Dream. Plan. Prepare. PANs.
by Samantha Schell
With one of the most prolific Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournaments of the year right around the corner, it got me thinking about the preparation people put into different competitions. I find myself lucky to train at a highly competitive school, with tons of knowledgeable coaches, who help ascertain for each student the most beneficial ways to prepare for a specific match, fight, or tournament. It’s very helpful to have people with knowledge in both experience and rulesets to help determine the most conducive methods in preparation. I’ll elaborate.
The prior gym I had trained at was a fantastic gym, but it was more for the occasional grappler
and hobbyist versus the serious competitor. I had no idea what an affiliation was or what it
meant, and we weren’t even technically under the umbrella of one anyway. This meant if I
wanted to register for an IBJJF tournament, I was unable to, unless I sought affiliation
elsewhere in order to compete. Fortunately, I was able to get a few local tournaments and
amateur fights under my belt, and I caught the competition bug full force.
When I transitioned to a competition school, I was overwhelmed with gratitude at the
knowledge of my coaches and Professors. It also helped establish the traditions that came with
this martial art, and I learned a lot about the lineage my Professors learned from. I do think it is
very important to know where you come from in order to help determine where you’re going,
and I was woefully ignorant to all of the inner workings of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. A whole new world
was now open for me to explore, and I began to understand what the different affiliations
brought to the table at these major IBJJF competitions.
I was also advised to take some courses in refereeing to familiarize myself with a vast variety of
rulesets from my professors. This is probably without a doubt, one of the best choices I made
for my competition career. Rulesets, while similar, often vary from organization to organization,
and the more you experience officiating matches and taking different referee courses, the
easier the transition from each organization will be. Not only does it help me when coaching my
students, but it has made me a much more knowledgeable and smarter competitor as well. My
main instructor is always renewing his black belt and refereeing certifications, and his
leadership via exemplary action has inspired the entire academy.
There are tons of questions and subjects popping up in online forums about the ensuing Pans
competition. Everyone from the novice blue belt to the well-seasoned competitor. I am always
wary about the advice doled out in these forums, especially because I saw one where several
people were trying to deter a woman in her late 50’s, brand new blue belt, who trained 4x a
week from entering Pans as her first competition. In that age and skill bracket, she would be
hard-pressed to find a remotely fair match at any local NAGA or something similar. The majors
would be her best bet for finding equivalent matches. Plus, at that bracket, you are going
against other similar ladies, those who started their BJJ journeys later in life, and not the next
Ffion Davies adult black belt world champion.
As important as it is to train our bodies for competition by enduring rigorous training rounds,
getting the appropriate amount of rest, fueling our bodies with the right nutrition and
supplements etc. It is also as equally important to train our mindsets. One of the best pieces of
advice I had received had always been to remember to have fun with Jiu Jitsu. Myself, and I am
sure many others active competitors, have previously made the mistake of putting entirely too
much pressure on ourselves, and then crumpling whenever we came up short. It can be such a
harsh pill to swallow, and honestly, the times I have remembered to have fun have always been
when I performed my best.
This doesn’t mean we ever slack off with our training and treat it all like a joke, because unless
you are sponsored by some pretty major companies, you are going to be shelling out quite a bit
of money to fund your competition experience. From entering the tournament, to travel and
lodging, to food, and to the preparation beforehand. The mental toll also begins to chip away,
as many are trying to balance taking care of families, their full-time job, and life’s ample
amount of other responsibilities. Basically what I am saying is, we should all commend anyone
who decides to take the plunge and enter the competition mats, because lord knows the time
and sacrifices that entails.
All of this undoubtedly makes the wins that much more triumphant in order to relish in. Of
course, that means the losses also tend to sting more as well. But the experiences and
relationships gained are something no one could ever put a price tag on. At least I know when
my life is coming to a close, I can sit back and look back on these memories with joy, and be at
peace with the fact that I chose to take those risks and get the most out of my life and Jiu Jitsu
journey that I could. Competing at every belt level, and cherishing the friends I have forged and
the memories I have made along the way.
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