Master Your First BJJ Match: 6 Essential Tips for Success

Last updated on 05.07.2023 by

If you’re planning on competing in BJJ, there are a few steps that are absolutely vital for having the best chance at winning your first BJJ match! Whether you’re getting ready for your first BJJ match or you’re a seasoned competitor, these tips will help you do better!

Here are the 6 most important things for you to do as you prepare to compete in BJJ.

6 Tips To Be Ready for Victory

Get Enough Sleep

6 Tip for First BJJ Match

Not sleeping and resting your mind and body is one of the easiest ways to sabotage your competition performance. The week leading up to competition focus on establishing a healthy sleep cycle – limit screen time at night and rest up! Nerves may make it hard to sleep the night of the competition, so just do your best. Avoid alcohol as that interferes with restful sleep.

Remember, BJJ tournaments generally take all day. Depending on how the tournament is organized, your first BJJ match might be scheduled 5-6 hours after you arrive at the venue. Apart from taking the time to help and cheer on your teammates competing earlier, use the time you have to grab some more shut-eye.  

Even a 10-minute nap can be hugely important in how you perform. Bring a hoodie, headphones, a yoga mat, and maybe a sleep mask to help block out the bedlam going on around you.

Watch What You Eat and Drink

6 Tip for First BJJ Match

I think this goes without saying. A diet of junk food will leave you exhausted and bloated, which is not how you want to feel when you’re about to compete! If you’re not really committed to a healthy lifestyle, that is ok, but you should make an effort to clean up your diet a couple of weeks before the tournament. 

Just as important as what you eat the week before a tournament is, if not more, is what you do the day of the competition. In that sense, eating breakfast is highly recommended, but has to be carefully moderated – you don’t want to overshoot your weight class!

The morning of a tournament, make sure you eat something that will give you sustained energy throughout the day. Oats or granola with yogurt combined with some fruits and nuts are awesome to keep you satiated and give you long-lasting energy.

Here’s another pro-tip: bring snacks to the tournament. Most venues won’t offer much in terms of food, and you’ll be there for a good 8–10 hours on average. It means you’ll have to eat a few times, and if your first BJJ match is later in the day, you can’t overeat. 

Finally, if your first BJJ match is early in the morning, and you are worried about making weight, skip breakfast. However, have an electrolyte + carbohydrates drink ready. After you weigh in, take several gulps of it before you step on the mats for that first battle. It can make a major difference. 

Have a Game Plan Ready

6 Tip for First BJJ Match

Making a game plan is essential to victory – although you should know that this is something that is best done well in advance. Talk with your coach about your competition strategy a few weeks or even months before you plan on competing.

In terms of a game plan you don’t need a complicated flowchart of techniques and tactics. Instead, focus on some of the major checkpoints of BJJ (like mount, guard, and back control) and have an idea of how to get there, stay there, and attack from there. 

Also, have a couple of defensive tactics ready, and do not forget to factor in the standing aspect of grappling. Many people forget to train their takedowns before competing, and it really shows!

Find Your Ideal Weight

6 Tip for First BJJ Match

Your first BJJ match is going to be an unpleasant experience if you don’t figure out the best weight class to compete in. As a rule of thumb, I am against weight cuts, even if it is only cutting a pound or two.

Cuts often leave you exhausted, and the bigger the cut, the worse your performance will be on the mats. It doesn’t matter which “scientific” cutting system you follow – most people suffer for it. 

I’d recommend competing as close to your everyday weight as possible. If you’re a pound or two over a limit, then diet down strategically over a couple of months leading up to the tournament, so you don’t have to cut weight. 

Remember though, that while I don’t recommend cutting weight, you can end up in a division of opponents that are too large and strong for you if you’re not watching your weight. 


6 Tip for First BJJ Match

The biggest mistake you can make before the first BJJ match of a tournament is to skip your warm-up. There is no single warm-up that you should follow, but rather have a warm-up that works for you. For me, personally, it is a bit of stretching and a couple of rolls, one light and one a bit faster paced. 

Some people do not like to roll before competing, and that’s OK! Maybe run, do jumping jacks, jump rope, burpees or a Yoga vinyasa flow. It doesn’t really matter so much which you pick – just make sure to something!

Once you’re all warm, make sure you put on a hoodie and socks. It will keep you warm – having your sweat cool on you can make you feel stiff and uncomfortable.

Most competitors wear headphones for their warm-up, letting them get and stay in the zone. It can help to have a teammate listening for your name to be called if you aren’t exactly sure when and wear you’re competing. Don’t miss your first BJJ match because you’re too in the zone.

Follow the 4 Rules of Grappling

6 Tip for First BJJ Match

If you find yourself confused and all over the place during the first BJJ match, just try to follow the four rules of grappling as put forth by Chris Haueter

  1. Be the guy on top
  2. When on top, stay on top
  3. When on bottom, have a guard that they shall not pass
  4. Remember rule #1, easily forgotten due to the seductive and rewarding nature of the guard.

If you’re in a scramble and can’t remember your game plan, simply figure out the easiest route to one of the above, and then try to end up on top. You’d be surprised how often this can work out in your favor. 

Closing Thoughts

Every time you step on the mats for the first BJJ match of a tournament, you will have a battle ahead of you. Do not expect anything different. However, remember that your opponent is facing the same stresses as you and that they too are mortal! As long as you’ve done everything to prepare for it, you’ll do just fine! 

Tips for First BJJ Match Infographics