Jiu-jitsu is a personal trip. And many things are different from one practitioner to another. Today we are going to look at how to prepare well for a competition. How to approach these important events mentally and physically. I’m going to rely a lot on what I learned during my journey, but keep in mind that what works with me will not necessarily work as well with someone else or in the same way. As in jiu-jitsu, what matters most is the overall philosophy rather than the technique itself.
As I approach a competition I will change the way I fight and train. Instead of always trying to work on my weak points, I will focus on my strengths. The approach should be reversed. So I’m going to find two or three favorite techniques in each position. And I’m going to practice them excessively during my club preparation fights. By doing this I will create automatisms. I will get my partners used to these techniques, so they will become better to defend them, which will further push me to improve them to place them anyway. If you start to hear your partners say that they know very well what you are going to do but that they cannot stop you, it is that you are on the right track!
I will also change my pace of training and try to get closer to what the competition will be. Chaining long training sessions does not seem like a good approach to me. I will rather try to make intense fights by getting closer to the duration of the fights that I would have to do on the day of the competition (example: Ten minutes in black adult IBJJF). And I’m not going to chain them, I’m going to space them approximately from the rest time I will have on competition day (example: ten minutes break).
Note that many fighters like to exercise like chaining several fresh fighters in a row. Personally I feel like it takes my confidence away and makes my vision of combat too negative. I like to keep the notion of fun as much as possible, I will come back to it. Others will prefer to do movement rehearsals (drills) in the chain. Make your choice.
Weight can be a big problem. The first thing to do is to identify the right weight category. Ideally, you should be at the limit weight of your cat while being in shape and sharp. If I have a little flop and I have to get off the cat it can be a good calculation. On the other hand, there is no point in persisting in fighting in a weight category for which you will have to make great efforts with your diet.
Combat preparation, physical, mental preparation and diet have an impact on body and mind and all of this will affect your condition on competition day. It is therefore absolutely essential to take this problem seriously as soon as possible and not to underestimate it! Arriving tired and weak due to necessary weight loss just before the fight is a very negative thing that should be avoided. You have to come calm and confident.
So a month and a half before you have to weigh yourself and aim for the good category, talk to your instructor or to some experienced competitors of your academy who will help you in your choice. You will then have to follow this weight until the end. You have to be wary of your body and your propensity to lose weight or not. Everyone is different and everyone loses more or less weight at night for example. Better to weigh yourself too much than not enough! And make sure you weigh yourself with different scales. We have already had unfortunate surprises ….
This problem must also be taken seriously soon enough. Each federation may have different requirements. You have to have a sufficiently large kimono, but not too much. With a valid collar thickness, patches authorized in certain places etc.. The international federation does not laugh at all with the kimonos. I know this problem very well and despite my efforts I have had a lot of mistakes. The referees will be as ruthless for weight mistakes as they are for invalidated kimonos.
I remember being with a referee refusing me a kimono that had been validated the previous year. Another time I was refused a kimono with too thick a collar, I had to urgently buy a kimono at the Koral stand which was miraculously right next door … Again I had to try to doodle a patch of my stress kimono before my fight with car keys! Meanwhile the fighting is starting and if you are not on time on the mat, there will be disqualification you can be sure! So be careful especially if you have a sponsor who provides you with kimonos who are not classic kimonos that the federation knows well (koral, atama, vulkan etc..)
It is imperative to know the rules of the federation (IBJJF rules for example, or in French) in which you will fight. It is a shame to be disqualified for trying a technique to which you are not entitled. The rules change regularly and it is always good to read them again the week before your fight. Once you are sure what you have the right to do or not to do, you can focus on scoring the points and the strategy behind.
During a competition the ultimate goal is to submit your opponent but for that it will often have to be discovered and try things. Simply taking advantage of a small movement may push your opponent to open their game a lot more as you approach the end of regulatory time, which potentially will allow you to submit. In the same way as letting your opponent take a small, well-placed grip, letting him take a small advantage, even a small advantage in terms of counting, can cost you dearly! A good knowledge of the rules will refine your strategy during the fight. I invite in particular the most experienced of you to manage the increment of penalties well …
A concrete example of the advantage you have in mastering the rules: I am tied with my opponent in points. I am in a position to sweep but I know that if I swee, I will get to the top in a very bad position with a good chance of being swept down in my turn.
