1.Just do it!!! The biggest thing holding people back from competing is the feeling of not being “ready”. The truth is the sooner you start competing the better competing is. With your first tournament, there is less of an expectation to win and less pressure to perform. Pick a tournament, register, and hold yourself accountable to show up and compete on that day. The skill difference between you and the other competitors can become vastly different the longer you wait. For example,the novice white belt division is typically 6 months (or less in some cases) of training where the blue belt can be anyone training from 1 year up to 4 years. I have also found that the students who compete sooner progress faster. I believe this in part due to those students gaining confidence more quickly and being in situations that allow them to develop their game. When you decide to compete you typically start developing a game or style. Which brings us to tip number two….
2. “If you don’t know where you are going you might not get there”. What does this mean to the person getting ready for their first tournament? It means develop a game plan and set a goal. Obviously, the main goal of competing is to test yourself and win; however, that is too broad of a goal for this scenario. You need to develop a game plan that will guide you to win. For example, if Steve is very good at from closed guard, his game plan should be centered around that and not takedowns. You should be able to pinpoint your strongest position and have an avenue to always be able to get back to that position. This is best done in training; decide on your strategy and how you would like each of your tournament matches to go and force that game plan in every roll during class. This builds precision in your techniques, confidence in your ability to execute the techniques, and provides opportunities to learn how to adapt when the technique fails.
3.Learn to listen. There is a great saying… “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we talk.” The ability to listen to your coach during a match is essential and can be the difference between winning and losing. Your coach has an outside view of the match and can help remind you of techniques you may have forgotten in the heat of the moment. The best way to train your listening skills is to have mock tournament matches during class or open mat during the weeks leading up to the tournament.
Doing this will help you recognize your instructors voice under pressure, while your adrenaline is pumping.
4.Learn the rules. Many competitors, both novice and experienced, now a days get to a tournament and do not understand or even take the time to read the rules for that particular tournament. By taking the time to read and understand the rules you can prevent any chance of getting disqualified and even plan a strategy around the rules (to your advantage). For example, if the tournament you are entering has a time limit you can use a strategy that secures points quickly while you go for submissions or wait until time runs out. If it is a submission only-no time limit match, your game plan will be based on being able to submit quickly or build your endurance to last a long match.
5.Train Train Train! If you have picked a tournament and made the commitment to compete, the best thing you can do is train. Show up to as many classes as your schedule allows. The time spent on the mats leading up to a competition is invaluable when it comes to preparing for any tournament. Listen, learn, drill, and roll as much as you can to prepare for the competition. Train with a goal in mind, do not just train and roll like you normal would in class. Have your game plan in mind and roll every time looking to execute your game.