Competition is a high-stress environment that can bring out the best and worst in people. We often see a side of the practitioner that we never get to see in the training room. A normally gregarious and friendly training partner may clam up, and you may see a timidity OR savagery that you’ve never seen before.
As a competitor, you’ll have a lot on your plate, from the competition prep to the matches themselves. Having competed at dozens of competitions, I’ve noticed a shortlist of three essential rules of etiquette by which all competitors should abide.
1. If you can’t show up, let the organizer know.
Last weekend I competed at IBJJF’s No Gi Pans and was in a five-person bracket. I drew the short straw, so my first match was to get into the bracket, my second match would’ve put me into the finals, and my third match was the finals match. I won that first match, but my second opponent no-showed the event, presumably for a good reason. I then waited for what felt like an eternity for the organizers to disqualify him and went straight to the finals. This failure to notify the organizer caused two things to happen. Firstly it made my day that much longer, possibly postponing the open as well, which didn’t start until after 7 pm. It also deprived my first opponent of default placing. In IBJJF events, there are two third places, and if you’re in a four-person bracket, you take a default third place– a useless and meaningless award, but to enter the open, you have to place. Effectively the second opponent no-showing not only deprived me of the match but it deprived my first opponent of a chance to compete in the open.
2. Always wait for the podium.
Competition isn’t cheap, and it sure as hell isn’t easy. Even if you lose, you owe it to your opponent and yourself to get on the podium. Even if you take a default third-place medal, how do you think your opponent who beat you will feel when they look as if they took a default second-place medal in pictures? The podium can be annoying to those who aren’t on the very top of it. You just lost, sometimes you lost because you got beaten, sometimes you beat yourself mentally. Regardless of the reason, do the right thing and get on the podium, if for no other reason than you know how it feels to be up there without the person or people you beat.
3. Show respect after the match.
Unless an opponent committed a severe foul, there is no reason not to show basic courtesy after the game. I’ve had opponents be cowardly and try running off the mat. I’ve had opponents launch hard into submissions, sometimes hurting me. It doesn’t matter what your opponent does or doesn’t do. Shake their hand, stay until the referee has raised the winner’s hand, and move on with your life as well as you can. Far too often, I see people storm off the mat and leave before the referee raises the victor’s hand. Far too often, I see competitors refuse a handshake because they are unhappy with the outcome. This demeans the competitor and the sport. I’m not preaching bushido or any other sort of nonsense; grapplers come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. But when the match is over, take a moment to show the audience and yourself you know how to behave.
These are three critical things that I believe all competitors should do at all times. What rules of competitive etiquette have you noticed that should be followed?
Emil Fischer is a Jiu-jitsu brown belt competitor training under Pablo Angel Castro III at Strong Style MMA in Cleveland Ohio. An avid writer and competitor, Emil has amassed an extensive competition record. Most notably, Emil is a 2 time gold medalist at the IBJJF No Gi Pans, and has a submission victory record of 5-1 at Fight To Win Pro which includes purple belt no-gi light heavyweight championship