At last nights class where I was guest instructor in the academy (with no black belt head instructor) several of the students were asking about preparing for an upcoming competition. The students were majority white belts with a few blue belts. The tournament was to be held in about a months time.
I said my opinion that when it came tournament time, 4 things seemed to be most important for the competitor’s preparation:
1) Physical conditioning
With the increased pressure and adrenalin of the tournament match, fatigue is a MAJOR factor in how matches are won and lost. When the competitors are tense, their gas tank empties rapidly! If you are not in shape, you will lack confidence.
Competitors who have superior technique may lose due to getting prematurely tired in a match. You can’t execute your techniques when you are tired! In addition to your physical conditioning regimen outside of bjj class (ex. running, weights etc.) there are bjj applicable calisthenics that will imitate the demands of a match.
One academy I trained at believed in the weeks leading up to a tournament, ALL those competing had to do the in class conditioning – consisting of free body squats, pushups and burpees. An intense warmup, high tempo, lots of repetitions and done to the point of extreme fatigue.
The coach would boom in his loud Brazilian accent “I don’t want to see any of the students getting tired at the competition!” *Tip: Muscular endurance and cardiovascular condition are more important than raw strength and explosive power. Allocate your conditioning time accordingly.
2) Passing the guard
The majority of matches (especially at the black belt level!) are contested with one competitor trying to pass the guard of the other. Many bjj players prefer to jump immediately to guard as that is where they feel most comfortable.
Many matches are won by points from sweeps and if you want to be able to deal with a dangerous guard, you had better drill your best guard passes. There are different types of guards and you should make certain that you have a solid pass technique for whatever your guard your opponent tries to play!
*Tip: Have at least one pass for your right side. Be prepared to change directions when your opponent defends to your left.
3) Defending the guard
As getting your guard passed is a major source of points for the top player. If you want to play your guard game, your guard retention and recovery skills are SUPER important! Watch high level guys and their guards might be 90% passed…but they get a hook in and quickly regain their full guard.
This can be enormously frustrating to the passer and they can become less careful and take more risks in their passing.
Which opens them to making mistakes!
Much of the positional sparring to prepare for a tournament consists of passing and defending guard. Start your matches from guard / passing and reset when a pass happens.
read also: Specific Training: A Great Training Method
It is important to know what your preferred grips are and have a gameplan for what sweep / submission you are trying to do when you arrive in guard.
*Tip: Grip strength is vital to be able to control your grips and among the first things to fatigue in a match. Try doing your pulling conditioning with a gi hung over the chin up bar to strengthen those gi grips!
All too often, this part is neglected in bjj training until the week before the tournament. The matches all start standing and it is extremely fatiguing to grapple standup of you are not accustomed to it!
Spending time grappling standup helps you relax and feel comfortable in that portion of the match so you don’t tire as rapidly.
If you have some comfort standing because you have spent time training there and it does not seem to be this foreign world, you will not tense and help conserve your energy. You don’t need to know many different takedowns: have 2-3 solid takedowns that you are confident in and understand how to sprawl and defend common attacks.
Many matches between closely skilled competitors are decided by the 2 points for a takedown and you want to be the guy who gets that crucial 2 points!
*Tip: Even if you are a bottom game guard fighter, you still need to drill your standup. Practice getting to the guard from standing grips. Arrive on the bottom in the best possible situation for you!
What are your secrets for preparing for a tournament?
Credits: Mark Mullen
Gracie Barra Black belt based in Asia