One aspect of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu that helps it stand out from more traditional martial arts is the emphasis placed on competing in tournaments and going up against people from outside your school. This is seen as essential for progressing in the sport and moving up in belts. However, if you’ve never competed before, you may not know what to expect, so here are some tips to help you prepare.

Making Weight Must Be a Priority

With your first tournament on the horizon, you have a lot to think about. You need to practice your guard passes, sweeps and submissions. You’ll want to make sure your cardio is where it needs to be too.

Unless you make weight, though, none of that is going to matter. Most tournaments may give you some extra time to hit your weight if the first weigh-in is off, but unless you’re within a pound, it’s probably not going to happen.

If you miss weight, you don’t get to compete. This will be especially frustrating if you traveled a long distance to get to the tournament. So make sure your preparations involve a diet plan and constantly weighing yourself to track your progress.

Get Lots of Sleep

The night before your first tournament, you’ll probably toss and turn a bit. That’s to be expected. All you can do is make sure you get into bed early enough that you’re still able to fall asleep at a decent hour.

Leading up to the tournament, though, it’s just as important that your body is getting plenty of rest. For one thing, without that all-important sleep, dropping weight will be nearly impossible.

However, you simply can’t show up to a tournament without a solid week of sleep behind you or you’ll be disappointed in your performance. Give yourself an extra hour each night to fall asleep.

Properly Warm Up Before Competing

After you make weight, you’ll most likely want to get a bite to eat. That’s fine, but you also need to find time to get warmed up before you compete. Even then, you could be sitting around for an hour or more, which means your body will go cold, so continue to warm up throughout the day.

This means stretching your muscles and short workouts like 10 body squats or Hindu pushups. You shouldn’t be struggling for breath or feel a pump in your muscles, but you want your body to be ready for action.

It Doesn’t Matter Whether You Win or Lose

It’s tough to accept this, but it’s true – at least for your first tournament. All the greats have lost more times than they can count, so it’s no big deal if you don’t end up leaving this tournament with a nice shiny metal or trophy.

Sure, as you progress, it’s okay to place a higher priority on winning. If this is your first tournament, though, you’re either a white or blue belt. Don’t let your nerves get worse by putting too much pressure on yourself.

Instead, your goals should be effort-based. Make it your goal to show up prepared, well-rested and on weight. Another goal should be to go out and compete in each of your matches and actually have fun in the process.

Again, it won’t be long before the results from this tournament – win or lose – will be a distant memory. This first one should be more about getting acclimated to what it’s like competing against strangers at somewhere other than your gym.

It’s okay to be nervous or apprehensive about your first BJJ tournament, but keep the above tips in mind and you’ll show up physically and mentally prepared. Again, relax and have fun. If you aren’t enjoying yourself, there’s no point in practicing this sport.