Factors for remaining calm during BJJ Tournaments
- Experience competing - People who have played sports and done other competitive activities during a lifetime have way more experience remaining calm because they have slowly built up the ability to perform under pressure. The more related the activity to BJJ the more helpful it will be in mentally preparing for a grappling competition. For example the best experience would be a history of competing in wrestling because it is so similar. Tae Kwon Do tournaments would still be pretty helpful but is not as good as wrestling. It is still a one on one, contact sport but does not include grappling. A running race could probably help since it is sport and requires endurance but would be even less related because it is not one on one or contact. If you have no better options, consider signing up for and competing in a 5K race before your competition. It will help your endurance and your nerves.
- Confidence - Nothing will help you remain calm like a large dose of confidence. If you think you are better than the other person then you will be more confident and it will allow you to relax and remain calm during the match. This will help you to breath slower and stay lose. I literally just look at the other guy and think to my self "I can take this guy, I am better than him." It doesn't matter if it is true, just tell your self that. Men can increase their confidence by raising their testosterone level.
- No worrying about the outcome - People who don't care about the outcome are able to stay relaxed. Just remember that 50% of people lose in the first round, so even if you lose you have done as well as half the tournament competitors.
- Have a game plan - If you have no idea what your plan is for a match, when it begins you will panic. Decide on a game plan before hand so you know what to do. It could be to go for a take down, it could be to jump guard, or it could even be to sit down (depending on the tournament rules). Just make sure you know what your first move will be and how you plan to proceed during the match. It helps immensely if have been watching all of your future opponents during their previous matches. One time I watched a guy jump guard in his first two matches, then it was my turn to go against him. I asked my coach for some techniques for combating guard jumps. During the match when he went for the guard jump I stepped back and he fell on his butt which allowed me to step past his guard while he was stunned on the ground and eventually I won the match.
If you are preparing for your first tournament, you should read about what to expect. Talk to your friends who have competed and find out what it was like for them. The more you know the less you have to be surprised by.
If you haven't practiced in a realistic matter, you will be less prepared. When I did my first triathlon, I had never swam in an open water race in 60 degree weather (which is really cold for swimming), only in ideal pool conditions. When the race began I completely panicked and ended up hyperventilating. I nearly drowned. To prevent this, it would help you to practice rolling hard in a tournament like fashion at your gym a week or two before the tournament. This will allow you to feel what it is like to go 100%. Have a friend ref who knows the rules. Be sure to think about points during this practice roll so you know what it will be like during the real thing.
Most people will not be able to use all of these techniques for remaining calm, so chose which ones suite your style best. Over time you will learn to stay calm if you stick with BJJ competitions. Good luck!