How I Afford to Travel and Compete

It must be in the genes. My Mom is an organizer who specializes in lists. She says it is because she is going senile and won’t remember things otherwise. Regardless of her reasoning, I’ve learned a thing or two from her about planning.

Over the past few years, I have had a lot of conversations with people at competitions who seem to think I have a huge income or sugar daddy/sponsor who pays for my expenses. The truth is, occasionally (once or twice a year) someone may offer to cover my registration fee, but most of the time I pay out-of-pocket. My average monthly income is under $1,000 and I’ve learned how to get the most out of each dollar.

There are two major things that allow me to travel and compete in Jiu Jitsu competitions around the world.

  1. Budgeting at Home
  2. Budgeting Abroad

 

At Home

My car broke beyond repair about 4 years ago, and I never replaced it. I bike and walk everywhere, and occasionally take the bus.

I pay a flat monthly rate to rent a bedroom from someone. I train and work all day anyhow, so an actual apartment or house is wasted on me.

I got rid of my smart phone plan and got a free google voice account. I can text and talk while on a wi-fi network for free using the apps on my iPad and old iPhone.

I only go out to eat maybe once or twice a month. I can cook at home for just $2 a day and that adds up!

Before I make purchases, I weigh it against possible travel/competition expenses

  • $1 – a pastry in Lisbon, canned coffee from a vending machine in Tokyo, several skewers of chicken or veggies in Taipei
  • $5 – metro fares to get to and from competition venues
  • $10 – food for a day in any city
  • $10 – a night in a comfy hostel in Taipei, Lisbon, Athens, etc
  • $20 – a night in a private room in Lisbon, or a hostel in the heart of Tokyo
  • $30 – a flight from Amsterdam to Italy
  • $60 – flight from Tokyo to Taipei or Hong Kong
  • $100 – registration for a competition

 

Abroad – Flights:

When planning a trip, I start as far in advance as possible. If I have to rush at the last-minute to find airfare or lodging, there is a much lower chance of me finding a really good deal. Using Japan for example:

In 2015 one of my clients traded me the air miles for my plane ticket. It was relatively last-minute for me (6 weeks out) and the dollar amount for the ticket was a little over $1,800. I would not have been able to do that out-of-pocket myself!

For the 2016 competition in Japan, I started planning in January (for a trip in September). As soon as the dates for the competition were announced, I was watching airline tickets.

  • I keep a list of upcoming trips and do searches for tickets at least a couple of times a week in order to keep an eye on prices. This gives me an average ballpark so I can recognize a sale price.

Lo and behold, my airline of choice ended up having a fare sale in January and I got my round trip plane ticket for $1,123

I was pretty pleased with myself! However I have managed to top even that. I have completely changed the way I hunt for plane tickets since I booked that ticket. My last flight to Tokyo cost $650 round trip.

It did take weeks of sitting at a computer all day to figure out a new search system, but now I am definitely going to compete in Japan every year!

Moral of the story: Plan ahead!

 

Abroad: Lodging, Transportation, Food:

This part is pretty simple. My concern for lodging is that it is safe and easily accessed by the local transportation system. Hostels, and guesthouses are usually conveniently located and include free wi-fi and lots of other perks. I don’t see the point in paying for my own hotel room when all I need is a place to sleep and recharge for the next days adventures. Even in central Tokyo, which is considered to be one of the more expensive destinations in the world to visit, I was able to find a well located place to stay for just $15 per night. Plus I can make friends from all around the world! Who knows? Maybe we will visit each other some day! Airbnb has been my friend, but I have also started searching through my airline so that I can possibly earn extra airmiles as well.

Public transit has been top-notch in most places I have visited so far! Lisbon, the home of the European Championships, is SUPER easy to navigate by subway or bus (subway station is right outside the airport). A lot of countries offer special foreigner metro passes which are usually a good buy if you are going to be doing lots of exploring within the city.

For food, I usually will set myself a daily budget of $10 or $15. I usually buy food at grocery stores or from street vendors. Most of the time I don’t even use my whole budget so then I’ll save the balance and go out for a few special meals during the course of my trip. I’ve never felt like I was missing out on anything food wise (and I LOVE food!)

 

ETC:

Oftentimes, I will offer to work at an event when I am competing. Not only can you get paid (or free registration depending on the organization), but oftentimes you get fed or have access to snacks/water. It’s good for networking as well!

