By Sen-Foong Lim
It’s the night before your first competition and you’re looking at your duffle bag, wondering what you need to pack. If you’ve never competed before, this can be a daunting task – you don’t want to forgot anything, but you don’t want to pack everything but the kitchen sink either! Usually, you have to travel when you compete, so you won’t have an opportunity to run back home to grab something and space will be at a premium. After your first few tournaments, you’ll refine your personal packing list, but, for now, here’s a list of some of the most essential things you might need.
Caveat: This list is meant to provide general guidelines. In all cases, check with the rules of the specific tournament and contact the organizers if you have any questions about equipment.
- Gi – Bring 2 kimonos (one light/one dark) plus your belt; females are allowed to wear a rashguard. Males may not.
- No Gi Submission Grappling – Rashguard or t-shirt, boardshorts or tights.
- Please ensure that your uniforms comply with whatever regulations the tournament enforces (e.g. colours, dimensions, manufacture).
- Mouthguards are usually allowed.
- Cups may be disallowed due to increased damage when doing armbars, so check the rules for the individual tournament.
- Head Gear is usually only allowed in No Gi submission grappling tournaments.
- Braces are usually allowed, but only of the soft neoprene type.
- Sport tape can usually be obtained at the first aid station, but it’s good to bring your own just in case. Especially for simple fixes like buddy taping a jammed finger.
- Hair elastics and clips for people with long hair; note that in some tournaments, men are not allowed to have long hair or beards.
- Nail clippers are good to carry at all times. You want to keep both you and your opponents safe from inadvertent cuts.
- Towel to dry off between matches and to shower with.
- Soap / Shampoo are a nice if the venue has showers for your use. Otherwise antibacterial body wipes are a good alternative.
- Shoes or slippers are essential to have to maintain your heat level and to maintain cleanliness between the bathrooms and the mat – Don’t go to the washroom without footwear on!
- A portable foam roller or lacrosse ball is great for working out those kinks and sore spots in your body prior to a match.
- A skipping rope and resistance bands are excellent portable tools to help you warm up or lose a bit of last minute water weight.
- A hooded sweat shirt is great for staying warm. When trying to sweat off the last half pound to make weight, wear your hoodie UNDER your Gi so that the sweat is not absorbed by your Gi. It won’t help if your Gi is soaked and you need to weigh-in with your Gi on immediately before your match.
- Water is essential to keep your body hydrated after weigh-in; sports drinks are also acceptable
- In general, you want to bring Foods that are high in protein and complex carbohyrdates while being low in mass
- If you use supplements, consider using BCAAs to help with muscle recovery
- Bring your iPod with music to pump you up or calm you down – whatever you need –
- I always bring my “BJJ Bible” – a binder in which I’ve written down techniques and flows – as I like to review it on the car ride up.
- A Camera / Video Camera is great to capture the event – you’ll want video to commemorate your first tournament! Just be sure that the tournament organizers allow videotaping at the venue.
- Friends and family are always welcome additions at any tournament – having a cheerleading section can make all the difference in a match; also, having someone to drive you to/from the tournament lets you focus on the task at hand and relax.
In doing some research for this article, a few competitors were surveyed to indicate one thing they always bring to a tournament and their rationale. Here’s what they said:
“I always bring the latest Grappling magazine because it passes the time before your fight, and often stimulates conversation between other guys competing.”
– Chris Arsenault – Blue Belt, Pictou County Titans (Team Renzo Gracie)
“Underwear… you need new underwear after fights!”
– Mike Aviado – Blue Belt, Body of Four (Franco Behring)
“An extra Gi. You know…for those wardrobe malfunctions.”
– Dan SETH, Purple Belt, McMaster BJJ (Franco Behring)
“Ah, I bring an apple to help settle my stomach.”
– Paul Zenchuk, Purple Belt, Pura BJJ (Mendes Bros.)
Homework: Make a list of the things you’re going to bring to your first competition. Pack your bag the night before. And good luck!
So tell us, why do YOU compete?