Photo: Jelena Calasan
Your very first BJJ tournament is going to be stressful. “Do your best, and have fun” is much easier said than done, when you don’t quite know what to expect, and might feel a great deal of pressure to come away with some sort of standing. Although BJJ competitions can be pretty stressful, that anxiety can also bring you to a heightened state of awareness. Competition-related stress keeps you on your toes. Whether you win or lose, the tournament gives you an idea of where you stand. How does your style work against people who don’t know your game? Competition provides intense feedback which you can take back to your academy to help you improve. Here are some tips for harnessing that stress, staying calm and being at your best:
For your first tournament, it’s best to tell yourself you’re going to lose to take the edge off. Think carefully if you really want your friends or family present. Will this fuel your stress? In many cases, it might because you don’t want to disappoint them. If possible, on your first try, don’t tell anyone you’re competing, and just go to get your feet wet. Before the tournament begins, it may also be a good idea to avoid the mats, especially if other competitors are around talking and stretching. You’ll psych yourself out by sizing yourself up against other people, who might not even be in your division to begin with. Avoid looking at the bracket. This isn’t to say you should come into your first tournament completely ignorant, but save yourself the unnecessary jitters. There’s nothing wrong with being a “lone wolf,” and distancing yourself from everyone around you to stay focused. Some common lines you might hear are, “You better win!”, or “Are you ready?” It’s just best to just avoid those all together.
It’s important not lose lots of weight immediately before your first competition. If you’re 200 pounds, and have to fit the 195 pound weight class, a 5 pound cut is fine. But anything over that will just add to an already stressful situation. When your second competition comes around, cutting some extra weight, and organizing your game better will be fine since you will know what to expect.
About 95 percent of the tournament will be waiting to compete! The actual stressful part of competing is the excruciatingly long wait time. The real fight will actually only last about five minutes.
Everyone has different ways of dealing with stress, but something that could be very helpful is music. Listen to something that puts you in a calm, collected state of mind, such as classical music, is a good idea. Lots of people believe listening to hard hip-hop or heavy metal before you compete helps get your blood pumping, but it actually drains you of the precious energy needed to focus, and makes your body tense up. It’s best to listen to something relaxing for the majority of the time, and something more intense right before you compete.
Do NOT try and do some new moves you only practiced a couple of times on your opponent. If you have just a few, but good techniques you’ve regularly practice, use those. The rest will just be wasted. If you roll two days a week, stick to that. Do not get yourself into some sort of training camp before competing and injure yourself. You’ll just wear yourself out before the big day. Have water with you at all times to stay hydrated. Drink when needed, but don’t overdo it.
The best part of competing in any martial art is the undivided support you will receive from your team. The second your foot steps on the mat, and you feel your heart race, the sounds of your coaches and teammates screaming your name will automatically bring you back to the reasons you started in the first place. Tournaments are great ways to get acquainted with lots of international BJJ students, who might end up befriending you at the end of the day. Keep your head up and smile wide, whether your hand is raised by the referee or not. At the end of the day, it’s your very first tournament. Don’t set yourself any unreal expectations. Enjoy the process of the deeper BJJ journey that has just begun.
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