How to prepare for BJJ competition

We’re over halfway through 2019, which means it’s the perfect time to start setting goals for the end of the year. If you’re training at Gracie Miranda, or any other academy around the world, why not enter a competition? Or better yet, shoot for a gold medal.

NSW is home to several competitions over the next few months, including the December Sydney Cup in Sutherland Shire. Not only does competing give you a goal, it also improves your BJJ.

But if you’ve never done it before, martial arts competition can be a daunting prospect. Feel like you’re too scared to compete? You’re not the only one. Here’s how to deal with some of the natural anxieties that come along with grappling tournaments.

Drill

One of the most beneficial aspects of martial arts competition is that it forces you to objectively analyse your game. How are your takedowns? Do people pass your guard a lot? Is there a submission that you often almost get but can never quite finish?

Questions like these come up naturally, and you should spend the weeks prior to a competition trying to answer them. Turning your weaknesses into strengths will make you more confident when it comes to competition time — and it can give your Jiu-Jitsu game a huge boost.

Understand competition rules

This is an obvious one, but an important one. BJJ competitions usually take place under IBJJF rules, which you need to know. There may be a temptation to think that the rules aren’t too important, that you’ll be fine as long as you focus on securing dominant position and then a submission.

However, your opponent will be at an advantage if they know the rules better than you do. Not all competition rounds end with submission. If two equally skilled athletes go to a points decision, it’s almost a guarantee that the one who understands the rules better, and understands how to strategise the use the rules in their favour, will win.

Talk to your coach about how different positions are scored differently and how to use these positions to your advantage. There are also rules you need to know not to break, like don’t hold on to an opponent’s rash guard in No Gi, or don’t grab an opponent’s gi pants from the inside of the ankle. Some of this may fly during friendly rolls at Gracie Miranda, but can lose you points in competition.

Breathe 

This is important to both the pre-competition hours and competition itself. The day before and morning of competition can be a hugely stressful time. People who take Jiu-Jitsu competition seriously often say that they have trouble sleeping the night prior, often because they’re too preoccupied visualising their tournament.

Calming yourself down before competition, however, will give you a major advantage. Jiu-Jitsu is a complicated sport that requires both physical and mental coordination. It’s almost impossible to do well if you’re highly stressed and highly adrenalised.

Try to have a quiet night before competition. Yoga, or even just stretching, can help a lot. The deep breathing will level you out, as will stretching out your muscles. As the competitors at Gracie Miranda will tell you, it’s probably unrealistic to aim at being completely zen going into competition, but the more zen the better.

When it comes to competition, remember to breathe out. Competitors are often told to breathe, but often this translates to taking a deep breathe in — and then refocusing on their opponent without a considered breathe out. As a result, competitors are sometimes handbraked by a mild hyperventilation effect.

Don’t worry about winning

Are you hoping to make BJJ a career? If so, winning gold medals is very important. If not, it shouldn’t be your priority.

Of course aiming for a gold medal is a normal and healthy goal. But remember that competition is a tool to make you better. As cliche as it sounds, focus on doing your best. “Winning” is too vague an objective, it’s far more productive to break down performance objectives.

Don’t be preoccupied on winning, be preoccupied on employing the techniques you’ve been drilling, on staying calm and on defending tight. That will actually make you perform better, and it’ll help you learn. Which, as mentioned, is the main benefit of competition in the first place.

If you’re new martial arts and are interested in BJJ competition, come into Gracie Miranda for a free class and we’ll talk about getting you on the mats.

Author: Daniel Van Boom

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