Trial Lessons

Training for Competition vs Training for Fun

There is no one correct way to train jiu-jitsu. For people who want to get in shape, learn self-defense while doing so, and have fun on the mat, jiu-jitsu presents a great opportunity. You can spend years casually developing your technique, eventually becoming a purple or brown belt who participates in regional competitions with success. You can also not compete in tournaments, which is totally fine. You may also have a goal of racing through the entire belt system in under a decade and becoming a tournament champion or MMA superstar. 

As Bernardo Faria of BJJ Fanatics explains in the below video, jiu-jitsu may come in many forms, but the goals you set are going to have a major impact on for what you train, how you train, and even when you train. This post will explore how different goals will affect your levels of commitment, sacrifice, and even fun. 

Level of Commitment

The goals you set for jiu-jitsu are going to determine your level of commitment. According to Bernardo, the records from his gym show that the average person trains jiu-jitsu about 2-3 times per week. For a person with a career, a family, and a desire to be capable of defending themselves, this is adequate. Moreover, if you combine it with some conditioning outside of the gym (e.g., playing intramural sports, going for a jog, calisthenics), you will stay in great shape. Should you want to get in good enough shape for a regional tournament, you may need to train harder for a few weeks or months, but your life can return to a normal routine after that. 

If you are a person who wants to train professionally, 2-3 sessions per week isn’t going to cut it. In fact, you’ll likely need to be in the gym 2-3 times per day most days. In addition to training jiu-jitsu, you’ll also need to do strength training and conditioning. If you’re an MMA fighter, you’ll also need to practice other martial arts like wrestling, boxing, or Muay Thai. This is just the baseline. If you’re training for a major tournament, you will need to spend months going even harder in preparation for the competition.

In other words, if you want to train jiu-jitsu just to learn it, your level of commitment is relatively low (a few hours a week). If you want to compete at a regional level, the level of commitment increases (an hour per day). If you want to compete at the highest level, you need to be totally committed and treat jiu-jitsu like a full-time job.

Level of Sacrifice

Relatedly, when you commit to one thing it necessarily means you eliminate other options. For people who want to casually train, they are not going to need to sacrifice much. You probably won’t want to drink alcohol the night before going to the gym and you’ll likely find that you have to sacrifice some foods that you like to feel better when you’re training, but you’ll still be able to have a job, a family, and a social life.

Conversely, if you are constantly training for a competition, you will not have much of a social life. You will not be able to drink or party or eat wasteful calories. You will likely not have time to work at a demanding job. Family may even have to wait. In other words, to be a world champion, you have to sacrifice years of your life to doing almost nothing else besides jiu-jitsu.

An important point to note is that this is where age becomes a factor. If you’re starting at age 30 and have the goal of being a world-class fighter, you may not have enough time in peak physical shape to reach those goals, especially because people are starting intensive training at younger and younger ages. If you want to become a fighter on the world stage, you will likely need to start training before you hit 20. However, if you want to just learn jiu-jitsu for self-defense, you can start at any time.

Level of Fun

Finally, Bernardo talks about the level of fun that you’ll have training jiu-jitsu. No matter your level of commitment and sacrifice, you will make friends at the gym and eventually have fun learning the nuances of technique. It’s fun, but also rewarding.

As your training becomes more intensive, however, jiu-jitsu stays fun, but it becomes far more rewarding. As you truly commit to something and dedicate time and effort to it, oftentimes having to overcome obstacles and frustrations, you become far more invested. As a result, when you do well by winning a tournament or moving up in the belt system, there is a level of satisfaction that goes beyond fun. This is when all the commitment, all the sacrifice, and all the frustrations become worth it.



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