Competing in tournaments is good for several reasons. If you're rolling with the same people in class everyday, you may be getting better, but it's also possible that you just recognize their set ups and know how to avoid them. By going to tourmaments you will learn quickly if there are any holes in your game, especially from schools with different fighting styles. For example, if your school drills a lot of techniques with the rubber guard, how will you adapt when faced with someone who has been training mostly with the spider guard? Or butterfly guard? Or X guard? How about a former wrestler?
It looks like the first local tournament will be in a few weeks. The Copa Nova BJJ Tournament will be on Saturday January 24, 2009 in Ashburn VA. I wasn't able to make it to last year's event, but a few people in our club made it out there and reported that it was well run with good judging. It's not as big as NAGA or Grappler's Quest (but then again, what is?), but a good local tournament to go to and sharpen your skills. Put it on your calendars!
For those of you getting ready to compete, check out the SCHOOL CLASS SCHEDULE and see if you can fit in at least one extra day a week of training.