Everyone has their reason why they began practicing martial arts. Without a doubt, there are tremendous benefits to training in Jiu-Jitsu, Muay Thai, Boxing, and Mixed Martial Arts. The decision to enter a competition, regardless of your level, is going elevate your game and enhance the benefits you gain from training.
Some students come into an academy to get in shape and learn, but they have no desire to enter a competition. That is fine and perfectly acceptable. No instructor or academy should ever push a student to compete – ever! It is a personal decision, but it is a decision that is transformative.
After a lifetime of training and competing in martial arts and over twenty years of teaching, here are some of the benefits that I have experienced personally and that I have observed in our students. Competing changes your mindset, transforms you, and takes your BJJ and martial arts to the next level!
First, just entering the competition will increase your self-confidence. For children and adults alike getting comfortable with competition is empowering. Just registering for a competition will begin the process. The courage it takes to enter and participate in an event knowing that you will be facing someone that wants to win as much as you do will automatically elevate your self-confidence. You have taken the first step and that alone will change your mindset and raise your confidence or that of your child to a new level.
Second, you will learn to WIN and, just as importantly, what to do if you lose. Modern society is conditioning humans to be average and mediocre. This is evident by the 17th place trophies that are now regularly given out to our children. Hard work and performance are rewarded less and less in today’s world.
As in real life, if you do not work hard and perform in competition, you will not win. If you were unprepared or didn’t put in your full effort, you will know why you didn’t medal and why you aren’t celebrating on the podium or getting your hand raised in victory. If you did train hard and were ready but still didn’t win, your coach and your team will help you improve your game. Then you work hard, get back out there, and move you closer to the podium or a victory next time! Because just like in real life, there are no participation trophies for martial arts competitions.
Last, but certainly not least, you will learn how to use your martial arts when your mind and body are in a stressful situation. This is without a doubt the best way to test the efficacy of your martial arts. A student can train every day, roll hard in BJJ class, or spar hard in Boxing or Muay Thai, but there is no way to simulate what really happens to your physiology in a situation where you will have to use your martial arts to defend yourself.
Imagine this, someone has approached you with bad intentions in real life… This person wants to harm you or your family and there is no possibility of talking your way out of it, so there is going to be a fight. Your body begins to react to the threat, your heart begins to pound, and your breathing becomes rapid. It doesn’t matter how proficient you are in Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing or Muay Thai, these hardwired reactions will happen when you are facing an imminent threat.
This physiological reaction, commonly referred to as the “Fight or Flight” response, is a completely normal response to the acute stress of the threat that you are now facing. Your sympathetic nervous system is activated due to the sudden release of hormones, like adrenaline, allowing your body to send more oxygenated blood to the brain and muscles preparing you for action.
Everything has suddenly changed! If you are not prepared for this response and have not experienced it firsthand all of your training could become completely useless. Avoiding the fight or flight response in your body is not possible, as I mentioned earlier, it’s hardwired. Knowing what will happen to your mind and body and being ready for the physiological response will make the difference when you need it most.
This situation is difficult to reproduce with your friends and training partners. You know them, you know their game, and you know that they probably don’t want to hurt you. However, when you are standing in front of a stranger in a tournament that person wants to win. Maybe they are a nice person, a fellow martial artist and they don’t really want to hurt you, but they still want to win!
Knowing that you are facing a stranger, not one of you training buddies, changes the dynamic of your match. It is as close as we can get to a real-life confrontation that will affect your physiology and show you how you will react when you are in danger. You will begin to understand how your body is reacting and how to control yourself in a potentially dangerous situation so that you can perform with confidence.
So, get out there and compete, do it at least once! Build the confidence, face your fear, train your mind, and you will win, or you will learn. At the end of the day, you will be better for it!
The short answer is – NO! While that may seem like common sense, it is not always that simple for martial arts students. During the