Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Preparing for a Tournament Pt. 1: First Tournament

Gearing up for a competition can be nerve-wracking. All you need to do is look back into the earlier days of this blog and you will read about me freaking the crap out over my competitions. You worry about making weight, you worry about whether the other girls are going to be good, you worry about not losing your first fight and about not disappointing your instructor, teammates, friends, family and complete strangers who may be watching you.

Me at my first tournament, trying to look intimidating but
instead looking like a freak. 
So, in an effort to try to shave off a little wasted worry energy, here are some things I've learned in my very short time as a competitor.

1. If you are competing at a NAGA, fight in the weight class you are in. As women, you never know how many competitors you are going to have and if there aren't many, they will combine weight classes. Stephanie, my training partner and best friend, once kicked her own butt trying to drop to lightweight only to get to the NAGA and discover there were no other lightweight girls. She had to fight up a weight class.

This won't happen at IBJJF tournaments where they are very strict about weight classes, but even in those tournaments, consider how much of an advantage dropping weight really is. Will you still be strong? Will worrying about your weight take your focus off your training? I would say, if you are within a few pounds of the low end of your weight class, go for it. Otherwise, I am not sure it is worth it to kill yourself to drop weight classes.

2.  Don't worry about how good the other girls will be. One year I stressed about all the possible girls in my division. I tried to look them all up on facebook and youtube and google search. I creeped their pages for any shred of information that might give me some insight into their bjj prowess.

But then, when I went to California last year, I decided that this wasn't about them. It was about me. It wasn't about how good they are, it is about me putting my skills to the test. Every day I started talking positively to myself about my strengths. I visualized myself doing what I do best and winning my matches. And I forced myself not to focus on whether I would win or lose, but on grappling at my best.

You cannot control how good the other girls will do. But you can control how well you prepare yourself physically and mentally. And if you are grappling at your best and you lose, who cares? All that means is that you still have room to improve--hopefully you knew that already. ;)

3. Me and Steph would always say things like, "I just hope I don't lose my first match."

Why? What if you fight the best girl in the division and lose your first match? Does that make you suck because you lose to that girl in the first round instead of losing to her in the second round? It doesn't change anything.

Instead of focusing on NOT losing or NOT getting submitted or NOT getting swept or whatever negative thing it is that you fear, try to focus on something positive instead, like passing guard or doing a take down or doing a sweep. Visualize yourself doing these things over and over again and drill them like crazy in your classes.

If you worry about things beyond your control--like what the other girl may do to you--then you are wasting energy. Focus your energy on the things you can control--like drilling positions and submissions and visualizing yourself doing those in the tournament. Visualize yourself winning and put in the work to make it a reality!

4. If your coach, team, friends and family shun you because you lose a match then you need to make a social move. Your worth to your team does not rest in how many medals you bring home. And if it does, then forgive me but you are on the wrong team. And certainly your worth to your family and friends isn't tied to how well you perform.

When I competed in Atlanta, some of my family who lives in Georgia was there. They had never seen a BJJ tournament. Before I fought, I gave them a crash course in what to look for: dominant positions and submission attempts and escapes. Their eyes were huge the whole time. They had next to no idea what was going on. But they screamed their heads off when I was fighting and were proud of me even when I got disqualified. Why? Because they love me, not because I grappled well. Your friends and family will be proud of you too no matter what because you are important to them as a person.


DefGrappler said...

Extremely good guide. Wanna think about how cool it is that you're putting wisdom in other people's heads now instead of being the clueless beginner of before?

I'll point other new people to this over time. Keep on being awesome.

Liam H Wandi said...

Beautiful and very helpful guide. You inspired a post, as you often do. Do you fancy a collaboration? I'll email you :)

A.D. McClish said...

@DefGrappler: Absolutely! I am still beginning my bjj journey in so many ways, but it is a great feeling to be able to pay it forward!

@Liam: You know I'm game!! ;) Shoot me a message.

Anonymous said...

lol at your family screaming! That happened to me when I did the Grapplers Quest in columbus oh. I hadn't even invited them because I knew they had never really expressed much concern with bjj and halfway through the no gi divisions they just showed up and surrprised me..ofcourse I burst into tears and wound up winning the rest of my divisions but you are correct their support even though they don't dully understand what's happening was all that mattered