The first few tournaments that we attend as jiu-jitsu competitors are inherently going to be tough. Odds are that new competitors will lose, and lose often. Odds are that you’ll be a weight-class or even two higher than your healthy weight, and you won’t be ready to apply techniques that you’ve learned in training. While winning should always be the goal in competition, there are other goals you can set on your path to victory, milestones, ways your growth as a grappler and as a human being.
Here are 5 goals you can set for yourself right now as a competitor regardless of if you’re a seasoned competitor or complete beginner, goals that will help you improve.
- Make a new friend at the competition. People don’t initially realize how social jiu-jitsu is. Jiu-jitsu is an art that relies heavily on exchange of knowledge. Some people are incapable performing well without being intense and focused before competing, that’s fine, talk to people AFTER you compete. If you get beaten, maybe ask your opponent to show you how they beat you. The truth is that your opponents are NOT your enemies. Some of my favorite people in jiu-jitsu are former opponents, the sooner you realize this the more fun you can have at the competition venue. One of my favorite moments is the “Oh YOU again!” Moment I have when I see that a former opponent is on the bracket with me. These friends can later translate to potential training partners. I’ve been tapped by former opponents and have tapped former opponents in preparation for matches.
- Learn to be coachable. Listening to a coach can be difficult, and sometimes can result in failure as coaches themselves are human, but the truth is that we can all work on being more coachable. When you get out on the competition mat, try to at least LISTEN to what is being said to you, and attempt it. If you make this effort you will be infinitely better as a competitor as time progresses. I’ve seen less skilled and less experienced practitioners defeat far better opponents simply because they were more coachable and their coach knew a path to victory. Some of my best wins have been as a result of listening to coaching of which I was uncertain (but I trusted my coach so I went with it.)
- Record every match. So often I see people compete and not record their matches. You can learn so much from watching your own footage. You can learn your own strengths, weaknesses, areas for improvement, areas for focus. Make it a goal to record every single match in which you engage and you’ll be much better off for it. I’ve developed entire gameplans around footage of my own matches, and I’ve corrected critical errors in the training room based on that footage as well. Recording your matches will give you a blueprint by which you can learn from every match.
- Make a game plan and follow that game plan. When watching people compete it becomes abundantly clear who has planned ahead and who hasn’t. Being physically talented and knowing technique is great, but understanding paths to reach the desired outcome is greater. Putting together gameplans, and plan B gameplans and plan C gameplans is amazingly helpful, following those gameplans in competition is MORE helpful and will help you grow as a grappler.
- Find moments of calm. You won’t win, but you can start to find your own “happy place”. If you are able to calm your nerves at competition you’ll be able to start improving your performance exponentially. I’ve won and lost matches based on my calmness or lack thereof. My goal now as an active competitor is to be as calm as possible at all times in the competition venue and on the competition mat. I may win, I may lose, but the goal remains the same. Might as well do either with a smile on my face.
There are plenty of ways to improve oneself in jiu-jitsu competition. It’s a fantastic vehicle for growth as a grappler. For those of you who have experience in competition what are some goals that you’ve set for yourself outside of pure performance and immediate results?
Emil Fischer is a Jiu-jitsu brown belt competitor training under Pablo Angel Castro III at Strong Style MMA in Cleveland Ohio. An avid writer and competitor, Emil has amassed an extensive competition record. Most notably, Emil is a 2 time gold medalist at the IBJJF No Gi Pans, and has a submission victory record of 5-1 at Fight To Win Pro which includes purple belt no-gi light heavyweight championship
Emil’s sponsors are Impact Mouthguards, Cleveland Cryo, The Terphouse, Meerkatsu, Eddys on Coventry and Nottarookie. He is a Ludwig Van and Vanguard Kimono brand ambassador.