Interested in competing?
When it comes to competitiveness we have a wide range of students here at Praxis. In order to accommodate and appropriately prepare the individuals who make up the group we are adding a little more structure to our competition process. If you are interested in competing, or simply would like to understand the process I have put this together for you. If you wish to compete or join the competition prep, (it is by invite only), then read through this and fill out the linked form at the bottom of the article.
When discussing hobbies with friends there tends to be a predictable line of questions you get about Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. First there are the identifier questions; “is that like the UFC?”, Is that the Gracie thing?”. Eventually the questioning ends ups on the subject of how tough you are or competing in one form or another. At the very least your friends and acquaintances will try to get you to assign your toughness on a linear scale compared with whichever popular tough guy or girl figure they know about. “How would you do against GSP or Rose Namajunas?”
Your friends mean well, but it can be an annoying line of questioning. I know that two years into training my coworkers wanted to know if I was a black belt yet. It was always irritating to have to fess up to the fact that yes, after two years of training I am still a white belt and it didn’t look like that was going to change anytime soon. There was essentially no scale… it’s kinda like “oh, you are learning to ride a bike? Could you beat Lance Armstrong in a race?” It is tough to get people outside of Jiu Jitsu to understand how stretched out the rewards and recognition come in Jiu Jitsu. I always struggled with explaining to people that the thing I am doing is actually pretty tough and requires a large volume of practice, and since it is not the number one priority in my life I will be spreading that volume out over a large period of time.
“‘Do you compete” can be a pretty loaded question, particularly if just recently you were deciding to give Jiu Jitsu a try. Walking through the door and stepping on the mat for the first time can be plenty challenging enough. There are a number of steps between walking through the academy door for the first time and stepping on to the competition mat for the first time.
Before we get into the steps lets first zoom out a bit and look at the bigger picture. One of my jobs is to preserve the integrity of the art and the integrity of the academy. It is not uncommon for me to get prospective students who want to compete as soon as possible. You rarely want to dampen someone's motivation and eagerness, but I often struggle to accurately put into perspective how long it will take to get from point A, (you know zero Jiu Jitsu), to point G or H, (you know enough Jiu Jitsu to train hard but safe, and have a really good idea of what to immediately do in just about every position: AKA, ready to compete effectively).
Jumping into competition without proper preparation is dangerous and it can look bad on the academy. We see people at every tournament who are in way over their head. That doesn’t advance the art, it diminishes it. There are some academies that champion competition and will throw new students in a competition a week or two after starting lessons. Some do this well, most don’t. That move, (no criticism), is for a competition only academy. I strongly feel that we can have an academy that is family friendly, community based, AND also field an excellent competition team.
Establishing that culture, (which we are in the process of doing), is a careful balance and requires us to all be on the same page. It is important to me that everyone understand the rationale behind the process rather than just having a bunch of arbitrary rules. I have been teaching Jiu Jitsu for about 15 years now and here are a couple of things I have noticed about competing and how it can potentially negatively affect the culture within an academy:
- The vast majority of people I see who want to compete asap consequences be damned seem to never have that fire for anything not self serving. For instance; they will come to the practices, utilize academy resources……. Then never show any interest in paying it forward or helping others reach their goals. Once they have gotten out of it what they want, they bounce and never seem to be around to help others reach their goals.
- A large majority of people I have seen that want to compete without proper preparation are using competition to determine their self worth. On some basic levels I get it (and separating those emotions out is tough), however I find that when that driving motivation is rewarded it never gets molded. For instance, if Nick catches me in an armlock I know that if my arm gets hurt it will almost 100% be my fault. He has nothing to prove and knows that I want him to succeed. So if he gets the armlock and I tap - cool. If he does not, he knows that I am going to show him how. Nick is on a path to become the best at the art he can. Those are the kind of people I am interested in working with, those who want to elevate all of us up together, not see if they can injure someone in order to feel like more of a “success”.
