It is tournament time again for our gym. IBJJF Chicago Winter Open is a mere 5 ½ weeks away, which simultaneously feels like forever and no time at all. In reality it is a good amount of time to clean up some technique and get our conditioning up to par. It is also a good amount of time to start mentally preparing for the stress and nerves associated with competition…and convince some more than qualified members of the gym to participate. It is understandable that not everyone is psyched to compete. Some people never really compete or have any desire to do so. However, I can tell you that I was one of those people at one point.
At the beginning of my jiu-jitsu career, my attitude toward competing was kind of like my training: Too much panic and not enough thought and flow. I would be nervous for weeks before. During the tournament, I would get stressed, get gassed out, stop thinking about what I needed to do and, consequently, get submitted or at least laid on until time ran out. I was afraid of losing, making mistakes, knowing someone was better than I was, and being embarrassed. It made for an unhappy and stressful experience.
My attitude toward competing has since changed and evolved as my jiu-jitsu game has evolved. I realized that I was so afraid of losing during a match, that I was losing sight of what I needed to be doing in the moment, like staying tight, passing the guard, working for good position before transitions or subs, or defending an attack. I realized I needed to be rolling the way I rolled in practice…you know, not freaking out. Part of tackling that obstacle is realizing that losing at a tournament is not the end of the world, while winning is merely a stepping stone to your next goal. Either way, it is a learning experience that has the potential to make your jiu-jitsu better. It is a time to give it your best, roll with people you are not used to rolling, and try out all that technique you’ve been practicing. It is a time to be with your team and have fun together. (Road trip! Woot Woot!)
Physical preparation for a tournament can and should be deliberate for most of us. Make the tournament a goal and make a training plan. How many classes per week will you attend? How often will you do cardio or strength training? How are you going to eat to fuel your body well and keep your weight where you need it? It may seem like a lot of work; but, really, what else are you going to do in Wisconsin in January and February?
A huge part of preparation is strength and conditioning. Regular jiu-jitsu class usually is a great workout in itself, but supplementing your training with separate cardio and strength training can ensure that you don’t have to worry about being tired during your matches. Why worry about your endurance when you have so much other stuff to think about? Meanwhile, keep up with your technique and rolling. Think about the things you’ve been learning, where you have the most trouble, what you need to work on. While you are rolling, focus on staying cerebral, calm, collected, and flowing. Staying calm in practice helps quell the panic in more stressful situations (i.e. a tournament).
With proper physical and mental preparation, you will feel good going into a tournament. Go in knowing that there was not much more that you could do to prepare; you will go in to do your best and have fun. That is all your team expects. Happy Training.
In life we usually realize our mistakes if there are consequences: We act out in school and get detention; we miss a work deadline and lose a customer account; we rush through traffic and get a ticket. The same goes for jiu-jitsu.
In the gym we have the gentler reminders while learning technique from our partners and our instructors. In that setting, we correct mistakes in our movement, body placement and position just from watching the technique or having someone tell us “You need to do ______ instead”. We learn right away when we start training that part of being a good teammate is giving good feedback so that we correct mistakes in a slower paced environment. I believe that cleaning your game, or perfecting your jiu-jitsu game, starts here: methodical, consistent, focused drilling that commits corrected movement to muscle memory. So, yes, come to technique class, not just open roll.
Live rolling has its place, though. Our most deeply rooted mistakes are exposed in live rolling. It is very obvious that your technique is flawed if you get stuffed or reversed or submitted. There is an error somewhere, but where? Sometimes you can pick it out yourself. But sometimes it isn’t so easy to do on your own, especially if you are newer. Of course, having your instructor watch you and give you feedback is always good; but they can’t watch you always! So, many times if you are rolling a more experienced person, you just need to ask, “How did you sweep me?” or “Why didn’t that guard pass work?” and they can tell you that your base was way too far over or that you didn’t block the hip on the way through, or whatever. But usually, you need to ask!
