A competition can either be an amazing, fulfilling experience or a frightening and soul-crushing one. And this doesn’t depend just on whether or not you’ll win the match and/or the tournament… It also depends, in large part, on how you’ll approach the whole ordeal; on how well you’ll deal with anxiety and fear beforehand.
If you deal with these negative emotions in a constructive fashion, you’ll have a much more enjoyable experience competing than it would be the case otherwise. Therefore, let’s see how to better manage them.
FEAR AND ANXIETY WILL BE THERE REGARDLESS
The one thing that you should do before anything else is to come to an understanding that no – you can’t get rid of fear and anxiety completely. They will always be there! Sure, they will shrink with time and as you expose yourself to situations that harbor them… But these emotions are normal and they will always be present, to one degree or another.
So what can you do, then? Don’t have a goal of being totally free from fear and anxiety. If you set this as an aim, you’ll just get even more nervous because you’re failing. Instead, acknowledge that these two emotions will always be around you – just like your opponent’s submission attempts! You could get tapped out at any point in time, but the thing which’ll save you isn’t the lack of opponent’s skill; but how well you defend.
BJJ world champion Josh Hinger has some excellent advice on how to view competitions as your training rounds, so as not to get too emotional abut defeats or wins:
“Tournaments are just like training rounds. In a training round, at any moment shit can go sideways and you end up on the wrong side of a good smashing. The round ends, you pick yourself up, shake it off and find your next partner.
New round, new opportunity. Tournaments are no different. Each tournament is an opportunity. And at any moment, shit can go sideways. The opponent can pull some ninja shit that you’ve never seen. The ref can make a mistake. Maybe there was a rule that you weren’t clear on. Maybe you slip, or cramp, or your knee pops. Maybe dumb luck and bad timing puts you in a bad position. Whatever the case, you have to pick yourself up, shake it off, and move forward. The greatest champions of the sport lost a lot before they became champions. I know so many people who failed at the same tournament year after year, until finally their day came and they handled business like they had always dreamed. No road to gold is ever smooth. It’s an uphill dirt road filled with potholes, ruts, death traps, obstructions, and shitty people who are trying to take you off course.
But when you finally get to your destination, you can look back at that shitty, busted up, hell-scape of a path that you successfully navigated for years and you’ll be thankful that it wasn’t an easy road. You’ll look back on it and all the obstacles that you overcame and you’ll feel a sense of pride. You can proudly proclaim that today is your day. Today, you are the champion. And you’ll be grateful for all those obstacles that made you the tough SOB that you are. Keep your head up. Your day will come.”