Here are some tips to help you make your first competition go smoother:
Try to think of it as an extension of your training. Think about it as if you’re going to class to train during an open mat but you get to roll even harder. This helps me to relax and realize that it isn’t the end of the world. It really is only a grappling competition. In the whole scheme of life the only person who really is worried about if you win or lose is you and not anyone else.
Try your hardest to win, but if you don’t, keep your head up and make sure you learn something from it because if you don’t and you just let your ego get in the way then you pretty much just wasted $70 to $90. Know that when you leave that building, that one day really didn’t affect your future in anyway and that you will always be able to get better and test yourself again.
What I like to do to help me from getting tunnel vision and zoning out while I’m grappling is when I first step on the mat. I look around in the bleachers and turn my body 360 degrees and I take in the spectators and the environment. This helps my mind adjust to the open environment and helps me focus on my opponent during the match. This also helps me relax.
Practice breathing. Practicing my breathing helps me to relax and focus. It helps me keep a clear mind and it also helps me control the adrenaline that is kicking in. By doing this it keeps me from getting gassed out quickly even though I probably had the conditioning. You’d be surprised on what your adrenaline can do to you and if you don’t control it. You’ll gas out fast and feel like you’re hyperventilating. So take the time before your matches to close your eyes, visualize, and breathe. Many times right when I step onto the mat I take in two or three deep breathes in though my nose and out of my mouth. This helps slow my heart rate.
Remember to breathe when you’re out there, don’t breathe in with your mouth. Please, I repeat PLEASE do not hold your breath when you’re out there. First of all if you have high blood pressure it’s not good for you and second of all you’ll gas out in a second.
Also breathe in through your nose. Don’t breathe in through your mouth. Breathing in through your mouth takes more energy and also gives the feeling of hyperventilation which in turn leads to you losing your wind and not even being able to move your own arms. Trust me, I know. Breathing is a big part of the game that many people lack. If you get this down it’s going to bring you one step closer to not ever having to worry about gassing out when you roll.
It’s usually a good idea to watch your opponents who compete before you. The reason is because it gives you a good perspective on what type of game they might play. This will help get you ready for them if you were to meet up in later matches. You may see someone who pulls guard right away, and this may help you go for the takedown quicker because you know they’re going to pull guard anyone. Or you may see someone with a really good guard and you might be able to pull guard on them to stop them from playing their game.
Either way by watching your opponent’s it usually helps you get a little understanding about what it is that they do.
Try to have your instructor or someone from your team be there on the sidelines with you to help coach you. This is a great resource because your coach can usually see many things and opportunities that you can’t see yourself. This will give you the ability to open up your game a bit more.
One important thing however is that you don’t forget that your coach is out there trying to help you when you’re actually competing. Many people get out on the mat and they lose perspective of everything around them. This makes it much harder for someone to coach you because when you are in this situation you probably don’t even know your coach is there anymore. So do your best to stay focused. Anytime you have the chance to listen to your coach or if you have great control and you can even look at him (just pay attention to what you’re doing also) then do so. It will help.
Do not drink orange juice or any acidic drink the day of your match. You don’t want to be the only person in the gym throwing up on the mat do you?
Bring water but don’t over drink the water. You’ll be surprised on how dry your mouth will get just because of your nerves. Take in little sips here and there to keep your mouth moist. Also make sure you don’t drink too much water to where you’re full because you’ll definitely feel it.
Do some sort of yoga or meditation exercises the night before. By doing this it helps you relax the night before and clear your mind. Keeping you from getting nervous the night before and losing sleep. Doing some relaxation yoga or meditation exercise before you go to sleep will help you get a better nights sleep.
Make sure you bring your mouthpiece. I know a lot of people don’t where mouth guards when they compete even though the competitions say that you have to where one, but the one day you get smashed in your mouth and lose a tooth then you’ll definitely wish you wore a mouth piece. Trust me I know from experience when I chipped one of my teeth from not wearing a mouth piece.
Bring flip flops or sandals. Please do not be one of those people who walk in those disgusting bathrooms without any shoes or socks on and then steps on the mats. I really don’t understand it and it’s not the most sanitary thing in the world. Do help the grappling community be clean and bring a pair of flip-flops or sandals to where when you walk around the gym. They are easy to take on and off before you compete and it helps prevent the spread of disease.
Expect a long day. Unfortunately 95% of all grappling tournaments last forever so if you know what to expect right in the beginning it will help you get mentally prepared. So if you read this you now know that there is a big chance you will be waiting around for a while to compete. Make sure you stay focused and tell yourself that you knew it was going to be like this.
It’s a good idea to bring something to pass the time. You can bring a book to read, a portable DVD player, some cards, an iPod, a portable video game console or something, but whatever you bring it will help the day go by much better without having anything at all.
Out of all of these the biggest tip I can give you is to have FUN. If you’re not having fun then whatever you went through for the competition really isn’t worth it. You need to have fun even when you’re trying your hardest to win. You should be in there not only to win, but to have a good time and a great learning experience. Activities without fun turn into work. Do you really want to work anymore then you already do? I know I don’t.