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competition -- friend or foe?

Discussion in 'Grappling Technique' started by ohmalley, Oct 9, 2010.

  1. ohmalley

    ohmalley Blue Belt

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    disclaimer: this is a longer post.

    so i did my first bjj competition today. it was our club's fall in-house tournament. overall i'm really happy that i did it, but i've got some questions for some of the more seasoned competitors.

    a little background: i'm 37, 9-10 month white belt, always been a pretty good athlete, came to bjj after getting a taste of judo at a hapkido school i trained at.

    first off, i'm not sure the whole competition thing is for me. but i'm interested, and want to try it out a few times before making that decision. additionally, competing makes me uneasy and tense. i generally don't like it, and it's rare that i perform as well as i do in practice or when i'm just goofing around and having fun. i got up this morning and my first thought was "i don't want to do this." nerves, fear, the normal stuff. and then other deeper stuff which, well, this isn't a therapy board so i'm not gonna take it there. either way it's nothing new i'm sure. in any event, the fact that i really DON'T like competing is one of the reasons i'm pushing myself to do it. i mean, if i try it for a while, get used to it, and still don't like it then fine -- i'm cool being a recreational player. but i don't want to let the fear of formally testing myself hold me back. i have this drive to make myself do anything that really scares me. almost like cutting off my nose to spite my face. make sense?

    alright, so here are my questions:

    1. anyone come from a similar starting point and wind up actually enjoying competitions and doing reasonably well in them? care to share thoughts on your own process?

    2. about half way through my second match i was doing alright. but i had this feeling: sure, i was nervous, but it felt like my muscles were shaking -- on the inside. i couldn't think clearly about what i needed to do (and i'd been in that situation and done it a million times in training), and i just suddenly got so fucking TIRED. so then there i was feeling really tired AND shaky. what gives? i guess i thought the nerves would go away once the fight started. my first fight only lasted a couple minutes, so i wasn't physically exhausted. i'd eaten well, was well hydrated, i'm not ill and i'm in good physical condition. but i felt like i was on bad drugs. what gives? seems like more than first time jitters ... ?

    3. for folks who tried competing and decided they didn't like it -- what sorts of things influenced your decisions? was the juice not worth the squeeze? or did the nerves and mental struggles never subside?

    4. is it simply a matter of practice? the more you do, the easier it gets?

    really curious for your thoughts. the more i do jiu jitsu, the more i realize i'm into it not just because it's fun and dynamic and tickles my brain as well, but because it pushes my buttons. i think it might be a great way to confront and overcome larger life stuff, and i'm curious about how competing might help or hinder that process.

    cheers!
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2010
  2. All In The Game

    All In The Game Green Belt

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    i dunno man prolly the gym or something
    I'm in a similar spot. I competed once and did very well, winning all my matches (Until I pulled something in my leg and couldn't walk for the next day) but I was still so nervous throughout that it was really just not fun at all, even though I did well and I'm glad that I did it.

    I plan on continuing to compete though, just because I had similar feelings when I first began playing football, basketball and any other serious physical competitions, but as I continued on I got into the groove and was able to enjoy myself.

    So basically, though I'm not any more experienced than you are in BJJ competition, I'd still recommend just competing a few more times.
     
  3. Rod1

    Rod1 Titanium Belt

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    You are competing to test yourself and to match yourself with other people, you shouldn't feel nervous at all.

    I could understand if

    1.- People are looking up to you

    2.- You are sponsored.

    3.- You are competing from a school that paid the trip.

    You are paying your own competitions, your own trips and in the end you go there because you want, why feel nervous?
     
  4. CyberFreq

    CyberFreq Blue Belt

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    1. anyone come from a similar starting point and wind up actually enjoying competitions and doing reasonably well in them? care to share thoughts on your own process?
    My first year of wrestling in HS I managed an impressive 0-4 record as a 160-lb JV wrestler. I hated it. I was so nervous going into my matches that year that I nearly threw up during every match. Eventually, by the time I ended my sophomore year and started my junior year I was into competition mode where I just love seeing how I match up against other people of different skills and strengths. I mean, sure I didn't get 'good' until my senior year (finished 18-9 record at HWT) but the journey was so worth the pain and losses up until that point. Something I decided the other day is that it doesn't matter how good you are at the beginning of your career, it's how good you are NOW that people care about and how good you are in the future. For me, personally, it's all about seeing where I stack up against the rest of the world.

