Learning to Compete in the World of Jiu Jitsu
The day has finally come. You feel as if you have prepared not only physically, but mentally and it is time to move forward in this game of human chess – Jiu-Jitsu. The moment has finally arrived. Your palms are sweaty; your heart is in a knot. The butterflies just won’t seem to go away. You’re not sure exactly where you are going after shaking hands with your opponent, but here you go!
My name is Tori Applegate. I’m a blue belt at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu Gulf Shores under my husband, Sean Applegate. I am by no means an expert, but I’ve been competing for a little over two years now and would love to share my experience and knowledge with you. Especially if you are preparing to compete for the very first time.
Make a plan of action. Make one or two plans of how you are going to submit your opponent. Since you are new, I wouldn’t make too many paths. It could get confusing. Practicing these plans over and over is vital. Muscle memory is your friend! Personally, I start 6-8 weeks out executing my plans on everyone I can get my hands on. Part of the reason for doing this is training your mind and body for if maybe Plan A doesn’t work out you can quickly switch to plan B.
Always have a backup plan. I learned that the hard way! Start all of your rolls standing to ensure you are comfortable with getting your opponent to the ground. This can be very challenging when you are new because you don’t know too much and most rolls don’t start standing. Cardio cardio cardio. Roll as long as you can every day. Sometimes your matches can be long. I’ve had one as long as 25 minutes! So, you must prepare and condition your body and mind. Your mind must be strong going into a tournament, but also remember that if you have a bad day at the gym that it is okay. Bad days are a learning experience and necessary I feel. How you handle these days helps to sharpen and focus your mind, to sculpt it to be stronger and more determined than ever.
The week of is very different for everyone I believe. The tournament is most likely on Saturday, so how should you train? I have always trained very hard up until Wednesday night and lighter on Thursday and Friday. It is very important that your body is healed up and well rested. If you have injuries, plan ahead. Get the tape and sports wrap you may need.
By now you are starting to get butterflies when you think about Saturday. You are wondering how it will go and what it will be like. Picture in your mind exactly what you plan to do. Exercise your plans in your mind. Imagine your opponent. Now imagine submitting your opponent. Breathe deep, calm your mind, and close your eyes . It is always good to meditate and focus on your plan of action, especially when you start to get nervous. Sometimes you will do this numerous times in a day, or maybe you only need to do it once. It always comes to me around Friday night. My heart will beat really fast and I will start to imagine what the venue looks like, the competitors, the referees, the coaches… Do not let yourself be intimidated. You are strong and have prepared well. Breathe, imagine, focus, tap. Done.
Preparing for competition. Some people don’t give this part much thought, but they should. Always pack food & water. Do not rely on the venue! If you are new to the game you would expect to show up at a tournament and see granola bars, protein bars, maybe a healthy coffee, bananas, etc. NO. Maybe they have one of those things, but remember the venue is mainly worried about the spectators, at least at the smaller local tournaments. Chips and M&M’s for you if you forget this vital step.
So I like to go to the store the day before otherwise the boys in the house may raid what I buy. That part is up to you. Everyone I’ve met does the food thing differently. The more you compete; I believe the more you adapt to a routine. You know, like with football players and lucky underwear/jockstrap? You do what you do and you stick to it.
I have always been a granola bar and banana kind of girl. When I went to Gracie Worlds last year I underestimated Vegas. Good luck getting to a grocery store. It was a mess. I ended up not packing anything at all to eat before I competed. What?! I know!! What a dummy! Luckily my friend Maurice saved my butt. He had an extra pack of baby food. Yes, that’s right baby food. You know the ones in the squeezable pack? I thought to myself afterwards, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever felt so strong competing.” So you know what I did? I decided from then on it was baby food for breakfast the day of my competitions. Besides the performance perks, it comes in a squeezable pouch, AND it helps kick those nasty nervous butterflies you get pre-comp! I also bring extra, for friends. Pack plenty of water as well. Chances are you will go through a good two bottles!
Day of the competition. Eat breakfast at least an hour to an hour and a half before you step on the mat. You need your stomach to be settled and your food starting to process and being used in your body. You do not want to be hungry. Do not be that person that doesn’t eat until after the tournament. It’s so bad for you and you will not perform at your very best!
Get to the tournament; weigh in, pay, etc. Check to find out when your division competes. Now it is time to focus. Get dressed and find somewhere to stretch and focus on your plans. I personally stretch a little in the morning when I first get up on the day of. Once again, imagine what you plan to do and execute it in your mind’s eye. See your plan going wrong and then picture where you will go from there. Picture your hand being raised. Breathe. One in, four out… Focus. Open your eyes. Pick out the people you may compete against, now once again picture your plan on them. This is a very good exercise and I cannot recommend doing it enough on the day you compete.
It is good to warm up. Some competitors do it, some don’t. I personally like to do it just seconds before my match starts to get out the first little rush of adrenaline. Be aware of adrenaline dumps. This is something you want to avoid. Sometimes it cannot be helped. An adrenaline dump is pretty much what it sounds like. You get all this adrenaline built up and it dumps at one time and then you feel like a pile of mush trying to submit a lion. It’s terrible. Warming up and doing the mental exercises help you not to get them, but most new competitors experience one.
The Matches. Now the time is here and you have the chance to struggle with your opponent and hopefully get the kill, but if not that is okay. Sometimes in our competitive spirit we forget about sportsmanship. Coming from someone who has been a bad sport a few times, don’t be her. It is a hard lesson to learn, but whether you win your match or you are an emotional wreck, you look your opponent in the eye, tell them how great they did and shake their hand. This is what makes the Jiu Jitsu community so beautiful. Respect your opponents and be courteous. It’s the right thing to do, I promise.
Well, I hope this was helpful for some of the newbie’s out there. I’m sure these aren’t all the tips I have. If you have suggestions as far as the topics you would like to see me write about, feel free to get in touch with me through any of my social media! Facebook, Instagram, Twitter