Friday, April 20, 2007

Approaching competition

Training is training. You're in the academy, you learn techniques and then you roll and try to execute the techniques you've learned against your teammates who're (generally) trying NOT to let you do the techniques because they're trying to execute their techniques on you! For some people, this is where they live. They go to the academy and train and look forward to the familiarity of their training partners and their respective games. For other people, they are looking for something else. They might be looking to test themself in a different environment against different, unfamiliar opponents. They might be looking for a different competitive experience. Neither is better than the other. They are just two different things. One can be a great academy grappler but that doesn't necessarily mean that the same grappler will have the same experience in a tournament. There are different skills that are needed to compete successfully in a competitive environment. As with jiu-jitsu or anything, some people will have more natural abilities in certain areas than others. In either case, those abilities can be practiced, developed and improved on.
Competing brings with it several different components than academy grappling. When you first start out, you'll most likely be facing someone you don't know or know nothing about. Of course, if you chose to continue to compete, you will become more familiar with the other people in your division and will likely encounter them again in your jiu-jitsu journey. But until you do it regularly, everyone will be new to you.
Almost all tournaments will have time limits or point limits. You will only have a limited amount of time to finish your opponent or get ahead on points. You can't just go another round or wait until you're in a better mood tomorrow. And unless it's double elimination, if you lose, you're done for that tournament (not counting any Open division).
There is a referee involved. You are not only fighting your opponent, you are fighting the referee too! Referees are like your parents. You have to make sure they notice when you do something good so you get rewarded for it. Sure people always say "Submit everyone so you don't leave it to the ref". Well, if it were that easy..... I don't know if anyone tries to NOT win. I think most people try as hard as they can. If they don't, then they need to work on that skill.
Conditioning for a tournament is different than academy rolling. Some people can roll for an extended amount of time at the academy. Competition brings a whole different level of adrenaline, anxiety, anticipation, excitement and exhaustion! The adrenaline dump you get from competition is different than anything you will ever feel at the academy. The anticipation of competing extended over an unknown period of time (typically lasting anywhere from 30 minutes to 4-6 hours) is very different than getting to class, warming up, learning techniques and then rolling. Trying to stay warm and prepared with no idea of when your turn will be is akin to some sort of Geneva Convention-breaking torture.
Mental conditioning is the least addressed part of competition training. Sport psychologists are used by many high level athletes. As this sport continues to grow, so will the importance of mental conditioning.
If you're just starting out on your competition journey, the first thing to do is to just go do it. See how it feels. Establish a baseline of what you experience and how you handle it. Now you'll have a starting point. Then each time, you'll develop and refine your process, your preparation and your execution. And as for your gameplan, just go do what you do. Afterall, that's what you do best!

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Has the human body changed? What has happened to us? How can Randy Couture, at 43 years of age, be the UFC Heavyweight Champion? Isn't 43 old? I know I thought it was when I was growing up but now it looks like 43 is PRIME! I remember when I was in 4th grade, my school was starting a new sports was called Cross Country Running. I went to the first practice and my mom even joined me. We ran a mile!!! I remember the great feeling of accomplishment that I had from running a WHOLE mile. It was not something I had ever conceived of myself doing. Oh, and my mom did it too!!! That was amazing to mom running a mile?!?!?!?! How could she do that? After all, she was old!!! She was my MOM and I had NEVER seen her run or do anything athletic! Well, I think that was the end of athletic endeavors for her unless you count chasing after my 4-year old nephew. Two years later, a friend and I entered and ran a 10K. What a feat that was! The school newspaper even wrote an article about it. That was 6.2 miles!!!!! Amazing!!!! Back then, a marathon seemed like it was a rare and impossible feat! Today, ANYONE can do a marathon. Triathalons are a dime-a-dozen. Eco-Challenge and Adventure Racing is even common. How far can we push the human body? Is it diet and nutrition? Is it science and technology? Of course technology has helped the progression of almost every sport. Everything from equipment to shoes to accessories to clothing and even food and recovery drinks. How have sports changed as a result of technology? Think of running, rock climbing, golf and tennis just to start. But I don't think it's just technology...I think it goes beyond that. Is it human self-perception?
As a kid, I remember seeing the Peking Acrobats (before it was changed to Beijing) on tv. They were amazing to watch. And martial arts films, those were amazing. Even watching Jackie Chan a few years ago...what he could do was such an amazing feat and a rarity. But now, do a video search on "free running" or "parkour" and you'll see amazing feats that many people are doing. Suddenly it seems like anyone can do it...and why not? Has the human body changed? Or what has changed that has allowed people to be able to push their bodies and their minds to these greater and greater extremes?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Okay...So You Can't ALWAYS Just Go Do It.

Burnout is real. Overtraining is real. Sometimes you can get really into training and you train 5, 6, 7 days a week or two times a day and then you might wake up and feel like you hate training. You CAN burnout on training. You can't train hard every day all the time. Most sports have seasons. And with seasons comes the off season. Time when athletes can relax, do other things, work on specific weaknesses without the pressure of games or competition. Jiu Jitsu doesn't seem to have a real "season". There are some tournaments that are usually around the same time of year, each year...but there isn't really an "off season" to speak of. And training does not necessarily revolve around competition for a lot of people. So, how do you train hard and not burn out? If you train say, 3 times a week regularly and decide that you're so motivated that you want to increase your training, don't suddenly start training 7 times a week! Just add one day a week. Do this for a few weeks and give your body a chance to adjust. Then when that feels good, add another day, etc. If you suddenly jump up your training and your body isn't used to it, it will rebel. Then you'll probably have to take some time off. Try to make it a gradual change....for your mind and your body.
If you're already training a lot, like 6 days a week, it's good to take an extra day off every once in a while. Not only to catch up in other areas of your life (like going out on a date, spending time with your loved ones, etc.) but to also give your mind and body a chance to relax, rest and recover. An extra day of rest can do more good for your body and mind than your fear of missing one class because it might be the class where the teacher shows the "secret" move. But if that's the case (assuming that there is a secret move), maybe your teacher was just waiting for the day that you weren't there so he COULD show the move! LOL.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Getting In Touch...

You learn more from losing, but winning feels a lot better :)