Alright, so you paid your membership, you signed up for your very first tourney, and now your name is on the list... NOW WHAT?!
For practitioners who have previous experience competing in other sports, the jump to competition jiu-jitsu might not seem so steep in comparison to those who have never competed a day in their life. But as we all understand, jiu-jitsu is a whole different animal.
Some people wait years after they begin training to compete, some sign up immediately the first they hear about it, and others never compete at all. (Don’t be fooled, some of the toughest rolls you will ever receive are from those non-competitive athletes.)
Whether it’s a local tournament or IBJJF, your first tournament is always nerve wrecking. So here are some Do’s and Don’ts that have helped me over the years to ease the pre-comp anxiety:
DON’T look up your competitors
We all fall victim to curiosity. But whatever you do, do not Facebook, Instagram or YouTube the names in your division. Who cares where and who they train with and stop preoccupying yourself on how many competitions this person has done and what they have achieved. It really doesn’t matter if they are 10X Naga white belt champion or if they’re sponsored by Breakpoint. Don’t psyche yourself out before you even attempt anything. Put your attention solemnly on your training and what you are doing to achieve the top of the podium. Remember that losers focus on winners and winners focus on themselves.
DO make sure you sign up at a comfortable weight class
There’s nothing worse than stressing about your first competition, and having to cut 20+ pounds, and being extremely dehydrated right before you step on the mat. If you cannot gradually and safely go down in weight weeks prior, sign up for the weight you walk around at. Your body will thank you.
DON’T neglect your nutrition
Just because I said not to stress about making weight, does not mean you neglect your diet. The quality of food you eat will determine how well your body is ready to perform. During the training period, you want to be able to recover properly to take another beating the next day. Eat quality, nutrient-dense foods to help your body be at peak performance state the day of the competition.
DO find your pre-comp ritual
This one may take a couple tries. (I’m still figuring out mine.) But nonetheless, find what helps you relieve the nerves before competing. Now keep in mind, EVERYONE is different. Just because you see someone running outside the arena, doesn’t mean that works for you. Usually music is everyone’s universal remedy. Now whether you like calming music to soothe, or hardcore music to pump you up, it’s all up to you. You’ll see everything from running, to rolling, to stretching, meditation and visualization, and even dancing! Whatever it is, find what works for you and make it your “getting in the zone” routine.
DON’T miss competition class
You may have shied away from it before, but it’s important to attend competition specific classes. You will learn the proper terms, rules, requirements, and can work with your coaches on specific strategies. Intensity level might be kicked up a notch, but what is important to remember is that YOU WILL NOT DIE. You will be pushed, but the harder the training, the easier the competition. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your professor or coach questions! Now is the best time to ask.
DO have fun!
Remember, nothing is worth doing in life if you are not enjoying it. If the outcome is not what you expect, take the experience and relish in the fact that you did something outside of your comfort zone. Be excited for the lessons and experiences that are yet to come your way, and never forget that you’re doing something incredibly cool!