Do you compete regularly? Maybe you are you one of the many Jiu-Jitsu players that prefers to just do classes and progress through training at their own school?
Many schools encourage competition. It is generally accepted that testing yourself against your peers is an excellent way to improve your skills.
However, for many the thought of stepping onto the mats in a competitive environment is an extremely daunting prospect. This is especially true for white belts and beginners! Competition tends to provoke a fight or flight response for many first time competitors. The adrenaline and feeling of sickness that is often experienced in the lead up to the competition is enough to ensure that they only compete once.
I have competed hundreds of times and can confirm that the nerves are always there. No matter the size of the competition the adrenaline high experienced in the lead up to my matches is always the same. However, over the years I have learned a couple of strategies to deal with these nerves and I now find myself using the nerves to ensure that I perform to my potential.
Here are some of my top tips for dealing with competition nerves:
Accept that the nerves are normal
This one is pretty straight forward. If you think about why you are nervous and understand the feeling then it may help you to feel more comfortable. The adrenaline is there to help you focus and get stronger for the match that it’s knows is coming up.
Remember, if you are not feeling nervous there is something wrong!
Know that your competitor will be experiencing the same feeling
Talk to anyone who competes regularly and they will tell you that they always experience some kind of nerves. Sometimes it can seem that you are alone in the venue and that you are the only one with this sick feeling. Once you realize that everyone including your opponent is in the same boat, you will start to feel better and be able to rationalize the situation.
Take a before and after photograph
This is a little trick I initially did by accident but something I now do for every competition. It started when I was sitting in the bleachers waiting for my division to be called. I sent my girlfriend a selfie to show her my nervous face.
The competition started shortly after and I ended up winning all of my matches and got the double gold. When I returned to the stands I took another selfie of myself sitting in the same area but this time I had 2 gold medals on my neck. When I flicked back to the previous picture I felt silly for ever doubting myself.
Even if I don’t win I like to take a photograph to show myself that win/lose I am still ok. Once my matches have finished I know I am a better player for having competed and gained some experience.
Listen to music
I don’t do this one personally as I like to be in the moment and enjoy taking in the atmosphere of the room. However many other people feel that music helps to relax/get pumped for their match and that is why you will see so many competitors in the bull pen wearing headphones.
Get excited to show how good you are
Trust in yourself and your training and get excited to go out there and execute your A-game. If you truly believe in your own skills, the feeling of excitement and anticipation will outweigh any of the negative feelings that that go with nervousness.
Try and recall recent sparring sessions where you controlled more experienced opponents. Doing this will help you to believe you are good enough to beat anyone when you perform at your best.
Don’t worry about who you might be facing
This one definitely applies to the newer competitor. If you are an experienced competitor it is often beneficial to have some info so that you can strategize.
However if you are a white belt there is little to be gained from looking up your opponent. Discovering that they are a World Sambo champion with 15-0 MMA record will not help! You should really just be focusing on what you are going to do and leave that stuff to your coach.
Stressing yourself about who you will be against is futile and will result in your competitor implementing their game instead of you doing yours. Instead focus on yourself and what you can control.