Planning to Compete: How and Why You Ought to Have a Game Plan


Developing a competition game plan is one of the most important things you can do for yourself before a tournament. When you take the time to plan what to do from each spot beforehand, you are able to better think your way through tough situations when they arise.

So how do we go about developing a game plan? Well, black belt competitor James Clingerman suggests choosing just a few techniques from each position (guard, passing, mount, side control, standing, etc.) from both top and bottom. This makes your plan easy to remember and it focuses on what is easiest and most efficient for you.

Rigan Machado Black Belt Mark Massey suggests very similar. He says that when it comes toScreen Shot 2015-01-07 at 7.02.50 PM competing, we ought to have three go-to takedowns. I tend to agree with this idea. A person might be great at one very specific takedown, but as soon as they run into someone who has learned to counter it effectively, it’s important to be able to fall back onto another technique.

Obviously, one of the best ways to work your game plan is to spend time during rolling sessions getting into each position and working the techniques you intend to use in competition.

That said, we will have weak areas. If you can afford it, I would highly recommend getting private instruction from your coach and developing a few escapes/defenses (or whatever you need work on) from your weakest spot. This way, you can get some of the best instruction possible while improving your worst area.

Be sure that while rolling, you allow yourself to be put into your weakest position so you can work your game plan from there as well. It’s best to figure out how to handle yourself there before competition time.

You might be saying to yourself that you don’t really need to develop a game plan. Maybe you’re the exception to the rule and actually don’t; but you’re probably not. It’s a bit arrogant to think you can go compete without putting any thought into it and win.

Many of the best grapplers have plans. They know what they want to do and exactly how they intend to do it. They also know that things may not go their way, so they plan for the bad spots as well.

Marcelo Garcia says that he doesn’t make a game plan based off of what his opponents do. However, if you ever watch Garcia compete, it becomes obvious that he has a set of techniques he prefers to use. Watch any high level grappler and a pattern will emerge. Each has a few techniques that they prefer.

It doesn’t mean that you’re limiting yourself to those techniques. You’re a smart person. You know more than three techniques per position. Awesome. Use them. But plan on the go-to ones first, and when everything you’ve planned fails, then you can get creative.