The trick is to determine what it is that I really want out of a trip (Jiu Jitsu! Food!) Once I know what is important, I can plan around that.

Don’t go for the first or easy offer. I decided that it was absolutely necessary that I visit the Studio Ghibli Museum while in Tokyo. Tickets are notoriously hard to come by for foreigners since they must be purchased a month in advance and sell out quickly. It took some digging but I found a concierge company that was selling admission tickets for $61… but I decided to dig beyond that and I found that the museum was implementing a new online sales system. Tickets for September went on sale August 9th at 8 pm and I was right there! The system crashed immediately and it took me 15 minutes to secure my ticket (they were sold out in 20 minutes). The ticket cost me 1,000 yen which is just under $10.

 

In Summary:

Competition travel planning takes practice. I have to do a ton of planning because of how small my budget is. Once I get there, I can just kick back and relax until it is time to compete.

The more I am able to save, the more adventures I can have!

July Japan Itinerary

It has been a very busy last few weeks! I am getting ready to compete at the IBJJF Nashville Open, and then leaving the week after that for the UAEJJF Tokyo Grand Slam event.

As of right now, I am registered for the master division at the Nashville Open. However, I have a team mate who may take over my spot and I’ll move to the adult division (I prefer it there anyhow!)

I am starting to stress a little bit over the lack of opponents signed up for the Tokyo Grand Slam. There are a good number of ladies signed up for the next weight class down, but I don’t think I could make 55 kg (121 lbs) without ending up in a hospital. A lot of jobs in Japan pay monthly at the end of the month, so I’m sure after payday there will be more people signing up! Worst case scenario, according to their guidebook purple belt ladies can be combined with the brown/black division; which would be a great opportunity for me to get a preview of things to come!

At any rate, this is my planned itinerary for the Japan trip.

July 22: Leave straight from work for the airport and catch the last flight of the day to L.A.

July 23: Depart from L.A. for Manila

July 24: Arriving in Manila in the evening, check into hotel and wander around for a few hours before passing out.

July 25: Depart Manila in the morning and arrive in Tokyo early afternoon. Check into hotel, shower, and walk around at an easy pace. Goal is to stay awake until at least 8 pm.

July 26: Take train to Kamakura, enjoy the beach and the local sights. Goal is to get enough sun to help reset my internal clock, without getting burnt.

July 27: Hike Mt. Takkao and just wander around in the mountains. Might get some Onsen action.

July 28: Weigh ins are this evening. Activity levels leading up to weigh ins will depend on how my weight is after the hiking adventure the previous day. After weigh ins, I will eat Okonomiyaki and rest.

July 29: Competition day – gonna kick some butt! After competing I will go get a Waygu beef bowl and then visit Monster Ice for some shaved ice desert.

July 30: Take train to Kawaguchiko area and check into new hostel. Explore the five lakes area and take in the scenery.

July 31: Get up early to catch the first bus to the Mt. Fuji 5th Station. Ascend at a leisurely pace and reach the summit mid-afternoon. Spend at least an hour at the summit before descending. Onsen time that evening.

August 1: Early afternoon departure flight from Tokyo to Manila. 4 hour layover before continuing on to L.A. – arriving late evening.

August 2: Flight back home to Nashville

August 3: Morning training, then back to work at my job in the afternoon. Caffeine may be required.

 

A few weeks after returning from this trip, I will be making an exciting career change. I have reactivated my Massage Therapy license and will be working out of my YMCA. I currently work at the front desk there and can’t be an employee and contractor at the same time – so I’ll be hitting the new gig full steam out the gate! My oldest nephew is planning to be visiting me around this time as well – so it will be an awesome month! So far I am planning to compete at the Master World Championships as well, but I will have to wait and see how business and finances are panning out around then.

Abu Dhabi – Days 4 and 5

Day 4 began with an early arrival at the competition venue.  Since I am not a brown belt yet, I was not able to enter the competitor area to help my crew warm up, so I wandered into the spectator area and found some more of my Jiu Jitsu family to mesh with.

Usually at these multiple day events, I end up zoning out by the last couple of days. Not so here! I was so inspired and impressed by the matches that I stayed focused throughout the whole day. I was super proud of my friends and team mates who were competing today, and it only inspired me to keep getting better and come back stronger next year!

 

After everyone was done, our little group decided to mosey over to the Grand Mosque a short taxi ride away from the competition venue.

