Get Better at Grappling Through Competition
topic that talk about who is tougher in grappling, Jiu Jitsu and wrestling. Many
times these are interesting threads but most of them very one sided and written
by folks that think they know more than they do about the grappling arts.
Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I get frustrated, but mostly they make me
I often wonder why it is that so many guys out there blatantly
pass over opportunities to get better. I wonder why in the world a grappler or
BJJ fighter wouldn’t want a fully developed takedown game. I wonder why a
wrestler crossing over to grappling and MMA wouldn’t want a fully developed
ground game. Sometimes it just boggles my mind.
On top of that there are countless people who will only compete
in X organization or Y organization. As for me I want to compete in all of them
and win in all of them. At many events I’ve heard athletes complain about their
loss and how they would never fight in that org again. I can only assume had
they won they would decry the amazing benefits and awesome potential of that
I must confess at one point I used to hate a certain grappling
organization. I felt they were completely unorganized and their capacity to run
an event was questionable. For years I didn’t compete there. I chose to find
other events that were better organized.
Not participating because of losing was not part of that equation
even though I had both won and lost in that organization. In fact my general
mantra has been to compete under as many grappling flags as possible. I wanted
to find the groups that would best test my abilities and allow me the chance to
fight tough fighters and develop myself as an athlete.
I loved the now defunct FILA grappling organization because there
were so many countries represented. I also loved the fact that I could fight
against international level wrestlers, judoka, MMA and BJJ fighters all in one
tournament. I also loved that as a heavyweight I finally had more guys to
compete with. Being a heavyweight sometimes means there are fewer opponents
available to compete against, this is generally true in wrestling as well.
Usually at Grappler’s Quest and NAGA there aren’t a lot of
heavyweight guys so the brackets are smaller. Although I have to approach those
events with more of a ‘dual meet’ mentality I am grateful for the opportunity to
compete in them although they are often not as fulfilling as having a full
bracket of opponents. In the event that there are fewer opponents at my weight I
compete in the Absolute division which also gives another dimension.
For me the whole point of competing is gaining more exposure to
the sport of grappling and allowing oneself the opportunity to see, do and
experience more grappling. The opportunity to test oneself is the real benefit.
I struggle with the way that many schools and athletes approach
competition. They hide themselves from risk and they fear losing more than they
desire true development. Many instructors won’t allow their students to compete
unless they know their student(s) will win. This is often solely fueled by the
instructor’s fear of losing business more than the concern about whether his
athlete(s) are prepared to compete. In every single grappling and BJJ tournament
I can think of there are multiple age, weight and skill divisions that allow
each competitor the opportunity to compete against someone of their own skill
level. If an instructor is holding you back from that what is he really teaching
you and more importantly what is he not teaching that he’s so afraid of you
Contrast that with wrestling tournaments where an athlete can go
up against a state or national champion in the first round whether they are
ready or not. When I began competing at the Open or Senior division at the US
Nationals at the age of 18 I didn’t have the luxury of competing against people
of my own age, weight and skill. I drew Mike VanArsdale, NCAA champion, US
National Team in Freestyle and former MMA fighter, the first round! That would
be the BJJ equivalent of being a high level blue belt and drawing Jeff Glover
for your first match!
I had absolutely no chance of winning but that wasn’t the point.
The point was that I was laying the foundation for future wins by losing then. I
was making that first step of confronting one of the best guys in the country
and learning that there was a higher level that I needed to
One of the things that I love most about grappling is that
athletes can have a chance to develop and grow on a much more conservative pace
if they need or want to. I hope more athletes will take advantage of the great
opportunities to compete. There are so many now that you can start at just
about any level for which you are ready.
Competition after all is merely a source of feedback about your
training and preparations. It shows you how you handle real time pressures and
stresses. It shows you where your technical strengths and weaknesses are
residing. It shows you your strategic strengths and weaknesses.
Most athletes and coaches get so worked up over the winning and
losing part of competition that they miss the forest for the trees. Take a more
holistic look at your grappling experience and start giving tournaments and
yourself a chance.
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