Grappling with Anxiety: My First Jiu-Jitsu Tournament

chadjazsonnyI’m happy to report that I survived my first Jiu-Jitsu tournament. I was on the fence whether I would compete because I didn’t feel ready – even though logically I know I would go against other newbies in the under-six-month-training, novice division.

Hours after arriving I would soon find out there was no one in my weight class, so I was asked if I could roll against an opponent 20 pounds heavier (and 20 years younger). I was a little intimidated, but I roll with men, women and teens of various sizes on a weekly basis.

This being my first tournament, the most realistic game plan was to just get through each four minute round without gassing out, psyching myself out or panicking, which I sometimes do under physical pressure, or when I feel smothered or stuck.

triangleI also knew I had to shut everyone else out and tune in to my coach – especially since he’s able to catch submission opportunities way before I can see them. Because my brain was in fight or flight, I had the urge to quit a couple times, but pushed on.

Even though I lost all three matches, one Gi and two No-Gi, I was still beaming afterward; I faced my fears, pushed through anxiety, and learned so much in the process. The experience was better than expected thanks to the support of my husband, coach, teammates, referee and even some of the spectators. Both of my opponents were strong but kind. I was inspired by them, as well as all the women who compete in male-dominated sports. Let’s hope female Jiu-Jitsu continues to grow.

I am grateful to those who kept nudging me to give Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu a try (like The BJJ Caveman and Nico de Haan), and for all who push me mentally and physically on a daily basis.


I’m considering going to the next MMAC Grappling Tournament in January 2016. I’ll be seven months into my training by then, and because it’s in Tampa there will hopefully be a greater amount of women in my division.

Do you grapple with a monkey mind on or off the mat? I’d love to hear from you and find out any tips you have for finding flow in your rolls, as well as in life.

Slap. Bump. Heal.

5 thoughts on “Grappling with Anxiety: My First Jiu-Jitsu Tournament

  1. Competing for me is all about facing my fears of fight or flight. Forcing my brain to realise I don’t need to bail on the situation. Forcing my brain to slow down, stop panicking and think logically. I know my positions, I know my submissions and I know my escapes – so it’s all about allowing my head space to think and my muscle memory to kick in. For me, winning is just by stepping on the mat in a comp and not running off again!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That’s excellent, Vikki! I’m not at a place yet where I know my positions – I’ve still much to learn about weight distribution and getting in position before attacking submissions…but I’m getting there.

    I totally agree that winning is about showing up. Any medals or wins are a bonus since the challenge is more about facing our fears on and off the mat. Continued success to you!


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