By Paul Winter
Jiu Jitsu tournaments can be pretty intense, and in many cases, stressful for a lot of the people who sign up to compete.
Because of this, it’s important to go in with a good game plan, and avoid some of the major pitfalls people seem to make over and over in BJJ tournaments.
This way, you can focus on the gold, instead of adding extra strain and stress to what should be a fun and rewarding day.
Here are a few of the biggest BJJ competition mistakes, and how to avoid them:
1) Weight Problems
Before you ever even step on the mats at a tournament, you’ve got to make weight.
Depending on the tournament you’ve signed up for, this can look very different- for example, some federations allow night-before weigh ins, which is a far cry from the IBJJF practice of weighing in right before you hit the bullpen, and must be done in the gi (if it’s a gi tournament.)
The first thing you need to know is- what kind of weigh-in does your tournament require?
If it’s a night before, or morning of weigh-in, you’ll be able to fast from the evening before and still get food and hydrate long before you wind up on the mats. This gives you a certain amount of leeway in your weight cut.
If it is an IBJJF tournament, you need to come in on weight- meaning you have to be able to make the weight you signed up for and still be hydrated and ready to go- this means you’ll need to make an allowance for the gi itself, and the fact you’ll want to have water and food in your system.
To make this all simple, I recommend not cutting more than 5-10 pounds for your earlier competitions at low belt levels- if you have several weeks, you can use a sensible nutrition plan combined with some moderate cardio to lose a few pounds- you’ll want to be within 5 pounds of your target weight the week before your competition.
Planning a poorly set-up water cut can be one of the worst things for your cardio and stress levels, and is not recommended for more novice level competitors.
Pay attention to the weigh-ins, set a reasonable goal for target weight, or simply sign up at your walk-around weight. This will be one less thing to worry about, and you can focus on your training and game plan.
2) Cold Blooded
When you show up to class, do you walk straight in, throw your gi on, and immediately crank the dial to 100%?
Maybe if you’re still a young person with nothing to lose- if you’re more like me and sound like bubble wrap popping with each step and a list of injuries longer than your techniques- probably not.
Going in to your match “cold” is a good way to risk an injury- having a warm-up plan is crucial to not just avoiding injury, but being mentally ready for your first matchup as well.
If you’re flying solo, you can do some body weight squats, sprawls, shots, and so on, getting your body warmed up and ready to go.
If you have someone with you who also does Jiu Jitsu, do some drills- guard passing, pummeling, takedowns, and so on to get you in the right mindset and your body prepared for the rigors of a tough match.
3) Zero Chill
Between rounds, it’s essential that you hydrate, bring down your heart rate, and get rid of the lactic acid from your match.
Ideally, you won quickly and feel fine.
However, more likely, as a newer competitor, you’re feeling a little gassed, your grips might be “blown,” and your mouth is drier than the commentary on a bad History Channel documentary.
Have a bottle of water with either some sea salt or BCAAs at the ready.
Practice deep breathing from your diaphragm to get your wind and heart rate under control. Slowly walk around to stay warmed up and avoid “locking up” or stiffness from setting in.
4) Hail Marys
For whatever reason, once I get out on the mats in a competition, I have this terrible habit of thinking to myself: “ah…this is the perfect time to try out that weird Hail Mary technique I’ve been working on!”
It’s the perfect time to work the plan that you and your coach have put together, stay calm, trust the time you’ve put in, and take home either the “W” or the data needed to improve your game.
It is not the time for haphazard nonsense that is likely to result in an avoidable loss.
The same goes for your diet and other training as you approach a competition-
Don’t switch it all up!
Avoid the temptation to think you need to go nuts with things and switch everything at the last minute to get “comp ready.”
It is certainly ok to make small adjustments and constantly work toward improving your physical fitness, nutrition, and game plan- it’s not productive to throw a monkey wrench in the gears by introducing the unknown to your game-plan this close to a tournament.
I hope these pointers improve your tournament experience and make it more rewarding- there’s nothing quite like competition to ascertain your level, holes in your game, and where you can improve…
But also, and maybe most important, tournaments should be enjoyable.
Follow these tips to keep ‘em that way!
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