Another way to pick out some mistakes is to videotape yourself rolling. Yes, I know, it sounds awful. You will probably look at the tape and realize that you felt much faster, cleaner and better than you look on tape. Despite any embarrassment, videotape can be a great tool for picking out your mistakes or even just figuring out which position you need the most work on! And don’t worry, you don’t need to watch in front of anyone else if you don’t want to.
We could get even more philosophical and ask, how do we fix mistakes that we don’t know we are making? What if we are winning without proper technique? Can we know what we don’t know? I guess that is a place for our instructors to yell at us for muscling position. Or maybe you’re just a weird phenom. When I run into that problem, I’ll let you know.
“God*%^& it Tap!”
Whether we are brand new or seasoned BJJ veterans, everyone goes through phases where they feel like they are getting beat by everyone, or getting caught when “you know better”, or just not rolling at your best. It may be just one guy that you constantly battle with back and forth.
It can, without a doubt, be extremely frustrating to be in this position; but it is what you do once you are here that will define what kind of jiu-jitsu fighter that you are and will be in the future. If you let your frustration overcome you, your game will only continue to suffer and you will, eventually, mentally break yourself down.
As fighters that are in it for the long haul, we need to take our training slumps and turn them into something more productive, something that will make us stronger and help us progress. It may be cliché, but sometimes the best way to learn is to fail miserably. If your mistakes, either physical or mental, are never exposed, it is hard to fix them. That is why the best jiu-jitsu fighters do not always train with white belts, or always train with people that they can beat. They train with people that challenge them, that exploit their weaknesses; they train with people that cause them to fail. Those failures are not ignored: The best fighters spend time figuring out what went wrong and how to fix it. Time is spent drilling the problem position over and over, so that one does not repeat the same mistake.
Of course, we cannot fail all the time, if just for the simple fact that mentally and physically we need to be able to “play”. There are times that we need to train with someone less skilled so that we can try new things, so that we can make mistakes without getting stuffed into the ground afterward. Sometimes we need to be able to do well and show ourselves that we are, in fact, progressing.
I think the key, like most things, is finding a balance. In jiu-jitsu training with a variety of people will be benefit your game. Training with more experienced fighters will challenge you and push you to the next level; less experienced fighters will allow you to try something new with less consequence; your peers will push your endurance and determination.
Tune in next week for some tips on pinpointing your mistakes and “cleaning your game”. Happy training.
No matter how big or small the tournament, I think it must be human nature to be constantly sizing up your competition.
The second I walk into a tournament, I instantly become some kind of secret agent, sitting in my spot ever-so-non-nonchalantly, looking at every woman within 100 yards to see if she is in my weight class. The thing about me is that, in addition to being blessed with poor depth perception, I am terrible at guessing what people weigh (I guess I’ll never get that job at the county fair). Yet, I continue to obsess (nonchalantly) over how truly dense a muffin top or good bicep is. She may be as tall as I am, but the density is the real issue.
It only gets worse…What belt is she? What body type is she? Would she pull guard or try to hip throw me? And on, and on, and on.
It turns out (as most of us know in our guts) that you should not worry about guessing how many girls you see that may or may not be in your bracket and just focus on whipping ass. This weekend at Combat Corner Vol 8. in Milwaukee, it didn’t matter what the other girls weighed or what body type they had; I played my game for all three matches and brought home some gold. Close to fight time, the focus needs to turn to your game plan and warming up, keeping the nerves under control and not caring who is on the mat with you. The confidence has to be there (or fake it until you make it); and the confidence will be there if you train and prepare the right way.
Welcome to the Gi Girl blog! Stay tuned for new and exciting posts coming soon about me, a woman trying to be a kick-ass BJJ fighter AND run her own Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA school. It’s awesome, but never easy…Exciting stuff, right? But, just to let you know, for legal reasons, there probably won’t physically be any treasure for you. Sorry. Hopefully some gold medals for me, though. Awwwww yeah.