Competition has been an integral part of Jiu-Jitsu since the beginning, and whether you compete in Gi, No-Gi, MMA or any other form it is the foundation on which the scientific process of Jiu-Jitsu is built. When it comes to kids’ classes, I’ve always thought of it also as a way for them to prepare emotionally and psychologically for self-defense and other aspects of their lives. You can train hard in the dojo day in, day out, learn the techniques and become a better athlete, but in the place you know surrounded by your friends, teammates and family you’re always going to be somewhat comfortable. At a tournament, competing against other people you may not know in an unfamiliar environment can be overwhelming. You’re more tense and less efficient than normal because of the adrenaline, you’re nervous because of the unknown opponents and their capabilities, and you don’t want to lose. You may even be afraid, and feel as though you don’t remember anything. Despite all of that, you step on the mats and fight nonetheless. This is exactly the kind of cocktail of emotional and physical symptoms that occur in a real-world self-defense situation, and tournaments offer a safe (and fun!) way to practice your ability to perform better in that state.
Inevitably, tournaments will also provide opportunities to deal with the concept of winning and losing. All sports do this to some extent, of course, but there’s something a bit more primal, and more visceral about winning or losing in martial arts. The thing is, jiu-jitsu is so infinitely variable that it’s pretty much impossible to go undefeated for long. Not only do I not personally know any undefeated jiu-jitsu fighters, I don’t even know OF any. The first few tournaments a kid does can be an emotional struggle one way or the other, but over time they begin to be able to approach their wins and losses more objectively, extracting lessons from them about what needs to be worked on to push to the next level. This is an essential skill for long-term success not only in jiu-jitsu but life in general. In relationships, business, financial and family matters, being able to view successes and failures as potential lessons and opportunities to grow is a great lesson for a child, and jiu-jitsu makes an excellent teacher.