Wednesday, August 8, 2012

seminars vs. tournaments

If you are reading my blog, you probably feel the way I do - that jiu jistu is the most awesome sport in the world (either that, or you read my blog because you're my friend on Facebook. That's cool too). But if you feel the way I do, you probably have a deep appreciation for just how much there is to learn in this art. Jiu jitsu is constantly evolving. And it is well-known that it takes longer to earn  a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu than in any other martial art.

And that's what attracts me most to BJJ. Even as my strength, speed, and athleticism will inevitably decline with age, I expect that increases in my skill level will more than make up for that. I am 31-years-old now, but I have no doubt that 41-year-old Kim would be able to take my current self in a fight. I have full confidence that 51-year-old Kim would be able to take 31-year-old Kim as well. In what other sport could I say that? I will be able to beat my current self, even when I am middle aged. There is THAT much to learn in jiu jitsu. It is important to note that my current self is a relative newbie, so I am starting at a lowish level.

But all this knowledge comes at a price. Regular training isn't cheap. (Settle down, you. I'm not saying that it's not worth it. Jiu jitsu training is priceless and may even save my life one day). But training jiu jitsu certainly costs more than most gym memberships. But for many of us, even this isn't enough. We want to get more out of jiu jitsu than what we learn on our home mats every week. Many of us compete in tournaments and go to seminars to augment our regular training.

And as much as we would like to, there comes a point where we can't do it all. We have to prioritize. We ask ourselves what is REALLY helping us get better. We were discussing this issue after the last NC women's open mat and my friend Mary Holmes asked the following: "What do you learn more from - tournaments or seminars?"

The answer depends on the needs of the individual. But for me, at this point in time, I learn more from tournaments than I do from seminars. This is why in the past few months, I have gone on a seminar "diet" while I continue to compete as often as I possibly can. My reasons for this are the following:

- At seminars, I get information overload. I quickly reach a point where my brain has absorbed all that it is going to. There is so much information and I come to a place where I just can't process anymore.

- A lot of seminars focus on advanced moves. As a blue belt, beginner and intermediate moves are my bread and butter. When I learn moves that are above my skill level, they are hard for me to digest and basically impossible for me to incorporate into my game. When I learn moves that I can't immediately use, they are quickly forgotten and my money is wasted.

- At tournaments, I learn a ton about my own strengths and weaknesses. I videotape  my matches and review them with my coaches. The feedback I get is directly relevant to my game.

- During training, I roll with men 90% of the time (not wimpy guys mind you, but strong, athletic, jiu jitsu guys). I'm no weakling myself, but when I have trouble pulling off a move against guys my rank, it is very easy for me to attribute my failure to differences in size or strength. Often times, this excuse is valid. But other times, I'm just plain doing the technique wrong. In training, it's hard for me to know the difference. But when I compete in a tournament with other women my size, I KNOW that any problems that I may incur are due to technical deficits. In this way, tournaments keep me honest.

- I love to compete. I always have. To me, tournaments are a lot of fun. Seminars, on the other hand, remind me of school. School is boring. All things being equal, my preference leans toward tournaments.

Which do YOU learn more from - tournaments or seminars? Which do you prefer?


  1. Awesome blog, and I do agree on learning more at the tournaments then seminars, repetition and muscle memory is a must and it's hard to practice moves from seminars all the time

  2. This is a good post, Kim. I would say it's not a question of one or the other being better, but each helping me improve in different ways.

    Tournaments are great for short-term feedback. You know if what you've trained is working. Plus, they're fun and, as you say, you get to compete against folks that you don't roll with on the regular.

    But seminars are great for long-term development. Personally, I need to see a series of moves several times before I really absorb what makes those moves work. I feel like seminars -- even if I can't incorporate their lessons into my game right away -- expose me to concepts and techniques that will be very important for progression.

    Remember that Robson Moura seminar with the De La Riva stuff? Even then, I knew that much of what he was teaching was over my head. But now, perhaps 9 months later, I feel like seeing that laid the groundwork for understanding a lot of the techniques I'm working on now.

    It's kind of a cop-out to say "they are both equally important," so I won't say that. Instead I'll say that I find each to be very valuable in different ways.