Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, or BJJ, is a sport that involves technical skill in taking down and submitting an opponent. It is just you and them—one winner and, ultimately, one loser. This can be difficult to grasp especially when there are no teammates to share the blame of the loss. However, it is important to enter a grappling competition with the right mindset, so you leave your tournament with more insight beyond winning or losing.

First, it is most important to recognize your own skill and capabilities. You are already capable of doing so much more and have achieved so much more than someone who has not studied BJJ. So regardless of your tournament’s outcome, you’ve already done something that most people haven’t and that is something in itself. In addition, here are a few other tips, tricks, and thoughts to get into the right mindset for your next BJJ or grappling tournament.

  • “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the face” (Mike Tyson). Whether it’s your first, third, or thirtieth competition, don’t go in expecting to win. Go in expecting to perform your best and at your highest level. The excitement and adrenaline of competing can affect your response so focus on your training and don’t forget to breathe.
  • Tournaments can shed light on areas of weakness. Take the knowledge given to you and build upon it. If it’s a particular take down or lock, practice defensive maneuvers against it. If it is being obvious in your movements, allowing your opponent to read what is coming, practice hiding your intent before landing your BJJ attack.
  • Competitions are for learning and having fun.
  • If you need to tap, just do it. Don’t risk an injury just to prove you can handle what’s given to you.
  • If you can, try in-house competing at your gym with timers beeping, coaches yelling, and spectators cheering. Doing this can help desensitize you from the real thing, so you can focus more on your match and your opponent than on the distractions around you.

Secondly, aside from getting your mind ready for battle you should also take the following into consideration to lessen any outside stress the day of or leading up to the tournament.

  • The weight of respect, honor, reputation, and BJJ in general does not sit on your shoulders. So, relax, compete, and don’t act like a jerk if these don’t go your way and everything will be fine.
  • Don’t forget to hydrate (or eat) leading up to your event. Many tournaments require participants to arrive early to complete registration, check-in, or weigh-in but may not have them scheduled to compete for several hours. Be prepared.
  • Look up the event location and get familiar with the where it is at, how to get there, where to park, and where the check-in point will be. These tedious tasks cannot be avoided and when unprepared can cause undue stress and anxiety. Knowing in advance can help keep you relaxed before your match (and on time!).

Lastly, don’t forget to breathe. Literally. Many participants get so wrapped up in their thoughts that they hold their breath without realizing it. Controlling your breathing allows you to focus on your opponent and what they might come at you with. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!