The resources we are talking about are my health and time, the health and time of the other instructors, and that of the students. All are irreplaceable. If I am going to ask myself or someone else to sacrifice those things it will ONLY be to people that respect that, respect the art, and want to see good things come out of our community. I chose to not work with those who would place their ego contest above my health, my time, and the health and time of my friends. None of this is trivial.
Anyway, when we talk about competing we are talking about competence and skill acquisition. There is a handy model called the four stages of competence that helps us establish landmarks for progress. Competence is not the same thing as expert. Expertise is mastery. Competence is functioning. You do not need to become an expert to compete, but you do need to be competent. With regards to Jiu Jitsu competence is what I said above, you have a really good idea of what to immediately do in just about every position.
If we focus on getting our students to the consciously competent level with Jiu Jitsu before competing we can then enjoy building the qualities that you are really testing in competition: Mental focus and functioning while under duress. If you don’t have a good handle on the mechanics that go into Jiu Jitsu before competing you have a much greater chance of injury, and you risk developing the mistaken belief that competitions are won by being scrappier than your opponent. That might be the case in backyard brawls on youtube, but the champs that win at the highest level in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu show poise and focus under duress. They are not scraping their way to gold, they all possess high level skill, athleticism, and mental clarity. Our goal is to look more like champs and less like backyard brawls.
Not all schools follow this system. That is why at many jiu jitsu competitions the activities that happen in the white and blue belt brackets often does not resemble jiu jitsu. By purple belt though it does, however you will still find some knuckle dragging purple belts in just about every tournament. At purple belt I think you see the last few attribute based competitors. By brown belt all competitors have great jiu jitsu balanced with solid attributes.
I don’t want any of this to intimidate anyone out of either competing or participating in the process of getting ready to compete. You don't have to compete. Our school is here to help students achieve their goals within, (or through) Jiu Jitsu. That said, no one is here to get worse at Jiu Jitsu, we all want to be better. As we say in Jiu Jitsu if you want to get really really good, compete.
To help students get ready and to better organize our training we are going to be dividing competitors into three groups. I feel that this is the best way for our academy to not just approach this upcoming competition season, but to set the tone for the future of the academy. We have already been putting this into place and have followed a similar system for our last competition prep. Now we are just going to be standardizing it.
Groups will be defined by my goals for individuals within them. For instance, the highest level in our competition team will be called the pros. A pro is someone who has competed a fair amount. They know a lot about competing and what it takes to get ready. A pro can go to a tournament and they know the drill so well that they can take a nap between matches if they get enough of a break.
The expectation of the pros is simple, I expect you to win. We train the pros with that in mind. That doesn’t mean crushing everyone in the room, that means eliminating the chance of failure. If I am doing my job then you know the way you minimize the chance of failure…….. Is to fail a whole bunch so that you understand what makes failure happen and what makes success happen. You have to get really good at dancing on the edge of success and failure if you want to be a pro. Once you know where the edge is you need to practice getting and staying on the winning side of it. This takes some work, it’s not for everybody, and that is one of the reason we are naming this group Pro.
The level before Pro is candidate. A candidate is named this because they are a candidate to becoming a pro. This group will be comprised of individuals who have a bit of experience competing, but still have a fair amount of holes in their competition game. Our goals with this group is to round out their knowledge and get really comfortable competing. The more comfortable you are on the competition mat, the more relaxed you can be. The more relaxed you are, the more intentional you can act. Remember, this is the opposite of backyard brawls so we aren’t trying to get you more scrappy, we want you calm while under duress.
The level before that, and the level you will start at if you haven’t competed before or have very little experience, will be called novice. The goals for novice level competitors are to show up, put in the work, and get ready to compete. You do not have to compete to participate in the comp training. The process of getting ready does wonders for your game. Some of you compete enough in other arenas of life so much that I am impressed that you also make time for Jiu Jitsu. The novice level allows you to get a good taste of the competition experience, or function as an on ramp should you wish to dive in and compete regularly.
If you are interested in competing please follow the competitor intake form. If you have already filled one out but would like to update and restate your goals, objectives, and obstacles, please feel free to do so. If you have any questions EMAIL ME.
Want to join the competition team? Please follow this link to the competitor intake form and fill it out.