Competing in Brazilian jiu-jitsu is one of the fastest ways to increase your technique in the art. Constantly testing your skills in a live environment against opponents of different size and skill only increases your technique threshold.
Unfortunately, most first-time jiu-jitsu practitioners have the wrong mindset or outlook on competition. Brazilian jiu-jitsu is a martial art of empiricism. This means it is trained in realistic feedback scenarios with a resisting, live opponent.
This sort of training lends itself well to separating what works and what doesn’t.
Having the right mindset when competing for the first time is important and can directly influence your motivation to compete in the future.
I like to think of competition as simply a competitive open mat. It is a chance to gain more mat time against people you’ve never rolled with before at your age bracket, weight, and belt level. Of course, you want to win and be aggressive. That doesn’t mean you have to put immense pressure on yourself. To perform at your optimal settings it is important to remain calm. Often, people are very overwhelmed by the pressure of competition. I can remember a conversation with one of the savages I train with who dominates everyone he meets on the mat in his belt level and sometimes up to two belts higher. He still gets nervous and is worried he will make a mistake that he will be unable to recover from. He says he does not want to embarrass the school or get hurt. This train of thought is common among competitors.
However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Competing will make you better. Being “under pressure” forces your technique to be razor sharp.
Two things happen to most competitors when competing for the first time:
1. They forget to breathe
2. They resist with force
The combination of the two is not favourable for competition.
Both are the result of nerves and anxiety that you aren’t used to controlling.
Tensing up in addition to freezing and holding your breath is only going to tire you out, and tire you out quickly!
They key point to understand is that you’re not going to completely “avoid” these problems simply because you’re reading about them in this article. It’s something you have to experience and learn from in order to get better and realize why technique is king.
Having said that, here are a couple of tips for your first competition:
Be excited to display your technique. Fight your opponent’s techniques, not the opponent himself. Think of your first Brazilian jiu-jitsu competition as establishing a baseline for where you stand.
In simple terms, every burst of energy you expend requires a breath. This will keep you in the mindset of breathing consistently. The only thing in question from there is your conditioning and how much you’ve trained your body in the appropriate energy pathways for jiu-jitsu.
Resisting With Force
Getting out of the habit of resisting with force comes with mat time and practice. Knowing when to be tight and when to be loose and relaxed comes with experience.
Improving your technique through competition and mat time is the answer.
Good Breathing Will Also Help You Relax
If you’ve ever rolled with a high-level practitioner lighter than yourself, you know that they can instantly go from being fluid to feeling like they weigh 500 kilograms!
See you on the mats!