Mental Preparation For Competition

The time before a major competition is when the athletes sharpen their skills, push their level of physical conditioning and look to strategies for the matches.

The physical part of preparation is important, but many experienced competitors also point out the importance of the correct attitude and mind set before a tournament.

One of the most common questions that new competitors have is “I feel very nervous before a competition. Is this normal? How do I deal with it?”

This week on Gracie Barra Blog, we talk with several experienced competitors and coaches about how they approach competition, the mental attitude behind a winner and some advice to help you be at your best on tournament day.

Prof. Draculino has often headed the competition training camps at GB Headquarters in California
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?

Professor 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, the time of the warm up 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.

GB: What advice do you give your students regarding strategy or game plan before a competition?

Professor Draculino: I say something simple: try to impose your game. Try to do what you do best.
Competition is not the time to experiment! You have to experiment at the school, at the gym, in training.

That is where you have to risk yourself, put yourself in situations that you do not normally do to evolve your game overall.

But in the competition you should stick to what you do best.
Sometimes the strategy goes in the toilet when the match happens, you have to be ready to perform according to what is on your plate!
That is why the base period in the gym is so important. You have to be good overall because you never know what you will be facing.

Try to do what you do best during the matches.
Always face very match as though it was the last one. Don’t try to think about the next matches because maybe you will get surprised!
It happened to me before and I am pretty sure that it has also happened to a bunch of people.

Always remember to go out there and have fun.
At the end of the day don’t put so much pressure on yourself because you stop thinking well.
Strategy is king! In the short periods of rounds and depending on what weight classes and belt that you compete at, mistake can cost you the match.

Prof. Andre Almeida
GB : What is your philosophy about winning and losing in the tournaments?
What inspires you to train so hard to compete?

Andre Almeida : Like everyone, I always want to win, but more than that I always believe I’m going to win. I get really frustrated when I lose a match that I know I could have won.
There are some matches that you can easily see the mistakes that you did, the positions that you lose and the opportunities that you missed, and that really pisses me off!

Besides that, if I lose because my opponent did a great job on simply blocking my attacks and were able to overcome my defences I try not be mad and learn from my weakness to come back stronger.

For years of my life I stayed full days on the library studying for countless hours and I believe that gave me a profound notion of discipline, and with good disciple almost anything is possible.
About the inspiration to train so hard to be able to reach a competitive level, the only thing I can say is that you have got to love the path, not the end.

On my life I have always tried to love, or learn to love, the path.
When I say that I workout from Monday through Saturday some may think of this as unbearable, I think I am lucky to have the time to be able to workout 6 days a week.

Of coarse some days are rough, but life is like that with everything, some days you just have to push through, but the majority of the days I’m doing tremendously grateful.

GB : Can you give some advice to Gracie Barra students who like to compete?
May 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?

Andre Almeida : If I could give one piece of advice it would be go forward! The benefits of you registering for a competition are uncountable, winning or losing you will already have a great take away from it.
You will always feel nerves, it’s not a friendly game, its fighting, you will fell 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 advise that I have gotten from 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.

Brown Belt competitor James Harnish
GB: Can you share with the Gracie Barra readers how you prepare for a major competition?

James Harnish : The way that I am preparing for my fight is putting myself in every possible bad position and trying to work my way out of it. I don’t really go to the gym to much for weight lifting, when I do go to the gym I usually work on my cardio as well as low weight high reps for explosiveness and speed. Most of my time is spent on the mats drilling and some high intensity training like being on the mat for about a half hour or more with a new training partner attacking me every couple of minutes so there is always a fresh person attacking me when getting ready for any competitions usually over a four to six week training camp before the event.

GB: What is the role competition plays for you in your jiu-jitsu?
James Harnish : The role that competition plays for me in my Jiu-Jitsu I would have to say would be that no matter what the outcome is I am always learning when I compete. I love to compete, it allows me to showcase what I have been working so hard on in training and also allows me to try out my techniques on someone who I have never trained with before but the big thing that competition does for me is that it helps makes my Jiu-Jitsu stronger….some people would say that competition and training are the same but in my opinion they couldn’t be more different, training is a time for learning and competition is a time to test what you have learned!

GB: Do you have any advice for young Gracie Barra competitors on training and competing?
James Harnish : If I were to give any advice to the young Gracie Barra competitors on training and competing it would be train safe and always look out for the safety of your training partners because if you hurt your training partners you will eventually have no one to train with. Also with training in Jiu-Jitsu and competing it has helped me overcome failure and accomplish my goals, not only on the mats but in life. Never get frustrated while training or competing, always stay humble and never give up….because you will never know your full potential if you do!

Prof. Fabiana Borges
GB: What is the role competition plays for you in your jiu-jitsu?
Prof. Fabiana Borges: I love competing. It keeps me disciplined in the way that I eat, I sleep, and I rest. It also keeps me motivated to learn, train. I learn a lot about my self when I am getting ready for tournaments.

GB: As an active competitor. Can you share with the Gracie Barra readers how you prepare for a major competition?
Prof. Fabiana Borges: I am always training with my students and working out, but when it gets closer to tournaments, I start to work more on my endurance and resistance. I usually do my preparation at Max Training in Austin two times a week and on the mats I focus a lot on drills and specific training.
I try to sleep earlier and eat better then I already do.

See also on Gracie Barra : Developing Your A Game