by Guest Author Joanna Trindade
I’m a BJJ blue belt, and although I’ve competed in local tournaments before I recently had the opportunity to step it up a notch. The plan was to compete at my first IBJJF tournament at the 2015 Chicago Summer Open.
My teammate, coach and I drove the 1.5 hours from Milwaukee to Chicago at 6:30 in the morning. I wasn’t nervous for most of the drive except for the last 20 minutes or so (although my coach swears I was a ball of nervous energy the whole time.)
The nerves came and went leading up to my first match and every roll proved to be a unique challenge with a host of new situations. After it was all over, I walked away with a silver medal, a sense of pride, and few ideas for what I will do differently next time.
Here are the top 5 things I wish I had done differently…
- Listening to my coach when he said to sit down, stretch, and breath. I would have conserved a lot more energy and saved a sore back from all the standing around. Sit down, stretch, and relax while you wait for your bracket to be called. It’s going to be a long day, don’t let your nervous energy get the best of you. Focus on controlling your breathing, it sounds simple but takes a lot more focus than you think it will.
- Eating more throughout the day. It was a long day and I should have prioritized fueling my body better. Silly sidenote- along with bananas, trail mix and water, I packed gummy bears..I had a bite or two of banana all day and saved the gummy bears as something to look forward to after my matches. You might not feel like eating if you have butterflies in your stomach but don’t go hours without refueling. (It would be a good idea to take a bathroom break as well. Don’t wait until it’s an emergency and it’s all you can think about.)
- Loosening up and focusing on playing more aspects of “my game” instead of being so stubborn. My coach had to massage the feeling back into my hand after the first match because my grips were too tight. Don’t be afraid to switch up your game plan and adjust it as needed! Don’t insist on trying to force things to happen that aren’t there yet!
- Getting “In The Zone.” When I’m in stressful situations I tend to rely on outside circumstances to calm myself down. It usually comes in the form of talking to people around me. Focusing more attention inward rather than outward would have been helpful for my mental preparation. Don’t let your surroundings distract you and add to your anxiousness. Don’t look around and guess who your next match will be. Turn your attention inward and find your zone.
- Stopping to appreciate the amazing BJJ matches that were happening around me! I was so worried about being where I needed to be on time and burning through my nervous energy that I never sat down in the bleachers and enjoyed the event! There are competitors there from all over the country, don’t be too distracted to really stop and appreciate how special it is to be there!
I will leave you with one more thought- even during the most stressful situations during the day, it’s important to remember why you love this sport.
The challenge and adrenaline rush are all a part of why we love Jiu-Jitsu! Whether you win or lose, you proved your dedication to the sport by stepping onto the mats to compete.
It was only my first IBJJF competition and it sure as heck won’t be my last. There are many more competitions in my future and I’m looking forward to learning as much as I can about this beautiful sport and my own place in it!
About the author: Joanna Trindade is a BJJ blue belt and a contributor to Grapplearts.com. She can be reached as @jojoluvsbjj on Twitter or Instagram