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Competition for the Pittsburgh Jiu-Jitsu Student

Jiu-jitsu in Pittsburgh is growing. There was a time when a jiu-jitsu tournament in our area was a rare blessing, and now we have three or four pop up near the city a year and can travel a relatively short distance to Ohio or West Virginia to compete in others. Even though the jiu-jitsu scene has improved over the years, we are still not as competition-oriented as cities like Los Angeles, Miami, or New York. This means that it’s easier for us to strike a balance between training for competition and training for the sake of training.

Having that balance makes training much more accessible. We have students that are competition-focused. We have students that compete occasionally. And we have students that might never compete.

And that’s okay. In fact, a diverse student-base is best in the long run. The competition-inclined bring new techniques into the gym and challenge other students to train a little bit harder and to perhaps consider competition themselves. The students that are not interested in competing play a valuable role as well. These students tend to have families or busy careers, which helps to remind other students about the value of longevity and priorities.

If you are a jiu-jitsu student, you never have to compete. We have enough instructors and upper belts that you can spend decades learning and refining technique without ever signing up for a match.

However, in the interest of having a well-rounded jiu-jitsu experience, you should probably compete at least once. Here’s why:

  1. Competing answers the what if. If you are competition-ready now but pass up the opportunity, you could look back in a few years and regret not taking the opportunity to try something new and exciting. For most, competitions are fond memories—win or lose—because you took on a challenge that the majority of people never will.
  1. You learn about yourself. Performing under pressure is much different from performing in the gym. Competition represents a chance to see how you respond to a challenge. Even if you feel nervous and maybe even a bit scared (pro tip: this is normal), stepping on to the mat teaches you that yes, you are capable, and it helps to turn the volume down on any other stressful situation you might encounter in or outside of jiu-jitsu.
  1. Your technique improves. Without set goals, day to day training can lack urgency, leading to a steady drift in your progress. With a competition on the horizon, you will be more motivated to sharpen your gameplan and to work harder in the gym. You will probably find yourself eating better as well.
  1. You connect with your teammates. When a gym prepares for a competition together and spends the day waiting for each other’s matches to be called, there is a natural sense of comradery. You’d be surprised at the friendships you forge because of competition, and those friendships make your regular training even more enjoyable.
  1. Competition is not a scary as you think. If you search for jiu-jitsu videos on YouTube, you will see highlight reel after highlight reel of super athletic professionals finessing and smashing their way to victory. This can give you the wrong idea of what competitions are like. At the local level, the majority of competitors will be like you. They love training, but they also have jobs and families off of the mat. With divisions broken up by skill level and weight, you can reasonably expect to have a fair match with someone at your level. You might be a superstar someday, but everyone starts at the beginning and reputable competitions are mindful of that fact.

If you have questions or concerns about competing, talk to your training partners and your instructors. Most of our upper belts have tried competing at least once, and if they can’t answer your question, they can point you to someone who can.

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