The Benefits of Competing

We’ll start off this post by saying that BJJ competitions aren’t for everyone, and there’s no shame in practicing the art for the sake of the art. Simply training with your school’s partners is a testament unto itself, and most schools provide a rigorous gauntlet of opponents that keep your skills honed. However, there are some definitive benefits to competing. Today we’ll touch on a few of them.

Forming a Strategy

When you first compete, you probably don’t even think all that much about strategy. If you do, it’s probably only to the extent of taking the fight to where you’re most comfortable, which can be something as simple as pulling guard before your opponent does. But after that first battle, you realize the importance of having a calculated game plan. And that game plan becomes more complex the higher your rank, and the more you compete. Jiu Jitsu is often compared to chess for a reason, and competing takes your game to a higher cerebral level.

Escaping the Familiarity

Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you know many of your training partner’s bread-and-butter techniques, and they know yours. Once you’ve caught them with a sweep or submission, they become wiser to your game, and your level of success executing a technique—even if you’re doing it correctly—may vary. Typically when you’re competing, your opponent is alien to you and your game, and vice versa. It’s the perfect time to employ your A game, and see how it stacks up in a mano doesn’t know mano scenario.

Defending Yourself Effectively

When looking at your martial art as a pure self-defense method, competing allows you to experience true stress and intensity. Competing allows you to manage a variety of elements that you’ll have to contend with in a true-life altercation. Managing the anxiety of battling an unknown assailant, discovering the degree of your cardiovascular fitness, and enduring the accompanying adrenaline dump are all aspects that competitions force you to deal with head-on.

There are realities to competitions, especially for the BJJ neophyte. You can get injured due to an increased level of intensity. Your first time out can be overwhelming for a variety of reasons, ranging from dealing with your emotions to listening to your coach shout out instructions to dealing with success and failure. However, there’s no doubt competing has an overall positive effect. Competitions allow you to plug up gaping holes in your game, and will lead to greater confidence in your ability to defend yourself efficiently.

Protective Gear: It’s Part Of Your Uniform

Jacob & Noah

Mouthpieces are an essential part of your uniform

How many times have you said, “Oh I forgot my knee brace,” or asked, “Can I borrow some tape?” If these words haven’t come from your mouth, you’ve definitely heard them from some of your teammates. And while forgetting protective gear from time to time is certainly understandable, let’s be honest: when it comes to these matters, procrastination is the disease, one that breeds inaction.

The problem with this kind of procrastination is that it typically ends once you’ve actually injured something significantly. While it’s certainly human nature, it’s also wildly illogical; the key word here is “protective,” so donning your battle gear after injury completely defeats the purpose. Too often it serves as the grappler’s tipping point, and by then it might be too late.

In BJJ, “protective gear” runs the gamut. Here are just a few examples, and the scenarios you should be using them in.

Knee Braces/Pads

Like in many sports, in BJJ your knees take a beating. Any hint of soreness or injury means you should be wearing a knee brace. Really, why risk it? The problem with sustaining a knee injury is twofold: first, it’s the type of injury that can affect your quality of life—and your paycheck, if your job requires you to be on your feet all day. Secondly, a knee injury can also take you off the mat for months. So if you have any doubt, there is no doubt. The extra support provided by a brace can save the day, and knee pads can help save you from additional compression injuries that take their toll over time.

Elbow Braces/Pads

Much like with your knees, your elbows suffer on the mat, too. Remember the first time you stubbornly tried to escape an armbar, or gut out an Americana? Most BJJ practitioners have felt the telltale “pop” in their elbow that means a few days or weeks of stiffness and soreness. Wearing a pad or brace after sustaining this injury can be helpful if you want to keep training, or for those who develop recurring tendinitis. Of course, not being a clown and tapping is always a great game plan, too.


A good mouthpiece will not only save you from losing a few teeth, but potentially from a concussion, too. While blows to the head are rare in BJJ, they definitely happen due to errant knees and explosive movements. Though it’s rare, you’ll be glad you were wearing a mouthpiece when it happens that one time a year. For us here at Great Grappling, it is strongly recommended that if you’re sparring, you’re also wearing a mouthpiece.


