I competed in the IBJJF No-Gi Pan Am tournament on Saturday, and I ended up falling short. I was disappointed, but I bounced back quickly and got right back to training on Monday.


Tournament Day

I was exhausted all week leading up to the tournament, so I went to bed super early the night before to get some extra rest. I woke up on tournament day feeling well rested, which was nice. My boyfriend Frank and I were able to get ready and leave the hotel a half hour ahead of schedule. That never happens!


We checked in at the venue and found a place to put our bags. We had a few hours before we were scheduled to compete, so we walked around the gym and said hello to some familiar faces. I love this part about jiu jitsu tournaments. I get to catch up with old friends and meet a lot of new ones.


Breaking Muscle Shop

Frank’s bracket was set to start at 11:30am, and mine at 2:30pm. It was nice having a lot of time between our brackets. Usually our fight times are so close together that we don’t get to watch each other, but we got lucky this time.


I was excited to watch Frank compete. He had been training like an animal and I knew he was going to do well. Unfortunately, he was disqualified in his first match because of a bad call from the ref. His opponent basically got Frank disqualified on purpose. Getting your opponent disqualified so you can win the match is the most dishonorable thing you could do. Win by your own abilities, not by exploiting the rules. I could say more, but I won’t.



My Experience

As for me, I didn’t compete well. I had visualizations of what I wanted to happen in my head, but it seems like I ended doing the opposite of everything I planned. I went for moves that I don’t normally do, and I held onto things longer than I should have. Mentally, I was off and I didn’t feel as confident as I normally do. My opponent beat me 2-0 from a sweep she got at the beginning of match.


I had so many chances to get points, but I kept messing up and I was getting tired as the match went on. The one thing I’m proud of myself for is the amount of submissions I went for. I was doing a good job of attacking, but it wasn’t enough to win the match.


I walked off the mat sad and angry. I left the mat area and immediately lay down on the cold floor. It felt good, but I couldn’t help but get emotional. I worked so hard and I felt 100% prepared, but I made stupid choices during my match and it cost me. I admit I cried for a minute, but I pulled it together long enough to get dressed and get the heck out of there. Frank and I were both ready to just go home.


The ride home sucked. A lot. There isn’t much you can do during a car ride to keep your mind occupied. This led to me replaying my match over and over in my head and thinking about all of my silly mistakes. Every time I tried pushing it away, it kept coming back. It was one of the less enjoyable car rides I’ve had in my day.


Looking at the Positives

When I got home, I showered and plopped onto the bed. I was feeling crappy, but I forced myself to look for the positives of the situation. Here is what I found:


  1. I know exactly which techniques I will be working on until my next tournament.
  2. I’m only twenty years old. I have plenty of time to keep competing and get experience.
  3. I’m a blue belt. When I’m a black belt, no one will care about how I did at the No-Gi Pan Ams as a blue belt.
  4. I learned that I’m too rigid and stubborn when I compete. I need to slow down, relax, and think about what I’m doing.


I think the biggest problem for me on Saturday was my mental state. Usually when I roll at the school I feel relaxed and it’s easy to move from one technique to the next. I need to have that same mindset during competition. I believe the way to fix this problem is to compete more, and on a smaller scale. I’m not sure what my next move will be just yet, but I know I’m going to be competing as much as I can from now on!


I’m feeling a lot better now and I’m back to training as usual. I can’t let one tournament keep me down. I truly believe God led me to find jiu jitsu, and that it’s my duty to Him to get better at it every day. This loss isn’t going to slow me down. In fact, I think it’s doing the exact opposite!


Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read my journal entries. I appreciate the support! 


Jess Papi is a blue belt at Scranton MMA and also pursuing her degree in exercise science. Read her entries every week for insights on competing, training, and juggling BJJ and life.


Photo courtesy of D-Kline Design Photography.