We all have different methods of preparing ourselves for tournaments, or really anything in life we do. As I have said in my previous articles, the mental aspect is the most important in training or competing, but for myself and the majority of people I have talked to, the mental aspect is the hardest part to grasp. Before a tournament, as the analytic person I am, I felt like I needed to think through different scenarios that may happen, or what I am going to do first when I go out there. It makes sense to have a strategy when you go out there, right?
Not in my experience.
Jiu-jitsu is unlike any other sport, especially if you are competing in a tournament (super fights are a little different). For the most part, you have no idea who you are going against. Even if you do know who you are going against, the sport is evolving so quickly that the guy might different from what he usually plays. Every scenario I played out in my head usually never happened. All of those thoughts usually worked against me by giving me an adrenaline dump before I competed, and it showed in my matches.
The thoughts will contribute to the adrenaline dump, but the combination of the thoughts and the pressure you put on yourself to perform well can multiply this. I used to do this all the time. I felt like I had to prove to my team and coach that all of the work they put in to make me better was well worth it. It was like everyone was counting on me to do well, and if I didn’t, they wouldn’t think I was good. I really just wanted to make everyone proud of me, but as I have learned through losing, this is pretty much the opposite. When you lose, your team wants to help you get better so you can perform better the next time around. Your coach and teammates know how good you are, but the thoughts and pressure you put on yourself can turn you into a different person on the mats.
You want to stay as calm as possible before your matches. As I am sure we all have experienced tournaments that tell you that you are going in 10 minutes, and then you go about two hours later. It is harder than it sounds, but not thinking about anything and being in the present moment is the best thing you can do before your match. If you have competed before, this will be a little bit easier for you.
How do you do this? You need to work on your breathing. Like jiu-jitsu, this is something you need to practice for it to be effective. If you catch yourself thinking too much, just focus on breathing that originates in the stomach and expands up through the chest. in should breathe in and out slowly. In my experience, the best way to do this is through meditation.
What are your best practices you use before a competition? Please comment below!