Tournament season is upon us! This weekend kicked off the Pan Am 2019 tournament and I spent the day following the matches and rooting for my friends on the other side of the country doing battle. Last year, I was fortunate enough to bring home a gold in my weight division from Pan Am 2018. It was exciting but honestly, I don’t relish competition that much. I do it to test myself periodically but it not really something I do that I consider a good time akin to as much fun as a pop quiz. It can be fun when you win but the sorrow of loss lasts so much longer that the sweet taste of victory. I used to be plaguled by the same crippling anxieties that many of us suffer from until someone put in a book in my hand that changed it all.
There is a phenomenal book called With Winning in Mind by Lanny Basham that a friend of mine gave me to read last year. I will honestly say that it singlehandedly changed they way I approached each roll whether I am in a competition or just in class. It changed my Jiujitsu life and that is not an overstatement. I won’t get into the book details in this blog but the main point is that 90% of competition is mental and 10% is physical and yet we don’t train the mental portion hardly at all. We might wait until a day or two before the competition to go through our game plan in our mind but are we sitting down on a daily basis building up our mental and emotional stamina? Probably not. Are we constantly working on tools to bolster our self esteem and confidence each time we step on the mat? For the majority of us, I doubt it.
Jiujitsu is a tough sport. It is physically demanding, mentally challenging and can be emotionally upheaving. In order to deal with the mental and emotional aspect of the sport there have been certain phrases that keep floating around meant to lessen our burden. I am sure everyone has heard the phrases, “you either win or learn”, “suck a little less everyday” or “get 1 percent better each day.” These phrases are well meaning but in order to deal with the day to day mental and emotional aspect of this sport I think more specific measures are needed to keep our spirts high on a day to day basis as we make progress. In this month’s blog I would like to offer up so some solid solutions to keep your spirts high and your mental game sharp each day as we train.
- Eliminate all negative self talk Your body will follow what your mind dictates. If Mental is 90% that means that your mind is running the show. If your mind says you are doing badly, your body will follow. If your mind says you are getting smashed and can’t recover your body will slump into defeat. If your mind says you are tired, your body will believe it. The only way to conquer this is to completely eliminate all negative self talk. No matter who you are going against, you need to believe you can do it right up until the point that they raise the other persons hand and then shrug it off and onto the next. Sounds hard but it just takes time and practice.
- Be specific about your improvements. For example, my main training partner is a multi time world champion brown belt. She is stronger than me, competes better than me and is more knowledgeable than me. I get smashed all the time and it started to emotionally wear on me but I have found a way to keep my spirits high. I no longer worry about the overall performance but focus on the small specific successes. Last time we rolled, I kept my knee in a better position and it took her about 20 seconds more time to pass my guard. Victory is mine. Forget about the fact that I was tapped 4 times in 5 minutes. It doesn’t matter. I got an extra 20 seconds I didn’t have the day before and each day I will focus on making it a few seconds longer. Another good example, is my recent roll with an amazing female black belt in our area. In the six years I’ve been doing Jiujitsu I haven’t been able to achieve one solid score on her. However, the other day I did a collar drag and planted her face into the floor. Now, she immediately arm barred me from there in less than 3 seconds but who really cares? I got her down to the floor. Victory. Learn from the mistakes that you make but be very specific about what you did great each day. Focus on it and let your mind build in confidence and strength.
- Keep a written log. I am constantly logging into my Jiujitsu journal. It is filled with all the good stuff I have done and the small victories each day. There is a section of things I need to work on but for every thing I need to work on I write 3 great things I did. I find that it really helps to keep it written so on the days when you are having a slump you can refer back to it for that boost of self assurance that is needed.
These tips are not only for competitors. You don’t every have to compete to put this good advice into practice. All it takes is making the decision to exercise your mind as much as your body and you will start to see real change. Happy rolling everyone!