    2. about half way through my second match i was doing alright. but i had this feeling: sure, i was nervous, but it felt like my muscles were shaking -- on the inside. i couldn't think clearly about what i needed to do (and i'd been in that situation and done it a million times in training), and i just suddenly got so fucking TIRED. so then there i was feeling really tired AND shaky. what gives? i guess i thought the nerves would go away once the fight started. my first fight only lasted a couple minutes, so i wasn't physically exhausted. i'd eaten well, was well hydrated, i'm not ill and i'm in good physical condition. but i felt like i was on bad drugs. what gives? seems like more than first time jitters ... ?
    Sounds like an adrenaline crash to me. It's just a case of you getting yourself worked up too early too fast, and your body can't cope with it so it releases a lot of adrenaline to compensate for the anxiety and then when you 'calm down' your body goes into a kind of shock where you feel weak. Not tired per se, but weak. Just stay clam and you shouldn't get that dump.

    3. for folks who tried competing and decided they didn't like it -- what sorts of things influenced your decisions? was the juice not worth the squeeze? or did the nerves and mental struggles never subside?
    Sorry, can't help. I love the competition.

    4. is it simply a matter of practice? the more you do, the easier it gets?
    Yup. I mean, to this day after 5+ years of competing in front of people I still get that last-minute nervous pinch that makes me feel like I have to pee, but once I hit the mat it all goes away.
     
  5. chino3

    chino3 Purple Belt

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    I grew up very competitive playing sports (soccer, baseball and swimming). I stopped all competitive sports after tearing my MCL as a young teen. Its been in my blood though, ever since. I didnt start BJJ until just a bit ago (29), and I am still super competitive but get nervous about the idea of competing.

    Why? I think its because its a totally different environment. There arent chances to make up for a mistake (think an error in baseball, or missed goal in soccer, etc), and that really gets me anxious.

    That said, I competed for the first time at Worlds (yeah, pressure much?) then another tourney a few months later. The nerves dont go away, but you just need to tell yourself to have fun. if you lose, then what? is anyone gonna remember? no. are you trying to make it as pro mma fighter or even BJJ instructor and your fight record is going to be reviewed? probably not. But if you cannot even look back at the experience and say you had fun, then dont do it. if there is even a small part of you that CAN say you had fun, then keep trying!
     
  6. awid

    awid Red Belt

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    this. i feel lucky i dont get as nervous as ts. he's almost made me scared now tho
     
  7. cartwheelpass

    cartwheelpass White Belt

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    It took me about 2 years of training before I ever wanted to do my first competition. I initially hated competition but I kept doing it because I viewed it as a challenge for myself.

    A) I wanted to see how good my jiu jitsu skills were against people I've never trained against. When you roll with the same people everyday, you don't get different looks and get too comfy. As you compete more, you see different things that people do that you may have never seen before. For you own jiu jitsu development, tournaments (I believe) boost your progress.

    B) The challenge is also making your gym game show up in the competition game. Each time I compete, it comes a little closer. I've progressively gone from freaking out to be ready to play my game ASAP.

    C) Each time you commit to a competition, you force yourself to train harder and diet prior to it. These periods are big boosts to your jiu jitsu development. Of course, breaks are good ideas...too many tournaments and you burn out.

    D) Going back to A, tournaments help to point out your weaknesses. Afraid of stand up? Then you need to work on that? Dying for the takedown? You need guard work. Of course you play to your strengths but you're well aware of your weakest spots. Each time you work on something, the next tournament is your chance to show off that work. Maybe you're a little calmer. Maybe your guard got more dangerous.

    Doing tournaments is all personal choice. I know guys who only train at the gym and some who are religious competitors. I love competition and I got better at handling it with practice.

