GB Student Question: “I feel very nervous before a tournament. How can I deal with the nerves?”

When it comes to competition jiu-jitsu, BY FAR the most common question we hear from Gracie Barra students is about dealing with the stress and nervousness in the weeks, days, and especially right before their matches.
“I feel very nervous before a tournament. How can I deal with the nerves?” a GB competitor writes in and asks.
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We asked this very question to several high-level Gracie Barra competitors and coaches and their shared their tips on dealing with precompetition jitters.
Professor Draculino says “Competition is fundamental for athletics in general, and this is also very true for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Competition is an important component of the Gracie Barra community.
It drives athletes to strive for goals, reach for new heights, and pursue athletic goals on a different plane from the non-competing JJ students.”
GB: A common question many beginner students have about competition is feeling very nervous before the tournament.
What advice do you have to help with pre-competition stress?
Prof. Draculino: It is very common for beginners. I would say no matter what, that they are going to be nervous in any combat sport, competition will bring the butterflies.
It happens to all of us. Even after all of these years I still have it before competitions.
It is normal.
It is something that some people are addicted to, to be honest.
It is something that is always going to happen but you have to control it.
After all of these years, I have found out that it is inevitable that you will feel that.
It is very rare to see somebody going there without any kind of nervousness or being anxious. They always going to be.
I think that it is better to try to take your mind off of the task in times that you don’t need to be 100% focused.
You don’t need to be thinking about this thing 24 / 7 because then it drains you.
Try to get something that brings you pleasure and takes your attention out of the mission.
Then at the time of the competition, at the time that you make weight, at the time of the warmup then you focus 100%.
I think that a lack of focus is as bad as too much focus.
I try to watch a movie, have some friends that laugh, play video games or just play with my dogs.
Something to take my mind off of the task.
Prof. Andre Almeida loves to compete in national-level events and shared his thoughts on dealing with pre-competition nerves:
GB: Can you give some advice to Gracie Barra students who like to compete?
Many students deal with stress before the competition and ask for advice on how to overcome the nerves.
What was the most helpful advice that either of your brothers Ricardo or Flavio told you about competing?
Prof. Andre Almeida: You will always feel nervous, it’s not a friendly game, it’s fighting, you will feel stressed.
What can help is to start on smaller tournaments to get used to the nerves, start getting used to the tension, and then go climbing up the ladder little by little.
The best advice that I have gotten from my brothers was really simple, give your best and then you will be comfortable by knowing that you did all you could do.
They always supported me 100% and gave me all the tools necessary for me to perform at my highest level.
We asked GB Ambassador and GB competitor Lucas Norat if he had any training tips for GB competitors?
Lucas Norat: I think the way you compete is a result of your everyday habits. So in order to feel good competing, you need to check your actions on a daily basis: if you’re doing your best every practice; if you’re training your mind every day with positive thoughts and attitudes; if you’re focusing only on the things that you can control instead of the ones that are out of your control. If you do these things every day, when it gets to the tournament day it will be just another day. You will always get nervous before any competition, but with time, experience, and doing these things you will be able to control these feelings and adrenaline before the matches.
Brazilian Prof. Isaac Dull is a multiple gold medal winner in IBJJF competition as well as an active MMA fighter
GB: What advice do you have for Gracie Barra students who want to compete in jiu-jitsu tournaments? Many feel nervous before the matches. What is your mental attitude before a Championship match?
Prof. Dull: My advice is: don’t be afraid to lose, it happens. Don’t worry about win or lose! The magic happens when you leave your comfort zone. My mental attitude is to clean my mind, just be grateful to God because I am healthy, be impassible. Hoka hey, today is a good day to die.
Prof. Ulpiano Malachias has a fierce competitive streak and shares his advice.
GB: What advice do you give to competitors who are dealing with nerves and stress before a competition?
Prof. Ulpiano: To experience the nerves is normal. If you don’t have the butterflies if you don’t have the nerves…if you are not asking yourself “what am I doing here?” …you are not in the right mindset. It’s normal to have nerves. But you have to be able to control them. When you shake the opponent’s hand and the referee says “combate!” you have to be able to put everything behind and focus on all of the training and hard work that you did for weeks leading to that tournament.
See also on GB Blog: GB Women: Prof. Jo Thomson on Dealing with Challenges
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt