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Mental preparation for BJJ tournaments

March 28, 2014

The right focus at the right time.

Bruno F. Fernandes.

podium with a trophy on the first place spot.

I’ve heard before that creating a competitive atmosphere inside a school is counter-productive. The reason is that you can’t learn new moves if you are constantly trying to outperform your training partner. Even though I respect this point of view, I will propose a different one: competing with your training partner is not the same thing as when you fight against a rival in a tournament. And here is why.

When i prepare for a competition nowadays, the main difference from back then is not the amount of time that I put on the mats. There is a limit on how much your body can handle and after a certain threshold, more training becomes counterproductive. The biggest challenge I now have to continue competing is to concentrate mentally on this particular goal, while trying to juggle all the other priorities in life. You are probably no different.

The sooner I wake up, I get bombarded with e-mails, phone calls, deadlines to meet, appointments to attend and so on. Even when the competition is just a few days ahead, I would probably have to devote a lot more mental time to other tasks that need to be dealt with right away. If you are not at you early 20’s anymore, and cannot afford to devote 100% of your time to training, I am sure you can relate to that. Let me share how I deal with it and I hope to be able to help you.

At the surface, I have two choices: Either I give up competing, or accept it is not a priority anymore and continue to compete just for fun. Neither would sit well with me so let’s dig deeper.

I then asked myself, how much time do I really need to focus for a tournament? To put it some other way, how much do I need to think about the fight before it actually happens? Not that much I figured. of course i am assuming that you do have some time to put on your training. But when you are not at the gym training, don’t feel guilty if you are not thinking about it. It might actually be the right thing to do

Simply thinking about a fight just stresses you out. It does no good at all. What you do need is to train, eat clean and sleep well. That’s it. Really.

The night before a tournament, I still don’t think about the fight too much. But I don’t deal with anything else either. So while others hate the anxiety that precede a tournament, I actually look forward the night before it. I try to be alone, quiet and do something that I truly enjoy. Go read a book, watch a Bruce Lee movie, browse YouTube for funny videos, waste time on Facebook…whatever. On that night, you owe nothing to anyone and all you want is to have a good time doing some mind numbing activity.

After a good night that you’ve slept like a baby, do what you got to do but still…don’t think about the fight too much. Make sure you pack everything, arrive at the venue on time and start warming up. Focus on what you have to do, your own rituals and not the fight itself.

I zone in about 10-20 min before the fight. I try to forget past achievements, the other roles I play in life, and everything else that does matter more than a mere tournament. At that point, the upcoming battle is all there is. You chose to be on the spot, and the time has come to make the best of it.

I feel my heart rate increasing, my muscles get tense, my breathing is deeper and yes, butterflies in my stomach also. I embrace all these symptoms instead of fighting them. They are there to show that you are ready to fight. With time, you are going to start craving it; and will always come back for more.