5 Tips for Your First BJJ Tournament

Daniel Frank winning a match at the IBJJF Pan Ams in 2013

I have been competing in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for over ten years now and can still feel some of the nervousness I felt in my first tournament. Battling and conquering this nervousness is just one of many things to address and overcome in competition jiu jitsu. If you are preparing for your first jiu jitsu tournament here are five great tips to help you prepare and come through victorious.

1.  Strategy: Having one technique that you are excellent at can be great. It might get you a lot of victories while sparring at your academy, but you are not guaranteed to use it to get gold at a tournament. On the other hand, trying to learn all the techniques in the world is not feasible and also not beneficial when you are trying to quickly think on your feet while competing. The best route is to form a strategy. Design a ‘path’ to victory and give yourself options. For example, give yourself some options when you start a match. If your opponent engages you, think of your two best throws. If your opponent is not willing to engage, think of your two best tackles. From every position develop a couple of options to use immediately. If ‘option A’ fails move to ‘option B’. Once you have developed your offensive strategy then start to develop your defensive strategy. Develop options for when you are trapped in inferior positions. Developing these strategies will give your pre-competition training focus and prepare you for the big day.

2.  Visualization: Visualization of techniques is almost as important as physical practice of those techniques. In the days and weeks leading up to the tournament visualize moving through each match. Visualize your best options from each position. Be as detailed as possible. What hand are you gripping with? Which foot is forward? What gi are you wearing? How will you win the gold medal? Visualize yourself receiving your medal after a great tournament. If you can picture these things in your mind then you can make them happen when you’re on the mat.

3.  Confidence: Confidence is key when you are going into your first tournament. Being nervous is normal for all competitors, even seasoned veterans. Lacking confidence is not. Competitors should go into every tournament confident that they have trained enough to be victorious. They should be confident that they can defeat any opponent that they come across on tournament day. When a competitor starts to question and lose their confidence they need to immediately stop that pattern of thinking and again trust in their talent, their training, and themselves. You will be the champion.

4.  Nutrition: As you prepare for your first tournament you need to think about your diet in the weeks before a tournament in order for you to fuel your training, provide energy to keep in top physical shape, and to lose weight if you intend on cutting. Nutrition is also very important the day of the tournament. You want to drink plenty of water while avoiding drinks with high levels of sugar (juices, sodas, etc.). You will want to keep your energy up while waiting for your matches, but you do not want to eat food that will make you feel slow or sluggish and will affect your performance. Granola bars, energy bars and bananas are excellent for you while high sugar snacks should be avoided to prevent any energy crashes in your body.

5.  Relaxation: Relaxation is very important the day before and the day of the tournament. The day before the tournament it is best to avoid jiu jitsu. Do something to keep your mind off of the tournament. You’ve done your training, you’re ready. There is no need to get agitated and lose sleep. Watch a movie, play with your children, read a book, do anything to keep you calm and relaxed. During the tournament try to avoid spending too much time watching other matches. Find a quiet place to stretch out and relax before your warm up. The more relaxed you are before your matches the better you will do during your matches.

The results of your matches will ultimately rest in your hands, but if you heed these tips you may just gain the upper hand and have your arm raised at the end of the fight.

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