How to be a Better Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Competitor

Apparently there is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament this weekend at Ryerson University and my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu coach, Amir Yafawi, and some of the Kombat Arts BJJ students will be competing in it.

When I was speaking to a few of the competing students, I noticed that a lot of them spoke about how they prepared themselves physically and technically…but no one really spoke about their mental preparations.

When I look at some basic training areas, I see this:

Physical Preparation

Technical Preparation

Tactical Preparation

Mental Preparation



Nutrition is what you need to eat and drink to either gain or lose weight, fuel your workouts, and help you recover from your workouts. Rest is the only time you will grow. You need to completely shut down, be aware of over training, and only surround yourself with positive people.

Physical Preparation is your conditioning and strength training. Technical Preparation is learning and owning the tools you will need for the tournament (arm bars, triangle chokes, sweeps, guard retention…all the fun stuff). Tactical preparation is your strategy, how to make moves flow into each other, how to deal with different types of grapplers. And finally there is mental preparation. Your focus, grit, toughness, ability to visualize different scenarios, how will you overcome adversary when you are behind on points, how to avoid “choking”, how to avoid being a “slow starter”, how to slow yourself down if you are too hyped up….all that important stuff, that unfortunately a lot of athletes don’t prepare for, and find themselves losing because they don’t have that edge.

Even though all of these areas are very important I feel that athletes neglect mental preparation. How can you improve your mental preparation:

Ask for Help. Let your coach know that you want to improve in competitions, and aside from the technical and physical aspect, how can you improve your mental game. Have that coach observe your warm up, your “self talk”, how you handle pressure, your “walk out” to the mat, and how do you deal with wins and losses. A good coach, sensei or professor, with competitive experience will be able to make some suggestions. A better coach will know their limitations and help you…

Get a Professional. Seek the help of a sport psychologist. At times, our MMA, Muay Thai, boxing athletes and myself have used a sports psychologist. My favorite one is Robert Schinke. We have used him on numerous occasions. These guys are professional and can pinpoint things you may have never thought about it. And they are pretty inexpensive, especially for the advice and exercises they will give you.

Read a Book. If you are on a budget, or just a DIY type of person, than invest in some good reading material. There are a lot of good sport psychologist books and sources out there. Just make sure that it makes sense for you, and can you readily apply the information. You don’t really want anything too technical; leave that to the professionals. My favorite book that I recommend to a lot of my athletes is Mind Gym : An Athlete’s Guide to Inner Excellence

This book is excellent because it is short, has some interesting exercises and draws from real life cases. I like some of “C” Words in this book:

Confident. Tiger Woods said, “Every time I play, in my own mind I’m the favorite.” Confident athletes have a can-do attitude, a belief they can handle whatever comes their way….

Control. Successful athletes are able to control their emotions and behavior. They focus on what they can control and don’t allow things that are out of their control to affect them…

Courage. A mentally tough athlete must be willing to take a risk. That’s what peak performers do….

In any case I can keep going on. It’s a pretty good book. And there are others out there like it. Ask around and do your own research. If you find a good one, let me know and your team mates know about it.

But one for sure; if you want to be a better competitor in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, you have to work on your mental game. You may find that this is the missing piece to complete your game.

Sifu Joey de Los Reyes

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