    Happy training! If you aren't having fun, something is wrong. Make sure its fun! I also like to pretend I'm a real world class athlete preparing to win the Worlds or training as if I'm doing to do the ADCC. It probably won't happen to me, but it's fun to pretend and imagine. I'm sure guys like Cobrinha, Glover, Mendes and etc...built their great games one tournament at a time. Have fun!
     
  8. Commissar

    Commissar Gold Belt

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    I love competition. I competed for the first time 3 months into starting jiu jitsu, all 6 years ago. I still feel the same, just not as extreme - nervous, anxious, tense - but I use those feelings to really push myself to another level before a tournament. You either like it, or you don't.

    I've probably competed in close to 100 tournament matches (obviously completely rough estimate) and I still experience the adrenaline rush. The trick is to learn how to use it to improve your performance, as opposed to ruin it.

    I compete because I just absolutely love challenging myself. There is no better feeling when, after a month of rigorous, hard training, and after several wars in one day, having your arm raised. Yes, it's not all about winning and losing, but I'm to the point now that competing is all about victory. That is my goal.

    Lots of people compete for fun, and I compete for victory. I still enjoy it when I lose, but that isn't my goal.

    It all depends if you enjoy it or not. Remember, BJJ probably a hobby for you and nothing more, so don't let it become anything more. If you have the drive to compete and enjoy it, go for it. If it's just an unnecessary event that worries you, simply don't.
     
  9. Jagcorps_esq

    Jagcorps_esq Red Belt

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    The first time I competed, I was nervous. But really that was mostly from not knowing what to expect. I ended up not being able to enjoy it, because I was so concerned about getting hurt, not measuring up, looking stupid, etc.

    I've not felt that way since and I think it has a lot to do with the way that I train now. The place I'm at trains hard. Their sparring is tournament level every day of the week, against lots of really talented people.

    It's not like we just smash people all the time, but rather, that competition is a focus for many people, so they can turn it on when you need to get ready. We work a lot of drills, cardio, etc. We just work very hard....harder than I was used to.

    Competitions, by comparison, are pretty relaxed now. We're hanging out, talking with each other, cheering from the sidelines and rolling (competing) now and then. It's a very social atmosphere.
     
  10. ohmalley

    ohmalley Blue Belt

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    for the record, i didn't feel at match time like i was any more nervous than normal. i had butterflies, but i wasn't shaky or anything. the whole shaky/tired feeling that hit me mid-match was what really got to me. someone said it was an adrenaline crash, which makes sense. definitely felt like i had a shot of something.

    i don't know. i agree with you. but still i get jittery. ?
     
  11. blfdgrappler

    blfdgrappler Orange Belt

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    Hi Ohmalley, I'm in a similar boat as you. I'm 36 years old, though I have been doing BJJ for a while. I still get nervous at competitions, thought it is getting better the more that I do it. Mostly, I get nervous that some humped up 20 year-old is gonna spike me on my head or something crazy! Once I am safely on the ground, things get better.

    Your nerves are probably a product of your sympathetic nervous system kicking in (fight or flight). Your sympathetic nervous system is like a giant puppy that lives solely on instinct. In response to stress, your puppy bursts through the screen door, and all of your logical, BJJ knowledge base gets left sitting in the living room. That is why the moves don't come to you as quickly as when you are doing "safe," relaxed sparring in the gym.... It's difficult to get the puppy back into the living room so you can think of the moves. Fortunately (or unfortunately), the only way to "train your puppy" and overcome those nerves is to expose yourself to the same stressors over and over again until they become routine business. This is known as stress inoculation. The more you show your puppy it is okay, the less likely he will burst through the door, and the more you can just kick back and tap into your big book of BJJ knowledge, with your tamed puppy at your feet.

    The reason you likely got shaky is probably where you burned off your initial adrenaline burst after the puppy was unleashed. Totally normal -- probably a symptom of parasympathetic backlash. This too is something you can train with exposure. Next time, the adrenaline will be released more evenly and slowly, which means it won't burn out as fast and leave you worn out.
     
