I spent all weekend at a local competition without fighting (there was nobody in my division). I wanted to support my teammates anyways so I was at the competition watching the fights the whole weekend. And since I was there I decided to open my eyes and look for some common mistakes that I could share with you guys.
Beyond the many technical errors I saw a lot of big picture mistakes that nobody should make, ever. Like never ever. If you are planning to compete keep these simple ideas on mind and you’ll be ahead of the curve.
1. Not having a plan
I get it, it’s a fight and you can’t prepare for every single possibility. But there is a big difference between not knowing the counter for every latest move on YouTube and pulling de la Riva guard six times in a row and not knowing any sweeps from there.
At the very least you should have a plan A and a Plan B. doesn’t matter what belt you are, this should be a in your realm of possibilities.
Could be as simple as the following:” I will pull guard first, I will try to go for the de la Riva guard and go for the Berimbolo from there, and if it doesn’t work I’ll go for the lasso guard and work my triangle”.
Don’t just pull guard into a position you don’t know any options from, you’ll be a sitting duck and you’ll make your academy look stupid.
2. Waiting for an opening
Every now and again you’ll have some intel on your opponents, you know what kind of attacks they go for and you have a good coach or you were lucky enough to find a counter on YouTube so you feel prepared.
Good thinking, preparation is half the battle after all. But be careful to avoid the common mental trap of sitting around waiting for the move in order to apply your counter.
It’s quite natural really, you have a flashy technique and you want to use it. But by waiting for your opponent to pull out his prime move you are actually playing his game. You are not on the offensive anymore and you are now in a reactive mode.
You want to always be taking initiative so that you can impose your game no matter what the other person wants to do.
Besides that there is a huge possibility that they are already prepared for your counter because most of his teammates have access to YouTube too and they have been struggling to counter his game for way longer than you.
3. Getting too stressed/mentally tired
You show up at the venue around 9 am even though you are fighting at 3 pm and as you walk in you get as hyped as your nephew on Christmas morning. It’s perfectly natural, we all get excited. Soon you start to visualize the fight, get a bit of stress and get your mind in fight mode. Great you are the sharpest blade, ready to cut through anyone and anything. Now you just have to sustain this razor edge state for another 5 hours and 55 minutes.
I’m not a neuroscientist but I can tell you this, our brains are not made to be under this kind of pressure for a prolonged time. These people who walk around hyped all day usually get burned out mentally long before they ever set foot on the mats. They lose the clarity in their mind and are operating with weakened will power; this is far from the optimal state of mind for a fight.
I would recommend you to find a way to relax and calm your mind until about the time you start warming up. Once the time is there you can put yourself in the state that you prefer to fight in while still being mentally fresh. If you can nap without being groggy then you could go for that and if you are into meditating then you have another amazing option.
4. Exploding when you are already 10 points ahead
You see yourself as a true martial artist; you only go for the sub no matter what anyone says. You are so in touch with your warrior identity that you have Miyamoto Musashi as your wallpaper on both your phone and your laptop.
I’m not here to convince you shouldn’t be a submission ninja. But you should realize that a jiu-jitsu competition is a sports event where you play the game of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. And if you want that gold you will have to be smart. The person who wins in the end is not only efficient with his energy inside of a match but also knows how to use his energy across different fights.
So if you are up with a whole bunch of points and there is only one minute left in the fight then maybe it’s about time to start preparing for the next fight by calming down the pace instead of starting to explode all over the fight. You need to win the war, not only the first battle.
Competing is a skill just like your technique, your physical conditioning and your mental game. Every skill gets better with practice so don’t be afraid to fail a few times. The only way to really do everything right is by competing often and by modeling what other competitors do. If you don’t feel ready to compete yet go watch your teammates compete a few times in order to get more familiar with the idea of competing.
image credit: martha beck
image credit: wikipedia