I had gotten a lot of questions from people about my visit to the Emirates. The top question I received was “don’t you have to wrap up and wear the scarf?” My response was, “No, I’m not muslim. I will however wear one if I visit a mosque – that’s just the respectful thing to do.” Just like doing the ritual cleansing before visiting a shrine in Japan – I need to respect the culture I have chosen to immerse myself into.

That rabbit trail aside, yes, they do have appropriate ladies apparel available at the entrances to the Grand Mosque. First I went through a small security screening and then I was directed toward the room where they had a long rack full of clothes available to lend. It was a bit chaotic in the room so I just grabbed one off the rack and put it on over my clothes and headed outside to meet the guys.

The mosque was breathtaking.

 

Abu Dhabi Grand Mosque

Everything was in beautiful symmetry and I could feel the peacefulness of it, even in the throngs of fellow tourists who were wandering all over the place. It was a shoes off area as well, so it was nice to walk around in bare feet. We were there just before sunset and the lighting was amazing. At sunset, the call to prayer was sung and I just observed and soaked up the atmosphere.

Tips for visiting:

  • Remember you are visiting a sacred space for many people. Even if it is not a sacred space for you, be respectful as a visitor.
  • Don’t sit on the floor or on any steps.
  • Don’t walk in the central plaza. During the call to prayer, worshipers can walk on it on their way to the inner mosque. This does not apply to visitors and the security officers will stop you. (note examples in video)
  • Women need to keep their head covering on. Yes it can get warm when you are layering on the extra loaner abaaya. My recommendation is to dress appropriately from arrival and then you will not need to use the loaner.
  • There are descriptions of proper attire for men and women available on the mosque website. One of the guys in my group had to roll down his shorts to a more acceptable length.

Day 5:

img_2756This began with a taxi ride to my friends hotel where we all met up and ordered a taxi for a ride to the beach. A good number of the beaches in Abu Dhabi are private beaches for hotel guests only – however there are public beaches available. We were dropped off at Corniche beach which is for families. It cost about $3-4 USD to get in and then you can rent an umbrella and buy food and snacks there.

Corniche Beach - Abu Dhabi

It was like something straight from those fancy travel brochures that I sometimes drool over longingly. We hung out in the water for a while and then relaxed under the umbrellas.

After a few hours at the beach, our group split up with the guys heading back to the hotel for a desert safari, and the ladies going to the competition venue to watch the black belt finals matches.

The Competition:

Words can not describe how inspiring it was to witness the whole package deal of the black belt finals at the World Pro. The quality of the venue and promotion was just beyond what I’ve ever seen before. And what you see up on the big screen (that’s not an insert!), is shown on nationwide television live and replay. I am definitely going to be returning next year to compete!

It was interesting that 2 out of 5 of the ladies brown/black belt divisions were won by brown belts. With the growth I have witnessed in ladies Jiu Jitsu the last several years, I imagine it will not be too long until the brown and black belts will be separated. It’s quite recent that purple belts are separated from the brown and black belts – and those divisions stand on their own now.

img_2774After the last match, Itzel and I were quite hungry and went back to my hotel to try the dinner buffet. It was about $30 USD (he gave us the discount for first visit) and it was VERY good and worth it! I really loved all the little deserts that we proceeded to rank. I liked the carrot cake and flan best! Itzel went back to her hotel and I tanked out. It would be a long day the next day for me – changing hotels and then departing for the desert safari. Coming up next post!

Abu Dhabi Days 2 and 3

So I’ve already shared my perspective on the competition (read it here!) so now I will share a little bit about all the rest of the stuff surrounding the competition.

img_2606Finishing Day 1: After I competed, I went back to my hotel room. I was soooo hungry, but my need for sleep won out over the need for food. So I just downed a bunch of water and passed out from about 5 pm until midnight. I then looked at the clock, rolled over, and went back to sleep until 5:30 am. I did have the foresight to purchase food from a grocery store on the way to my hotel, so I inhaled a bunch of fruit and a rice biryani.

Day 2: My friend, Itzel, invited me to come train that morning with her. She needed to get some light rounds in with someone who wouldn’t break her – so I took a cab to meet up with her at the officers club where all the cool kids (aka black belts) were housed. They had matted out what looked to be a racketball court and it was just an open mat of awesomeness. I saw a lot of people I knew and surprised a few team mates (I’m talking to you DJ and Mike) who did not know I was competing. Of course, it was the black belt hotel so I was basically a minnow in a room full of killer sharks. And of course I loved every minute of it! After training we had food and just hung out for a bit before I started getting sleepy (stupid jet lag), and decided to take a cab back to my hotel.

Side Note: taxis in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are super convenient and cheap! I’d pay under $5 for a 15 minute ride. Cheap even by my standards! Most all of the drivers speak a good amount of English and I would just show them on google maps where I wanted to go and then off we went. The drivers generally do not talk with you other than to verify where you want to go and then to tell you the cost at the end of the ride.

 

Day 3: I met up with Itzel at the competition venue (we were hang out buddies this trip). She wanted to watch the country qualifiers because she would be competing against the winner on the following day. This was also her day for weigh ins so we waited around for that and met up with a few other friends who were also weighing in. She was good for weight and then we went and grabbed a bit of food from the trucks outside the venue. I got a shawarma – what kind I have no idea. I just told them to make it good because I was hungry. They delivered!

If you are a lady competing in Abu Dhabi, you are required to wear a bodysuit’esque style undergarment under your gi for weigh ins and competition. I squeaked through with just a rash guard, but apparently if your rash guard rides up you will be disqualified on the spot. The organization does have approved one piece suits available that you can purchase, and I know a lot of the ladies choose to wear a one piece bathing suit. So… bring on the wedgies!

So closes this chapter. For days 4 and 5, I will talk about competition results for everyone, a visit to the Grand Mosque (yes, I wore the veil), the grand finale of black belt matches on the big stage, a beach visit, and some cultural observations. I’ll then devote an entire post just to the desert safari adventure  before moving on to Dubai. So until then, here’s a teaser!

img_2706

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Motivation

When I first started competing, it was all about learning more quickly. When I started winning, I caught the medal bug and wanted to keep going. That has changed a bit in the last few years and I have been having difficulty defining what motivates me to keep at it.

External motivators are only good so long as you are in that particular environment at a certain point, it has to go deeper. For example, training with Team Lloyd Irvin leading up to Worlds has been a huge game changer for me. I call it the Jiu Jitsu pressure cooker – it’s far harder physically, but much easier mentally. I haven’t been able to make it out to see them for a while, but I need to put myself into that mental place and be responsible for my own drive. Then when I am able to go to TLIHQ I can contribute to the overall drive, instead of just feeding off it.

Okay, enough wind up. I just got out of a counseling session and we discussed specifics about things leading up to Pans next week. She was able to guide me to identify what is firing my inner motivator.My coach and team have never put the “value based on performance” burden on my shoulders. They see me training every day and know what I am capable of on my good days and on my bad days. Any performance pressure I feel, is completely self-bestowed. Here is the thing though. My coach and teammates have put so much into me over the years that THEY deserve to see me win. I want to validate that all the time they put into me was worth it.

Also, I did not realize until our annual team training that there are actually people who look up to me. If someone is going to have that kind of trust in me to use me as an example and role model, I had better do my best to live up to it!

So Close!

The Countdown is ON!

At this time next week, I will be on my way to California for the IBJJF Pan Championship tournament! I’m right on track with my weight, have energy for days, and am really looking forward to closing out a division with my team mate, Katie! There will be a live stream available for all the matches, so when I get my details I will make sure to share them.

This will be my 6th time competing at the Pans. My goal is to compete in the adult divisions all the way through at least one year as a black belt. When I competed in Atlanta I had one of the girls react in shock to the fact I was in the adult division. I suppose 32 seems old to a 19/20ish year old!

 

Abu Dhabi

Today I got my plane ticket to the Abu Dhabi World Pro booked. This has been a Jiu Jitsu bucket list item for years – and I decided to just do it. Maximus Kimonos has been awesome enough to supply me with a white gi for use – along with some cool no gi stuff. Give them a look-see and mention my name to get a 10% discount. I can say the gi is super comfy and very light weight!

I’m not yet sure which of two possible days I would be competing at the World Pro. My flight gets me in too late for day before weigh ins the first day, but in time for the same morning weigh ins. Of course if I compete the second day I will be all good for the day before weigh ins. Lodging and my flight to NYC still need to be arranged, but one thing at a time!

Your First Competition

I just finished my last training session at home before I fly out to compete in the European Championships. I’ve had a lot of things processing in my mind in these months away from the competition circuit. I’m sure these things will trickle out in my next few posts, but right now I am going to cover a special request topic.
I have been working with a student lately who is very nervous at the idea of competing for the first time. So I promised a special post summarizing the process.

