Photos by: Felix Rodriguez and Shawna Rodgers
It’s GI competition season, an exciting time for hard-working members of Renzo Gracie Lake Houston who want to test their skill and showcase their hard work!
Competition is an excellent way to push yourself beyond the comfort zone of just drilling and live rolling in class. By stepping out onto the comp mats at BJJ tournaments, you’ll really get to see your learning in practice. With luck and skill, you will win and it will reinforce that you’re doing the right things. More importantly, no matter what the result, competing will also show you a clear picture of not only your strengths, but also what holes you may have in your game. More often than not, you’ll come back to class the following week with a clear goal in mind as far as fixing your weak points, only fueling your drive further to test yourself for the next one. This is why we really want to push you guys to compete!
We’ve got a lot of tournaments coming up, including this weekend’s IBJJF Houston Open along with the TXBJJF tournament coming up in May so we want to make sure our students are ready and in the right frame of mind when it comes time for those comp days!
Here are just a few areas to focus on prior to BJJ tournament day:
Pre-tournament physical preparation – If you know you’ll be competing sometime soon, it’s definitely best to prepare yourself ahead of time. Ideally, you want to give yourself about 6-8 weeks of focused training with the tournament in mind in order to get yourself ready. This means going to class 3-4 times a week minimum if your schedule allows. You also want to tell your coaches of your goals so they can push you in class and set up the rounds necessary to simulate the tournament environment for you. You’ll want to push yourself beyond your comfortable limits in class and then push yourself further once you find yourself comfortable again. And off the mats, you want to clean up your diet too. Make sure you know what you need to do to make weight. We can (and will) make a whole separate article on this but eating the right things definitely matters. Do that early so you can avoid suffering late. And if you can get to the gym for some strength & conditioning and cardio, that will only help you further when it really matters.
Game planning and mental preparation – as your target tournament comes near, you’ll find yourself thinking about the actual competition more and more often. You’ll play out the matches in your head and start asking yourself questions. “What will my opening move be?” “Should I go for the takedown or pull guard?” “What if they do (insert move or sequence here)?” These can be anxiety-inducing thoughts and your body may even give you signs of physical anxiety as your brain tricks your nerves into thinking you’re in the actual situation already. That’s FINE and NORMAL. We all get nervous. The important thing is to use these nerves to your favor by getting used to them and then overcoming them. Do your best to visualize yourself doing the moves and hitting the sequences you’ve practiced successfully. Fill your mind with positive affirmations and always picture yourself winning, even when you have to get out of tough situations. Then physically, make sure to drill what you visualize so you can be technically proficient enough in those areas to execute. That way, by the time the tournament arrives, you should almost feel like you’ve been there before. And the more tournaments you do, the more times you prepare like this, it will actually feel like you have because that will be a fact.
Cardiovascular shape – This has already been mentioned but it merits mentioning again. Your jiujitsu will only work if you’re in shape to execute it. You don’t want to go to a tournament with bad cardio. If you can do some work in the gym, that helps a lot but more importantly, you have to train as if you’re getting ready for a tournament. That means pushing yourself in class and getting in as many rounds as you can. Take advantage of hard rolls. When picking a partner, choose teammates that you know will push you and can keep up tournament pace and intensity during a roll. That’s a big part of why we advocate giving yourself weeks if not months to get ready, so you can get used to the pace and avoid gassing out in competition. It’s not a good feeling to lose only because of your cardio. Train hard, train often and don’t ever give up due to exhaustion. Push yourself to do those extra rounds because they matter.
Effective breathing – Everybody gets nervous but by focusing on this area, you can help yourself combat your nerves and avoid an adrenaline dump. There’s a great blog on the Wim Hoff Method for breathing that can help you get a jump start on how to practice your breathing. Work on this at home and in practice. Then when you get to the tournament on competition day, make sure to do some breathing exercises, especially before your matches. This will keep you calm, deepen your ability to breathe into your lungs, and even help you avoid some adrenaline dump. Key points: breathing can help you relax, avoid panic, and focus on executing your game.
Warming up properly – The one thing you never want to do is enter a match “cold” so it is vitally important to warm up effectively before you compete. By doing so, you’ll be able to start your match off right, with your body/mind relaxed and ready to execute. Your first match should never feel like a warm-up round, because if you lose, you’re dead. Make sure to get your blood flowing, possibly by doing some HIIT-like workouts as a warmup and/or do some light rounds with a teammate so you’re already warm before you compete. Practice what you want to execute. That way you’re ready to go when you hit the mats and it counts.
What to do immediately after competition – Not to joke, but the competition bug is probably more infectious than coronavirus so it’s important to not treat competing like a one-time thing. No matter the result, stay even-keeled. If you win your first match, minimize the celebration and go immediately back into your routine to focus on the next one. Then you can celebrate after. No matter what happens, win or lose, make sure to shake the opposing coaches’ hand then walk over to yours so they can offer match feedback on what you did right and wrong, along with what you might have to adjust for the next match. Stay focused by falling immediately back into your competition routine, including a lot of the stuff mentioned above. Only when the tournament is over should we allow ourselves to unwind mentally (ideally for a celebratory meal!) then we can go back into class the next week and get ready for the next one, getting better and better every time.
That’s it for now! Good luck to all our students in your upcoming BJJ competitions!