16 August 2016

Choosing the right competition

Just because someone runs a competition in your sport it doesn't mean you should attend. There are several factors you should investigate prior to signing up. Things like competitor health and safety are generally regulated but it doesn't hurt to confirm first aid is available from a competent practitioner.

For Brazilian Jiu Jitsu comps there are a number of factors to confirm before handing over any registration fees.
Rule System
Knowing the rules and penalties is critical to competition. Without going into rule details, there are two main types: points based and submission only.

Points based means certain moves and positions are awarded a number of points and at the end of the match if there is no submission victory the highest points wins. It was designed to ensure a victor however these comps tend to attract fighters that train only to score points and not finish the fight.

I've had many an opponent try to maintain one position without advancing or attempting a submission, simply because they had a few more points. There is usually a penalty system in place for stalling in this manner; however penalties only apply if the points are even at the end of the match.

Submission only means that the only way to win is to force your opponent to submit. This promotes more technical matches but often results in a draw. Stalling is virtually eliminated except in cases where a fighter is attempting to recover energy.

Some competitions try to combine the two, such as submission only to start however points are scored only in the last minute or two. Several variations are in place as new competitions start and they want to differentiate themselves from everyone else. They have their place but one or the other will resonate with your fight style.

Personally I prefer submission only as there is no doubt who won.

The main format types are elimination and round robin.

Elimination means that if you lose a single match your day is over. It creates a quicker bracket and can cater to larger participant numbers. However early elimination generally means the participants go home after their loss. This generally translates to a more serious atmosphere with minimal interaction between fighters. These are usually a points based rule system.

Round robin has smaller groups, usually of five competitors that must battle each other. This provides four guaranteed matches and the overall winner is the one with the most victories. This provides more of a learning experience and all the ones I have been to offer more social interaction once the bouts are completed. I've found I enjoy these comps far more than elimination. These are usually a submission only rule system.

Cost, Location and Organisation
The costs should also be considered. This includes the cost of entry, any organisation membership costs, travel to and from the venue, accommodation, food and several other small items that add up. You may also need to take time off work to attend.

The organisation running the event is often overlooked but shouldn't be. Which of these events would you prefer to compete at?
  1. An event that is known for running behind schedule of at least an hour. Have multiple mats available but only half of them with matches occurring. Officials are rude and too busy to provide answers to the athletes for things as simple as "do I have another match?" Have a first aid officer that is difficult to locate. Induces undue stress at not finding information you need which challenges focus on the match. Costs are about $100 to enter plus a $30 yearly membership and you have to pay for all day parking.
  2. An event that starts matches within 15 minutes of their scheduled time, has all mats running efficiently and with officials that go out of their way to ease competitors concerns and answer questions. First aid officers are clearly designated and in clear view. Invites a laid back pressure free environment but still maintains safety. Costs are about $90 to enter with no yearly fees and offer some free parking at the venue.
Both of these organisations currently operate in Australia, though I won't name them here. Any organisation that resembles point 1 should immediately look at itself and make improvements before the next event. Unless an organisation listens to its feedback and makes appropriate changes that its competitors want, they are doomed to fail.

High cost of entry makes it hard for everyone to compete. I would love to compete every couple months but due to costs and poorly managed events I can't or won't do that.

I encourage you to voice your opinions and don't accept poorly managed events. It may mean you compete less but you eliminate unnecessary stress and can get back to training. You want to look forward to competition after all.

As an older athlete it is better to stick within your age group. A variation of 5 to 8 years is fine but as you get older the difference becomes substantial. The pace can't be maintained as you age and injuries are more common when trying to keep up with much younger opponents. This is why you don't generally see a 50 year old matched with a 20 year old.

Masters only competitions (30+) are becoming more common and I recommend entering them. Apart from having age appropriate opponents, they are generally friendlier and I've increased my social network considerably as a result.

Stick within 10kgs of your weight so you are not stressed by the disadvantage. I've had to fight guys 30+kgs heavier. Trust me when I say it isn't worth the risk of injury just to get a match. If the event puts you into a higher weight class due to lack of numbers then really consider your options. I'd rather drop an age category than go up a weight class. Don't be afraid to ask for a refund.

Shameless plug for Rocktape Australia
If you are already sponsored or wish to attract companies you also need to think about the exposure the comps will give them. Only entering interclub comps in the one city isn't going to provide enough exposure. Be prepared to travel interstate and internationally. If you do it right your sponsors can help
with the travel costs.

Summary tl;dr
The option between a points system and submission only is what generally differs between comps. Elimination vs round robin is closely tied to these as well. Choose the option you prefer. For me that is submission only round robin.

Take note of all associated costs and ensure the organisation running the event knows what they are doing. A poorly run event increases stress and you won't perform at your best.

Stick within 10kg of your weight class, especially as you get older. As much as possible, keep opponents less than 8 years your junior.

If you are fortunate enough to have a sponsor ensure your obligations to them are met.

I want to hear all about your competition experiences, good or bad. Please tell me your tales in the comments.

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