Do you want to do it?
Ignoring all the nerves, you need to ask yourself if it is something you want to do. I recommend pushing through fear and just doing it, but if you don’t have at least a glimmer of desire to try, then it’s a stupid thing to be doing really.

So let’s say that you do have an inkling of desire to compete. The next hurdle most people face is trying to decide when you are ready. The truth is, if you wait until you feel ready, you will never do it. If you know how to hip escape, know a sweep/takedown, and know a submission; then you know how to finish a complete match. All the instructors I know encourage anyone who has this basic level of skill to dive on it and give it a go.

Division Decisions:
I don’t recommend worrying too much about fitting yourself into a particular division when you are first starting out. There is no need to put more stress on yourself than what is necessary – so don’t worry about cutting 10 lbs to make the lower weight class. I’m not saying to eat junk the week leading up to your matches! Eat sensible, balanced meals that will help fuel you – and just compete at whatever weight you find most comfortable. I have competed in many different weight classes in the last several years, and used those experiences to determine where my sweet spot is. The first few competitions however, I think are all about getting the jitters out of the way so that you can then start making those kind of decisions.

The Actual Competition:
Each event will be slightly different depending on which organization runs it. They do all follow this general flow:

* Registration
* Weigh Ins
* Bracketing
* Matches
* Awards

Registration
Some competitions will allow you to register at the door, and some require you to pre-register online. I know of one organization that accepts mailed in registrations as well. Make sure you don’t miss the registration deadline! A lot of organizations offer discounts for early registrations as well.

Make sure to double check with your instructor as to what team to list yourself under. This can make a difference as you will be earning points for yourself, as well as your team – and if you list the wrong team name then your contribution will not be counted.

Know if there is a cut off date for changing your registration details (rank, age, weight class, etc).

Weigh Ins:
Many competitions allow registered competitors to weigh in the evening before the competition begins. Some weigh you in five minutes before your match begins. The event website or flyer should have that information listed. It is important to note if you will need to weigh in with your Gi on, or if you can strip to your skivvies.

Most of the time when you are weighing in just before your match begins, you will be required to wear your uniform – so factor in the weight of your complete uniform when you are deciding which weight class to register for. Also note whether there is a weight allowance or not. One organization may subtract a pound from the scale reading to account for clothes or possible scale variations – another may not. Some competitions will move you to another division if you do not make weight, some will disqualify you from participating.

I remember when I competed in the European Championships last year and there was a girl who thought the provided “test” scale was the official weigh in scale. So she checked her weight, and then proceeded to sit down and drink a liter of water and eat her snacks. When the division was called she was in front of me at the official weigh in scale – on her knees begging and crying to be allowed to compete even though she had eaten and hydrated herself over the limit for the official weigh in. Unfortunately, she did not read the rules and suffered a disqualification for not making weight.

Moral of the story: do your homework and know the rules!

On That Note:
Know the rules for your event and division! There should be rules listed on the organization’s website, and I highly recommend reading the entire book before the event. Most of the time you will find restrictions on the types of submissions and moves you are allowed to do depending on your belt level.

For example: Most competitions do not allow heel hooks or knee reaps. Often the more advanced leg attacks are only allowed for upper level belts. For some children divisions, no submission attempts are allowed.

I remember one time I finished a submission on a girl and she got up, screaming at me and the referee that I wrist locked her. She did not know that it was a legal move in that division, and her lack of knowledge left her vulnerable to the attack.

So just make sure you know what are the allowable moves for your division at the event you are attending. In most cases, what you are taught in your normal classes is perfectly acceptable – but just be sure!

Additional Note:
Know the rules in regards to uniform requirements. Some events don’t care if you want to wear your fabulous tie dye Gi – others have strict requirements down to the color of the stitching in your collar. This information should be included in the rule book – but when in doubt, ask your instructor.

Bracketing:
If your event allows people to register the day of the event at the door, then division brackets will be made just before your matches. In some cases you may be called over if they need to combine divisions or move people around to allow everyone to have good match ups.

If your event is pre-registration only, in most cases finalized brackets will be published before the event begins. You will be able to view them and see who you will be fighting and how many matches you could potentially have.

Matches:
So once you know what time you will be beginning your matches, it’s time to get your game face on!