First choice: I reverse, my position is very bad but I do everything to maintain myself and score the points, I maintain three seconds, I look at the referee: 2-0 for me. I can’t get out of this position and get swept down in my turn: 2-2 equality.
Second choice: I sweep knowing that my position is lousy and that I will end up being swept down at one time or another. Rather than fighting at all costs to score, I let myself be swept down directly. Assessment of the operation: A zero benefit for me. I pass in front of my opponent!
I think it is good to relax in the last few days, you have to relax mentally and let the body rest. I always liked doing nothing the week before the competition, not even putting on the kimono to clear my mind. You have to arrive on D-Day with the desire to jiu-jitsu and fight. Miyao, for example, does drills and fights the day before the night of a competition. Again it’s up to everyone to get to know each other.
Besides doing nothing the last week has the big advantage of avoiding last minute injuries. I will be curious to know the percentage of potential competitors who cancel their participations because of injuries that occurred during the prep. I am sure the proportion is enormous.
No stress!! And even if you stress it is not that bad. You are unlikely to lose to someone worse than you and there is little chance that you will beat someone better! A good film, go to bed early, anything that can put you in a positive state. Try to think of some small details like choosing who to share your room with if you are on the go. The roomy that snores all night is a classic.
Make sure you don’t do too many different things in the last few days. For example you are wide in terms of the weight of the blow you make a double ration the day before in the evening. It is better not to change anything in your way of doing the last few days, not to disturb your organism. Normally you should start to imagine the phases of your upcoming fight. I tend to prefer to fight this and force myself to stop thinking about jiu-jitsu. Even if in the end there is little chance that it will affect the results to come.
Well done!! You are in the right place on the right day, on weight and not injured, you have not found phony excuses, you are there and ready to fight. You can consider that you have already passed a turn that many do not pass!!! We must now go. Regarding me, I am trying to be positive this day and absolutely avoid reflections like “What am I doing there, I will be better at home.. You have to look for the positive and focus on it, put yourself mentally well!
But above all, it must be said that it is a chance to be there, alive and fit. We are here to learn and live this day intensely. These are moments that we will all regret later, moments that we will remember, that we will talk about to our grandchildren. It’s a chance to experience these kinds of things and you finally have very little to lose, especially the ego in fact!
I think it is important to personalize this approach to competition. A good way to do this is to find a benchmark competition. If you fight regularly there will necessarily be a day or another that will be yours. Where everything will go perfectly. It will be your reference competition. Often I get stuck on a successful competition that I have in mind and I try to take things as I had taken them that day.
Everyone can have their technique, some like to sleep while waiting for the moment, others listen to music, walk, leave the gymnasium. It’s up to you to see with experience what works best. Some use diaphragmatic breathing techniques. I did it sometimes is good to calm down. You can also laugh with your friends, talk about anything and everything.
Above all, I avoid getting too into competition in “epic” mode. You can motivate yourself by having thoughts like “I’m playing my life on tatami mats today” in mind. Anyway I know very well that whatever happens I will go to the end of my life so as not to lose but I avoid repeating it too much and making it too serious. I don’t listen to music before I fight either because it plays too much on my mindset. I’m looking to be in a kind of mental balance. Neither too stressed, nor not enough. Calm but ready. It’s up to you to find out what works for you.
If there is one thing not to overlook is warm-up. To avoid the risk of injury and above all to arrive in the best possible conditions on the tatami, you must warm up correctly. An entire article dedicated to this subject should be made. To be quick, try not to do it too late. Warm up each limb and make at least two or three real heart climbs. Once the big warm-up of half an hour for example is done, you can cover up to stay warm and keep yourself going by doing small strides. But you can try to lower your heart rate to get low for the fight.
In modern IBJJF competitions, you have live screens and the approximate time of your fight. Assume that it is time for your fight at the latest. Be careful, if the three fights that precede yours on the tatami end quickly you may take the risk of not being able to warm up … Take advantage of the warm-up phase to weigh yourself with the test weight scale. It’s always best to avoid a very bad surprise at the last moment. Warming up always causes you to lose a little weight.
Last important thing to assimilate: The first minute of the first fight is likely to be horrible to live. And that’s normal, you have to accept it, don’t panic and tell yourself that your opponent is going through the same thing. Rising heart rate, intense effort means that a lot of negative things can come to mind. For example, you may feel like you have never felt someone so powerful. You can also feel too intense an effort or that the opponent absolutely does not look tired etc … These are views of the mind. We must not think too much and let automatisms act.
Good luck! Osssss