Headgear can be a little more situational. For example, when your ear gets crushed from a choke attempt, or dinged by an elbow, not only is it painful but cauliflower ear can set in. While headgear can be uncomfortable, it’s better than letting a bad situation get worse due to repeated irritation—and anyone with a sore ear knows that if you grapple with it, it will get hit, every time you roll. And while cauliflower ear is a badge of honor in Brazil, this isn’t Brazil. This is America. Your spouse or your girlfriend, along with your family—and hell, even your co-workers—don’t want to see a grotesquely deformed ear that could have been avoided if possible. But, most importantly, why risk losing one of your senses? Some people are more susceptible to cauliflower ear than others. Genetics can play a part


Tape can also be situational. A jammed or sprained finger can hurt like hell, and also render your grip less effective. Pairing that hurt finger with another can mitigate this minor but pesky injury. Really, with tape, the issue is always having it when you need it—and not being a tape-leech that takes it from your training partners or front desk. Bringing your own, or creating a rotating stockpile that everyone can pull from, will ensure it’s always there when you need it.

With protective gear, we can go on and on providing examples, and preaching to use it when you need it. At the end of the day, it’s always about personal choice and responsibility. Wearing a cup is another one; it’s also tricky since IBJJF rules forbid cups in competition, so you have to decide how you want to train, and when to use one and when not to. But the two big takeaways from this post are: 1) if there’s any question about whether you need to wear your protective gear, then there is no question and 2) your protective gear is part of your uniform. For the latter, it’s all about creating a lasting habit, one that will let you last longer on the mats.

Student Spotlight: Patrick Hassing


Patrick Hassing is a mechanical engineer for Bradman Lake who has been training BJJ for six years. He was promoted to a purple belt in May 2013. Also in 2013, Patrick trained in Rio de Janeiro at Gordo Jiu Jitsu for three and a half months. Patrick loves the outdoors and takes delight in trying new things. His connection to other people is what he values most. His girlfriend just moved from Brooklyn back down to Fort Mill.

1. Did you train BJJ prior to coming to Great Grappling? If so, where and for how long?

I originally started BJJ at Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Harrisburg near UNCC. I trained there for eight months and then went to college at Clemson University where I taught BJJ and trained by myself for four years. After this I moved to Charleston for five months and trained at Charleston Krav Maga until I moved back to Fort Mill.

2. What sports did you play prior to training in BJJ?

I wrestled for two years in high school. I have lifted weights since I was 14 and I played football up until I entered high school.

3. Why did you decide to begin training BJJ?

I decided to try BJJ because I liked wrestling but didn’t want to do another year of it in high school. I had seen the UFC and was very interested in the grappling techniques the fighters were using and thus I tried BJJ out.

4. What are your training goals?

My goals are to compete for a time and eventually teach people. I would love to make BJJ the centerpiece of my life where it can provide an income without destroying my body. Hopefully one day I can do this by owning my own gym or assisting at another gym.

5. How has grappling improved your life?

Grappling has helped to open doors I never thought possible. It has given me recognition in the Charlotte community. On several occasions people have come up to me and said they have heard about my trip to Brazil or about my training. I also would have never been able to live in Brazil for such a period of time if I didn’t grapple. That was a wonderful experience that spans much further than just what I can do on a mat. Grappling has provided health, community, friends, goals, and a lifestyle. I would not be the same person without grappling.

6. What’s your favorite submission, position, or transition, and why?

I have some moves that I am an avid user of. The knee-slice pass has been a staple of my game for the past couple years. Reverse De La Riva, x-guard and half-guard are my favorite from my back. Bow-and-arrow chokes, as well as kimuras, are my favorite submissions. These are all high-percentage moves and flow well with my game. Thiago Gaspary and Jeremy Arel helped me a lot with these movements.

7. What’s your proudest BJJ-related accomplishment?

There are several moments I am very proud of. The first time I won an advanced division in competition was a great moment. Winning my first purple belt division was also a great moment for me, but I think my absolute proudest moment was probably being able to help Mario Sperry train for a super fight at ADCC. I was one of his main training partners and got the chance to help him prepare for his eventual win against Alliance founder and BJJ legend, Fabio Gurgel.

8. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I lived in Germany for a year studying and working as an engineer. I spent a lot of time refining my German language skill and can have a full conversation in German (that talks about more than just my name and how old I am). I have lived in ten different cities and four different countries as of now in my life and I hope to travel to see as much of the world as possible. One of my main life goals is to go to Cape Town in South Africa and swim with a great white shark. I am horribly afraid of deep water and sharks scare the hell out of me so I will make sure to do so while in a cage—but it is a must before I die.

Technique of the Month- Half Guard Sweep: Wrist Control

2. Video/Technique of the Month: Half-Guard Sweep: Wrist Control (the Anti-D’Arce)

One of our most popular technique videos, the wrist control sweep—aka the “anti-D’Arce”—is pure gold. Why? First, because it works gi or no-gi. And also because it completely reverses your fortunes—you immediately go from potentially getting choked to a more dominant position. But the most golden aspect of this technique once you master it? Your training partners won’t even try to D’Arce you anymore.

Instructor Spotlight: John Piper

Piper Promotion

John Piper was promoted to Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at the Great Grappling 3rd anniversary party on April 26th, 2014 by 5th Degree Black Belt Roberto “Gordo” Correa and Jeremy Arel. Professor Piper is the head instructor of our 4-6 year old children’s program and teaches allclasses on Tuesdays & Thursdays at GGBJJ. He’s also a father of two amazing kids and a husband of 16 years to the love of his life. When he’s not training or teaching BJJ he’s most likely watching BJJ videos and cleaning up the house.

1. Did you train BJJ prior to coming to Great Grappling? If so, where and for how long?

Up until I received my purple belt I trained in a satellite school of Marcelo Alonso (a 5th degree Carlson Gracie, Sr. black belt) with Dan Graff in Bend, OR. Then my wife had an amazing job opportunity all the way across the nation here in SC. Moving away from your instructor in BJJ is a hard thing to do. I found a small gym headed by 3rd degree black belt Paulo “Mushu” Elsimaani in Charlotte, NC, where I trained for almost three years before coming to Great Grappling.

2. What sports did you play prior to training in BJJ?

I played semi-pro football for a few seasons. I also enjoyed lifting weights and bodybuilding. In high school I was on the diving team. I love to challenge myself in different ways, and I try to always be learning.

3. Why did you decide to begin training BJJ?

I’m not exactly sure what the draw was but when I walked into the BJJ gym weighing 250 lbs with almost 20” arms I thought there was no way this 150-pound purple belt instructor would last one minute with me. Man, was I wrong… I was arm-barred at least 20 times. I felt so helpless and I’m really not a fan of that feeling. That sparked my love for the sport and it has turned into my passion outside of my family.

4. What are your training goals?

Well, one of my goals was to win a “world” title and that happened last year at the Masters Worlds in L.A. as a brown belt. I would love to do that again as a black belt!

5. How has grappling improved your life?

BJJ has changed so much about my life it’s hard for me to say. It’s helped my relationship with my son so much. It’s also made me calm and confident in almost any situation outside of BJJ. I love it and am lucky to have found it!

6. What’s your favorite submission, position, or transition, and why?

I like the back mount primarily. I’m not a big guy anymore and the advantages from that position work in my favor. As far as submissions go, I’m a fan of chokes in general I would say a one-arm rear-naked choke is my current favorite from the crucifix position.

7. What’s your proudest BJJ-related accomplishment?

My proudest moment was achieving my black belt with the support of so many. My journey has been an interesting one with many ups and downs, with so many amazing people influencing my style and learning. I’m humbled by the opportunities I have had to meet such great people, and to have them in my life!

8. What would people be surprised to know about you?

I would say I’m a skilled woodworker and love to cook dinners for my family and friends.

Black Belts
The newly promoted John Piper with his instructors Jeremy Arel and Roberto “Gordo” Correa and visiting black belt & GGBJJ friend Steve Hall.