  12. Hellboy31

    Hellboy31 Brown Belt

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    Can't really be the voice of experience here, yesterday was only my third comp but all the things you described seem pretty normal. You get super amped up and then have a big adrenaline dump and completely gas... I think that's pretty standard in the beginning - It's really all about managing your emotions and not letting yourself get worked up. The more focused and calm you are, usually the better you do.

    Anyway, you competed really well yesterday. I stay you stick with it. There's always going to be parts of competing that suck.. The nerves, the cutting (if you do that), and all the aches and pains. BUT the joy of competing and winning dwarfs all that as far as intensity. The question is really do you want to put myself through a bunch of sucky shit for the potential of having a truely amazing moment (should you a win or place highly in a tournament you worked really hard to do well in).

    Also, I truely believe competing is what makes you a better bjj player. I think most people roll better when their just sparring (versus competing) but when you compete, you really get an idea of what works (and what you need to work on).
     
  13. Knock Out Ned

    Knock Out Ned el mero mero

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    1. I'm still not to keen on competitions, but I still do them regularly. When you get a gold medal, you feel like you're walking on air. When I do bad or not as good as I thought I should have done I feel pretty low. I usually do pretty good, but have done horrible once or twice as well. I've noticed that the competitions that I take less seriously (mentally) are the ones I do better in. Try not to get too worked up (easier said than done).

    2. I train four times a week faithfully, and I rarely ever sit out rolls during sparring practice. I don't drink and have a healthy diet. That being said, after two or three gi matches I always feel too tired physically and mentally to do no gi. I know what you're talking about, when you say "shaking". That part doesn't happen so much anymore, but I still get exhausted (try bringing some baby coconut water with you. This has helped me the most from getting fatigued). Part of the challenge of comps. is being able to think under pressure and perform. It's taxing.

    4. I still get really nervous. For me, it's not any easier, but having done quite a few, at least I know what to expect. In that regard, I guess it's a bit easier.
     
  14. Peteyandjia

    Peteyandjia Thanks Mirko. Staff Member Forum Administrator

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    You don't need to overthink it.

    Just pretend you're on the mat in your gym, and your opponent is a guy in your gym who you haven't rolled with yet.

    You can read a thousand zen books, try to find the meaning of it all, meditate on your relationship with your parents and realize how it has affected your life, have some epiphany about life and the universe, but none of that will actually change one simple fact:

    It's just a fight on a mat.

    Relax and do your thing.

    It's not some huge daunting task, that shit is all in your head.

    This is BJJ. This is what you like to do, remember? So have fun!

    As long as you are doing your best, and always looking to improve, you can be proud of yourself.
     
  15. Bullheaded

    Bullheaded Green Belt

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    I have yet to compete in BJJ, but I look forward to. That being said I'm currently working on a competitive exam to become a teacher here. It's very touggh mentally and being a nervous guy naturally, I've had similar symptoms. When you're about to have an oral exam, in front of a jury, which is gonna decide if you're gonna get a job for life in the public system here, you tend to get nervous. :p

    What helped me in my last exam was something inspired from the mental thing they seem to do at Greg Jackson's. Before entering the room, I spent time breathing, chilling out, focusing and visualising how it would be like. The walk toward the room, the jury waiting for me, preparing my paper and starting to talk, it seems pretty stupid and I wouldn't say I felt relaxed when I came in, but I was way less stressed coming in, less shaky, and much more able not to get overwhelmed by stress.

    I'd suggest you do the same. Before every match close your eyes, think about the ritual leading to getting on the mat, shaking the hand of your opponent and getting at it. Focus on your breathing too, and it might help you getting more relaxed and finally enjoying it.
     
  16. navita

    navita Orange Belt

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    ok I can give a lot of advice on competition, I've actually competed in 32 BJJ divisions, and placed top 3, 30 times. All of them were in 4 years. MY first tournament I did without anyone except my boyfriend at the time knowing. I was flat out terrified to compete for the first time with my team there. I didn't want anyone judging me... So I went completely alone, with not enough training, but I ended up doing really well. I was ridiculously nervous, but I ended up just turning my brain off and winging it. The second tournament I did, my team was there, my parents were there, my boyfriend was there, I cut a crazy amount of weight, only to be grouped in with females to weight classes higher. I was a wreck, I did start to relax but everyone being there made me ten times more nervous.

