Worst competitor ever?

As you may know, if you have read about me, I’m Brazilian Jiu Jitsu competitor. Now I want to tell you what I learned having 21 matches losing streak when I started competing.

1. Never Give Up

I started competing after 10 months of training BJJ. It was an easy decision, because I liked the art of grappling. I went to my first competition. It was back in 2010 in beautiful sunny city called Hanko.

I was very nervous. I went to my first match. We had handshake. I pulled guard. Then we grappled. I did my best but ended up by losing submission. I wasn’t happy at all after losing the match. My first competition was done because in BJJ competitions are tournament style.

I kept competing and lost next two matches. I thought that competition is not for me. I said to my coach that I don’t know if I want to compete more. He told me that it doesn’t matter if I lose and I should keep competing. So I did. I went competition after competition without winning match or even getting any points. I went 16 matches without scoring any point. And totally 16 competition and 21 matches before I got my first win. Must be some kind of record.

And still nobody remember or cares about my loses. Only I know but don’t care. If you have right kind of motivation competition lower belts doesn’t matter. You will lose at some point and you have to learn from it. Competition at lower belts is only practice for competition at black belt.

2. Competition anxiety

If you haven’t ever competed you’ve no idea about anxiety. Anxiety is a state consisting of psychological and physical symptoms. You’re very nervous about upcoming match. Your heart beat increases. You might start sweating and lose your confidence.

That’s not something you can imagine. You have to feel it. Every competitor has anxiety. Only a level of anxiety differs. For me, it was 10-15 matches before my level of anxiety dropped a little bit. In my last competition(my 31st competition) I had a very little anxiety. I’ve learned to deal with anxiety.

Here are few tips to deal with anxiety.

1. Don’t change anything on competition day. Don’t change your diet. If you normally don’t eat protein bars don’t start eating them on competition day. Eat what you normally eat. Don’t change your warm-up routines. Do same warm-ups in competition day that you do before training.

2. Start meditating. Meditation helps you deal with your thoughts. Once you start meditating regularly you will see how much it helps you to concentrate. After all  competition is 90% psychological and 10% physical performance.

3. Get used to competition. This is so clear but so true. Competing regularly will drop your anxiety levels. So compete as often as possible.

3. Find a mentor

When I started to compete I didn’t have any idea how to train. I trained in regular classes and trained in open classes. In open classes we sparred and did some techniques but I didn’t have any idea how to train wise and efficiently.

Find somebody who knows how to train wise and efficiently. You might think that your coach knows that but probably doesn’t. Why? Because normally your coach teach similarly than his coach. If you know somebody who have had fast improvement, ask him. I found my mentor after three years of training when I met guy who is my friend now. I learned so much from him.

I think that in BJJ there are good ways to improve faster. If you want to improve faster in BJJ here are few tips.

  1. Focus on your guard. Guard is the most important part of your game. Having a great unpassable guard helps you a lot on competition.Learn from the best guard players, for example Leandro Lo. Watch some Leandro Lo’s matches from youtube and see how he plays guard. Analyze matches and learn how to have an unpassable guard like Leandro . By watching understand how the guard works. Then start improving your guard. First drill guard movement, then guard retention and then start doing positional sparring. In positional sparring: training partner tries to pass your open guard. You get more repetition in positional sparring than in regular sparring. That’s why you learn faster.
  2. Train hard! I trained too softly when I started BJJ. One of my training partner went to train other gym, came back and sparred harder. I was angry at him. Although I didn’t say it. Now I understand that you have to spar as hard as you compete. Not every sparring session have to be hard but at least one sparring session a week if you are avid competitor. You should always challenge yourself. You should train people who are better than you. You should train when you are tired. PS. You have to know with whom you should train hard. Don’t train hard with that 50 year old dad who has regular job and come to train twice a month.
  3. “You either win or learn” saying which is not true. You should learn every time. You should analyze your competition matches either you win or lose. Even if you win you probably do some mistakes. You should also learn from your training session. Writing training journal is great way to learn from training.
  4. Compete at least once! Competition environment is different than training environment. In competition you will have anxiety. In competition you’ll see your skill level: your weaknesses and strengths.

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