Number one thing to remember is to breathe! I don’t think I took a breath through my entire first match – my lips and fingers were blue when time was called (no, I didn’t get caught in a choke). This is the biggest hurdle you will find yourself running into – just trying to not let the adrenaline take over.

I recommend bringing along a friend or two to cheer you on and take photos/video for you. You are doing a tough thing and you need a cheer squad to support you! You will most likely have team mates at the same event, but if you are new the competition circuit, you may or may not have developed a tight bond with them yet (it will come! I promise!).

If your competition allows you to have a coach in your corner during your match, ask for one. Try to get an instructor or upper level belt with whom you are familiar. They will be able to help you by giving verbal instruction during your matches. You will have to focus to hear them – I guarantee it will be difficult with all the adrenaline and tunnel vision – but try to listen and trust them! If you don’t know where your coach is, ask the officials to call for a coach from your team. It is not an imposition for them to do so!

If the competition you are at does not have a designated area for your coach, this does not mean that you are not allowed one. They may just have to stand behind a barricade and yell a bit louder – and the officials will most likely not call them for you if you can’t find them. (make sure to have your coach’s number so you can text them if needed)

General flow of match:
* Escorted/called to table at the edge of the mat where you will be competing
* You will be instructed as to which side of the table or mat you are to enter from.
* Do not step onto the mat until the referee motions you to do so!
* Sometimes you will be required to wear a different colored belt or band for scoring purposes – if they hand it to you, just put it on.
* Referee will motion you onto the mat. Most people develop an entrance ritual – some elaborate, some not so much. You will find yours. Try to not make your opponent or the referee wait five minutes for an elaborate ritual though – it’s a bit rude to hold up the match.
* Shake the referees hand. They will usually motion you to shake hands with your opponent as well – although most people automatically go to shake hands without the encouragement.
* The referee will ask if you are ready (a quick nod is an acceptable response), and then give the signal to begin the match.
* During the match, focus on breathing. Listen to your coach. Listen to the referee.
* If at any point the referee give the signal to stop, freeze right where you are. It could be that you have drifted (or flown) out-of-bounds and you need to move back into the center of your mat space. However, you do not want to lose a good position – so make sure you freeze so that the referee can reset you in the same position you were in. (bonus tip: when walking back to the center during a reset, this is a good time to make eye contact with your coach so they can give you some instruction when you are not in the heat of the moment)
* When the match has ended – be it a submission or time running out – be gracious regardless of the outcome. Straighten your uniform and return to your starting position as quickly as your wobbly legs and shaky hands can get you there (adrenaline, gotta love it). The referee will raise the hand of the winner and then usually motion for you to once again shake hands. Make sure to shake the hand of the referee again before you turn to exit the mat space. If they had you wear an extra belt or band for scoring purposes, make sure to return it.
* Check with the table worker to see if you have any more matches.

Congratulations! You made it through your first competition match! You will likely find that you feel much more exhausted than you usually do after sparring a round in class. This is normal – the adrenaline kicks up the intensity and makes you use a lot more energy than you usually would.

Random Tips:

* If you think you’ve brought enough water, bring more.
* Pack warm layers. Events are usually held in gymnasiums or arenas where you can’t count on it being a set temperature. I have to pack a couple of sweaters when I compete in Las Vegas – 110 degrees outside, but my fingers are going numb inside.
* Bring snacks. Most venues do have food available, but it is usually ball park type (hot dogs, popcorn, etc) and not really the type of food you want to be putting into your stressed out system. I recommend various fruits, trail mix, granola bars, and peanut butter.
* Honey is super useful to bring in case you are prone to blood sugar crashes under stress like I am. Also, make sure you are stocked with electrolytes as well.
* Bring an extra Gi. If your Gi rips or does not pass inspection, you will be required to quickly change or be disqualified. In a pinch you can usually purchase a new Gi at an event or find someone to borrow one from, but why take that risk?
* If you need to ask the table worker official a question, try to wait until they are not occupied with keeping score of an ongoing match.
* Headphones. I consider this to be an absolute necessity. Listen to whatever puts you in a calm, focused frame of mind. As a person who ranges from Gospel to Kpop – you’ll get no judgement from me.
* Make sure someone films your matches! I’ll just prop my phone or GoPro up on the table if no one is around to film for me. You will be thankful later! I’m still sad that I don’t have any video from my first competition.

In Conclusion:
This was a huge information dump! If anyone has any other input, or questions, please comment!