    With it being your first tournament these things happen, you still have the interest to compete, you have the advantage of doing the masters division because of your age, there is nothing to lose! Try a few more tournaments, each one gets better, you figure out what makes you nervous, what calms you down, how to control the adrenaline dump, and use it to your advantage. No one competes like they train. your teammates are learning the same techniques as you, your competitors, have learned different things, different variations, but that exposure is important.

    I will say though when I got my blue belt and had to change my division, my first tournament was the worst I had. Same with now, I just got my purple and moved down a weight class and a half.. The first tournament wasn't so good, the second way better, I played my game, and I played like a purple belt.

    Give it time. Kron gracie was an undefeated brown belt, his first black belt match, he got beat, which no one thought would happen. He had the family name to uphold, sponsors to keep happy, an impressive competition record, and lots of people that looked up to him... At least you dont have to worry about that!
     
  17. BatBoyJG

    BatBoyJG Brown Belt

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    The more you compete the closer you will get to the level that you perform when training in you're home gym.
     
  18. Goat Meal

    Goat Meal Shhh Belt

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    I competed yesterday. I really underperformed and was down on myself. My instructor could see that and had a talk with me. In it he said competing is a skill in and of itself that is entirely separate from BJJ. The more you do it, the better you'll get.

    I'm not one of those guys that has to hit up every competition in the world. I don't like big crowds and having them watch me in a fight really riles up my anxiety. But I also think competing is a way of discovering what you're truly good/bad at under duress. You will find out just how good you are in competition. Competing will take your game to another level. You'll go back to the gym and totally tool guys of the same rank that don't compete.
     
  19. littleone

    littleone Orange Belt

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    You could consider me a seasoned competitor and if you were to ask me if I enjoy competing I'd probably answer with something along the lines of "no, I hate it!" Basically, my nerves will eat at me and like you said, I don't compete as well as if I were just training at the academy. But competing brings out another side of me. There have been matches where I'll whip out a submission that I either rarely ever go for or something not even in my game. Or my defense suddenly gets ten times better or I'm pushing myself harder for that win.
    When I first started I'd get so nervous to where I was shaking and then when I was rolling I was so in a hurry that I didn't even know which way was up. It wasn't until I had my third competition that I basically fooled myself into thinking it was just a joke and that wherever we were going to eat after was more important than the matches I was about to take part in. I laughed and made faces and it seriously helped a lot. I don't suggest making a mockery of yourself or the sport/competition but telling yourself it's not life or death does help a shitload.
    Regarding the idea it might get easier with time is yes and no. I still get nerves but I don't gas because of them and it usually drives me to push harder, be more aggressive and have heightened reflexes/awareness.
    Now for the things I love about competition besides winning of course, would be the chance to show what I got. It's frightening to consider a match your 5 minutes of fame and everything you have learned comes down to that moment but think of it more like a stage to perform your best routine and it's a great feeling. I'm a firm believer that there is a difference between recreational practitioners and competitors. I think a great way to have confidence in your game is to test it out against others at your same level and either see that you come out on top and what your strengths are or even accepting a loss as a way to see where your holes are in your game. I would say compete again and try to see what different routines work for you like warming up, mentally preparing and staying calm-- that's the experience that is valuable.
     
  20. ohmalley

    ohmalley Blue Belt

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    thanks man, i appreciate that. on that note, i loved your second absolute match -- i've never seen that guy play so defensively before! nice, nice win my friend. and thanks to everyone else who's responded as well. there's really great feedback and perspective here. most of all i think it's just helpful to know that 'adrenaline dump' wasn't a sign from the gods that i shouldn't be competing. christ that was trippy. blarg!

    oddly, just as i posted this, i watched the latest episode of TUF & Aftermath that was all about the mental aspect, and what all these high level fighters go thru before competing (tyson cried?! wow!). while i was watching that i stumbled across two blog posts from bjjers about competition nerves and feeling like you hate it but doing it anyway.

    anyway, thanks again. i didn't expect much at first but this has been awesomely helpful.

    cheers!
     

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