Competition Mindset in Training
by: Daniel Frank
While teaching students, in a group or in a private setting, one topic has come up regularly that has perplexed a great many students. There are numerous students that wonder what type of thinking should go into the rolling portion of a class. Should the practitioner be thinking about points, should they be practicing their weaknesses, strengthening their ‘A’ game, or just flow and have fun? With so many options it can be very confusing for the student as to which mentality they should take.
The simple answer is that you should adapt your thinking for different situations. This is a great answer… in theory, but practically speaking it is a very difficult thing to do. If I came in on a Monday and decided to use each roll as an opportunity to think about my point game I may be successful. However, if I decide to roll again on Tuesday and ‘just flow’ I have defeated the progress I made on Monday. If I then decide that Wednesday will be my submission day I will have confused myself even further. I need some sort of organization in my training in order to fully understand what I have been attempting to learn and retain that information.
I will need to adapt my training, and the type of training that I do, to reflect the matches that I may have in the future. If I have a submission-only super fight in the near future I will go into my classes with a submission-only mindset while rolling. I might not worry too much about giving up points if it leads to my submission victory in the end. I will intentionally put myself into difficult positions in order to avoid the submission and work my way out of danger. I will roll for longer periods in order to prepare for the longer submission-only matches. By committing myself to this submission-only mindset I am fully preparing myself for my upcoming ordeal without confusing my thinking.
This method remains true if I am preparing for an upcoming points tournament. In my rolling and preparation I should be thinking strategically about scoring points and building and maintaining a lead. I should read, and re-read the rules of the particular tournament so I may take advantage of my knowledge and not lose because of my lack of knowledge of the rules. I should put myself into tough situations where I imagine myself down on points so that I may overcome the deficit and win the match. I should also consider thinking of my ‘Hail Mary’ move to win by submission if the scoreboard is tilted in my opponent’s favor and time is precious. Your training will be reflected in your performance and you should be prepared for all the possible outcomes.
What happens if you are not a competitor and have no interest in competing? How do you make the most of your rolls and get into a competitive mindset that will take your jiu jitsu to the next level? You need to give yourself some purpose and some goals. For a select period of time, a week for example, train to be a top player. Look to pass in all situations. Resist the temptation to casually sit to a guard. Stay on top. If you happen to get swept in a roll, then move until you can find your way back to the top position. Do this with different positions, with different submissions, with different defenses. You do not have to compete in order to roll with a competitive mindset, you just need to be diligent in giving your rolls a purpose in order to attain the competitive mindset.
Don’t forget though that jiu jitsu is fun. You should also schedule that time where you are just flowing and having fun. You can leave the ideas of points and submissions behind. You can relax with having a competitive mindset and just see where the roll takes you. You can relieve the stress that everyday life hits you with by putting your gi on and getting onto the mat. Having a competitive mindset while rolling also involves taking a break from that mindset so that you can just enjoy this lovely sport every once in a while.
Jiu jitsu is difficult enough when it comes to just learning different techniques. It becomes even more difficult when you are attempting to chain those techniques together. Once the idea of concepts and mindset comes into play, then this game that we practice stops becoming a game. It becomes a puzzle that can be solved, becoming ever more challenging to the user, just to be solved again, and again, and again. By giving yourself a competitive mindset while rolling this puzzle becomes easier and easier to solve.