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White Belt Jiu Jitsu – When Should I Start Competing?

We all start Jiu-Jitsu for different reasons; some start to get fit, some start to lose weight, some start to learn self defence, some start to meet new people, the list goes on-and-on.  And regardless of why you initially start, there is likely going to be some point along your white belt journey where you start questioning whether you should try your hand at Jiu-Jitsu competition.  And this can be especially so if you find yourself in an Academy that promotes this path.  A question often asked by newcomers to Jiu-Jitsu who are considering competition is, ‘When should I start competing?’  Whilst there is no blanket answer to this, here is my opinion based on my own experiences.

I didn’t start Jiu-Jitsu with the intentions to compete in Jiu-Jitsu, rather I started it with the intentions to compete in mixed martial arts (MMA).  I had been training Muay Thai for a few years at that point and knew I had to learn the ground element of fighting if I were to ever to compete in MMA competition.  The gym I was in at the time was both heavily into Jiu-Jitsu and MMA competition, and subsequently the culture pushed toward this.  The coaches and senior practitioners at the gym would suggest trying my hand at Jiu-Jitsu competition so to gain experience while preparing for my ultimate goal of fighting in MMA, and that is what I did.  It was not a rushed process for me however.  I am a competitive person, and if I’m going to compete I want to be well prepared, and so it was not something I just jumped into.  From memory I think I was a 4 stripe white belt at the time of my first Jiu-Jitsu competition, which means I must have been at least a year and a half into my training at that point.  And whilst I knew I was ready for competition, I was not yet ready to be a champion.  I had 2 bouts on that day, the first I won via arm-bar submission, and the second I lost on points.  For me that was it, after my first taste of Jiu Jitsu competition I was hooked!  And slowly but surely from that point on my drive to compete in MMA dwindled, and my drive to compete in Jiu-Jitsu started to take over.

When people ask me when should they start competing I tell them it depends on what their competitive goals are at that point.  If they are a newcomer who is just looking to get in there and have a go, they are not concerned with winning or losing, and they are comfortable with the potential of loss, as soon as possible is my answer.  If they are a newcomer who is ultra-competitive, has strong competitive goals, and may potentially struggle with loss, I suggest they get to the later end of their white belt before competing.  Competition can be amazingly valuable to your development as a Jiu-Jitsu practitioner.  The benefits span from learning to overcome fear to rapidly speeding up your learning curve, and such benefits are exactly why I promote competition to all that show interest, regardless of one’s level.  But if one is highly competitive, potentially struggles with loss, and is at the beginning of their Jiu-Jitsu journey, competing too early can be destructive to their progressing in Jiu-Jitsu, and may even see them quit Jiu-Jitsu.  Sure, one may quit at any belt, but it is typically more likely at white belt when they haven’t invested much of themselves and their time into Jiu-Jitsu.  The path is different for everyone, and from my perspective that path is very much dependent on that person’s goals.  So the first step to knowing whether you should compete as a white belt is to first truly know your goals and what it is you are looking to achieve in your Jiu-Jitsu path.  Once you know this you will be much better equipped to know firstly whether competition is what you seek, and secondly when you should first try your hand at it.


Thanks for reading and happy rolling,


Ryann Creary

Instructor & Co-Owner At Flow Martial Arts


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