When to Start Competing in Jiu-Jitsu

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Ideally, you should start training as soon as possible but instead of just jumping in headfirst, there are a few things to keep in mind to make things go smoother.

The average fighter trains 3 days a week, this should allow you to be ready in about 6 months. After about 3 months of training, you can enter a competition that is 2-3 months away. This will allow you to train with the fight in mind.

When you’re preparing for the fight have at least one technique from every position. Make sure that you can instinctively perform each of these techniques. This coupled with understanding the rules of the tournament and a strategy going into it will enable you to maximize your odds of winning.

When preparing to compete it’s good to break Jiu-Jitsu down into broad categories so that you know what to focus on. Your instructor will provide direction but it’s good to build up your knowledge outside the gym too. John Danaher breaks Jiu-Jitsu into 3 main categories; standing position, ground position bottom, and ground position top. It’s important to learn at least one move from each of the below sub-sections and to make it instinctive. Make a commitment to practice each one for so many hours. Look up different techniques online and talk to your instructor to come up with a plan.

Standing Position

In any fight or competition, you are going to start off in a standing position. This is just as important as your ground game.

Learn a few points about your stance. Stance is being able to understand how you position your body, arms and legs. This will allow you to gain an advantage when looking to perform a takedown. To control your opponent you need to learn about gripping. Learn how to take your opponent off balance and learn how to transition to the ground.

Ground Position Bottom

When on the ground you should learn at least one escape from the following. Pin escapes, guard retention, guard sweeps, half guard sweeps, and turtle escapes. Learn at least one move from each of these categories.

Ground Position Top

When in top position you should work on the following, opening closed guard, passing open guard, passing half guard, pin maintenance and transitions, turtle breakdowns. Learn at least one move from each of these.


When competing there is no one mindset that is better than others. Some fighters are known to be really anxious before fighting, like GSP, and others are known to be really calm before a fight like BJ Penn. One important thing to note is that it is good to give yourself time to acclimate to competitions. If you lose the first time you go, that is okay. Go to at least 2-3 tournaments. This will allow you to able to get the hang of the stress of the competition and know how you react when training.

It’s important to set clear goals for yourself. Signup for a competition early and compete early. This will allow you to be able to go in with a game plan, learn the rules and point system, and psychologically train with a poignant direction.


The first move is critical. Have a plan to know what you’re going to do when you’re on your feet. i.e. take-down or pull guard. Having a go-to will at least let you be able to make a decision in the case that you blank out during the competition. Once you make that first move you’ll more than likely end up on the ground and then things can become a little bit more familiar to you.


Below is from the IBJFF rule book. Take a few hours to read through it. Once you’ve read it, you’ll get a good idea of how a lot of competitions work. There are 3 sections; Rules, Competition Guidelines, Competition Format. Below I’ve provided an index to show what the rulebook covers. ( IBJJF Rule Book Pdf )


  • Referee
  • Rendering(Match) Decisions
  • Points Scoring
  • Points Scoring Positions
  • Advantages
  • Fouls
  • Penalties
  • Obligations, Bands, and Demands

General Competition Guidelines

  • Divisions and Regulation match durations
  • Brackets
  • Inter Academy Contests
  • Awards
  • Registration
  • Rules of Conduct Athlete and Administrative Punishments
  • Further Provisions

Competition Format Manual

  • Competition Area
  • Staff and Their Duties

Belt and Age Divisions

Here is an example of belt and age divisions from an IBJJF competition. They also note that anyone that has any experience such as having a black belt in judo or fighting professionally in the MMA can’t compete as a white belt.

2006Juvenile1White, Blue, Purple
2005Juvenile2White, Blue, Purple
2004 and beforeAdultWhite, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1992 and beforeMaster 1White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1986 and beforeMaster 2White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1981 and beforeMaster 3White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1976 and beforeMaster 4White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1971 and beforeMaster 5White, Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1966 and beforeMaster 6Blue, Purple, Brown, Black
1961 and beforeMaster 7Blue, Purple, Brown, Black


If there are points, then people are going to use them to game the system. You need to understand this. Below is a table showing the points awarded in an IBJJF competition.

Take-down2 Points
Sweep2 Points
Knee on Belly2 Points
Guard Pass3 Points
Mount4 Points
Back Mount4 Points
Back Control4 Points
Advantage (When a move is almost completed for 3 seconds)1 Point

Weight Classes

Below is the weight division table for adults for the IBJJF competitions. It shows both kilograms and pounds.

Weight DivisionAdult Male
Rooster57 kg / 125 lbs
Light-Feather64 kg / 141 lbs
Feather70 kg / 154 lbs
Light76 kg / 167 lbs
Middle82 kg / 180 lbs
Medium-Heavy88 kg / 194 lbs
Heavy94 kg / 207 lbs
Super Heavy100 kg / 220 lbs
Ultra-HeavyNo max weight
Open ClassFree

In conclusion, the most important thing that you need to learn is to tap. As long as you can tap before you get hurt you can go into most situations without serious injury. The mentality should be more about surviving than winning since most mimics that of a street fight. As long no one is in the hospital or dead then everyone wins. The sooner you can immerse yourself fully the quicker you can learn.


Origin fighter

Origin Fighter is a blog for athletes and fitness enthusiasts to learn about Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, Wrestling, Boxing, Health & Nutrition, Performance and more. Origin Fighter also provides information on how to train smarter with resources such as workout plans and diets tailored for your goals.

About the Author

I am a huge fan of both BJJ and MMA. Jiu-jitsu is my biggest passion, and I’ve been training it for more than 5 years. I have recently been promoted to a purple belt. In this blog, I will be giving you tips on how to improve and how to choose the best BJJ equipment! Learn More