First BJJ Tournament Checklist

Showing up to your first competitive tournament can be a little overwhelming.

Before the match, no doubt you were up early double checking your gear, calming your nerves and getting a good meal in. You probably are thinking about what ring you’ll be at, and imagining how the fight will go down, and rehearsing your technique in your head. Will you pull off that move you’ve been practicing for weeks? You’re might not be thinking about your shirt getting torn, or your opponent throwing up on you or, getting a bloody gash on your calf during the match.

In the recent tournament our family participated in, torn Gis meant a disqualification. For the kid’s matches, a torn Gi probably isn’t an issue and the referees tend to be a little more lenient on the kids clothing anyway. Kids can get away with competing in sleeveless shirts sometimes or fray hanging off of their pants, adults not so much. If you are competing, you will want to pack an extra Gi if you have one, adult matches involve a lot more force. The chances of ripping your Gi on a takedown is a real threat to victory.

There is also the threat of bodily fluids; blood and vomit may come into contact with you during a match. Gross, but it happens. At AGF, I witnessed one opponent throwing up on his rival who was choking him. The guy who was choked and vomited was immediately disqualified from the match for it. Bleeding, screaming in pain, and throwing up are all automatic disqualifications. The guy who got vomited on was also out for the rest of the tournament since he had no change of clothes. Luckily for him, that was his last No-Gi round, otherwise, that could have set him back. If this was you, would you be willing to give up the rest of your matches, maybe the chance at 1st place because you just didn’t feel like packing an extra shirt, shorts, or an extra Gi?

Aside from clothing, what about food, muscle rub, water? You shouldn’t expect the event to provide anything. If you want water between matches then you should pack your own in. Bring food while you’re at it. Sometimes rounds get delayed and you may be there longer than you expected. Hunger will hurt your performance too. At our tournament, water was not provided and the heater was on. After my match, I found my throat very irritated and couldn’t stop coughing. You also need to plan for medical issues.

You also need to plan for medical issues. Although you will generally be given two minutes to handle things like bleeding, how far is the medical table from your ring? It would be better to pack everything you might need yourself, your own ringside first aid kit. Then your two minutes can be better spent dealing with the actual issue at hand, not running across the building to get a wrap. Some of these items like the aspirin and cooling pack would be for after the match to bring down inflammation from the physical stress of the match.

There’s also the issue of waiting around. Tournaments are not non-stop action. Delays are common and you do spend a lot of time just sitting around waiting. Things to keep you comfortable and entertained while you wait will be put to good use.

Final Checklist

  • First-Aid
    • Bandaids
    • Medical tape, small and large
    • Cooling pack
    • Gauze
    • Aspirin or Tylenol
    • Sanitary wipes
    • nail clippers and a file to tend to any unruly nails
  • Gear
    • Gi, if competing in Gi
    • mouthguard
    • Rashguard and pants or shorts
    • Extra rashguard and pants/shorts
    • Outer layer for overambitious air conditioners or underactive heaters
    • Flip flops or slide-on sandals (you are not allowed to be barefoot off the mats)
    • extra hair ties if you have long hair
  • Nutrition
    • Water
    • High-calorie snack; trail mix or protein powder for between and after matches
    • packed lunch (you may not have time to stand in line even if there is onsite vending)
  • Comfort Items:
    • blanket
    • cushion for benches
    • chapstick/lotion for dry winter air
    • battery bank for your phone


At a tournament before you can spot the guys who are competition guys. They’ll be the ones with big gym bags packed with everything they might need to have ringside. Those competitors have witnessed all the mishaps that can occur at a tournament. Sure, your chances of it happening to you are low, that doesn’t mean it won’t. Things happen at every tournament to unsuspecting people which ruin their day and their experience. Most of those occurrences are preventable though. There are two types of people at tournaments, the type who hopes for the best and takes the hit when something happens or the type that plans ahead and goes on to compete without any setbacks. Which type of person are you going to be?


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