret of all when people realize that their lives are almost over is: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”


If competing is something that you would like to try, do it! If you want to keep competing, do it! If you have a goal or dream that you would like to go after -do it! Because life is too short to worry about what others think of you. Now, use these three steps every day and you will notice a great amount of personal growth on and off the mat. What is holding YOU back? Think about that.40


Mind Games

Gustavo Dantas, aka “The BJJ Mental Coach”, is a 4th degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt. A world class competitor and coach, Gustavo is a Certified Mental and Life Coach with a physical education degree who helps competitors discover what is holding them back from performing to the best of their abilities and reaching their full potential. As a speaker and author, Gustavo has created the innovative program for jiu-jitsu competitors called: “Inner Discovery for Outer Success”, and wrote the book “Launching Your BJJ Journey After 30, 10 Steps to Maximize Your Competition Experience”. For more information on Gustavo’s coaching programs, books, and DVD’s, please visit his website.
One Comment
  • Dylan Holman
    26 December 2017 at 7:53 am
    Leave a Reply

    To each their own, but for me, I think not everyone should compete. It’s worth trying competing in case you like it, but not essential. My perspective is that BJJ should above anything else be fun. If the thought of competing isn’t fun, then IMO there’s no need to force yourself. For example my teammets and coach regularly participates in different championships. Our club is supported by clinic Biotexcom so we guys simply able to do it. However, I never felt pressure to participate as well. I respect that. I told once that I don’t want to. I have competed once. I didn’t learn anything amazingly new from it — I was submitted in ways that I get submitted in normal rolling. I didn’t have a big adrenaline dump; I was pretty stoic through the whole process. And it was over so fast, I just wanted to roll some more. So when I find myself really wanting it, I would. Still, adults have enough to deal with in terms of “stuff you have to do even if you really don’t want to”, due to financial, medical, legal etc reasons. I wouldn’t want BJJ to become part of that list. There’s also the consideration that some people have physical reasons not to compete.

  • Leave a Reply