Stepping onto the mats for the first time in a Jiu Jitsu competition can be both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. It’s a different beast than training in the academy. You've got bright lights, a crowd of onlookers, and the weight of expectations on your shoulders. Whether you're a seasoned competitor or a white belt stepping into the arena for the first time, improving your competitive mindset is critical for success. 

We’ve all been there. Those pre-competition jitters are practically a universal experience for grapplers. With over 13 years of competing, I've picked up a few strategies to make those competition days less stressful and far more enjoyable. Let's dive into some powerful mindset shifts that can help you unlock peak performance on the mats for upcoming events.

Compete More!

Remember this: competing frequently is just as crucial as regular training. Think about it. You wouldn't expect to ace a test without consistent study, right? Jiu Jitsu competition is no different.

The more you compete, the more comfortable and familiar you become with those intense situations. You develop a sense of calmness under pressure that can only come from repeatedly putting yourself out there. Sure, signing up for competitions and shelling out those entry fees isn't always in the budget.

However, the invaluable experience you gain each time you step on those mats far outweighs the cost. Each competition, win or lose, is an opportunity to learn, adapt, and evolve your game. Embrace the challenge and watch yourself grow as a grappler.

Don't Put Too Much Pressure On Yourself

I know firsthand that putting too much pressure on yourself to win can be your downfall in Jiu Jitsu competition. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve fallen into this mental trap. This constant pressure creates a recipe for self-sabotage, leading to anxiety, stiffness, and ultimately hindering your performance.

The funny thing about winning is that while it's incredible and gratifying, that feeling is usually fleeting. But losses, while they sting, offer the most profound lessons. Instead of putting pressure on yourself to win double gold every time, shift your focus toward delivering your best performance on the mats.

You can do this simply by focusing on executing your game plan effectively and efficiently. This change in mindset will work wonders in helping you perform more freely and instinctively, making you a more formidable opponent overall.

Another easy way to take some weight off your shoulders is to make sure your weight is on-point ahead of time! There is nothing worse than a last-minute weight cut or worse - missing weight. Lucky for you, we sell lightweight competition gis to make things easier.

Execution Over Results

BJJ Competition Mindset

Jiu Jitsu competition isn’t about flashy, last-minute submissions or desperately trying to squeak out advantages in the final seconds or stalling out a victory. It’s about consistently executing solid techniques, strategic thinking, and applying your game plan regardless of the situation. Take it from someone who’s trained with multiple time world champions: the real secret to their success lies in their unwavering commitment to mental and technical execution.

When you’re competing, shift your mindset away from the sole objective of winning and redirect it toward executing your game plan by moving through the situations that present themself with precision and purpose.  When you focus on your techniques and let your instincts guide you, the wins will naturally follow - I guarantee it. 

Warm Up Really Good

If you treat your first competition match as the first round of your weekend open mat you're in big trouble. I mean, seriously, when was the last time you hopped on the mat without warming up and instantly performed at your peak? A proper warm-up prepares you not just physically - but mentally for competition. It allows your body to loosen up, increasing blood flow to your muscles and sharpening your reflexes.

This principle applies just as much to competitions as it does to training. It's like firing up your internal engine before hitting the gas on the mats. You need to discover what kind of warm-up routine works best for you. However, avoid making your warm-up an exact replica of your training regimen.

You don’t want to burn yourself out before your match, especially if you have a large bracket. Experiment with different warm-up drills that target your specific needs and preferences. Most tournament venues have very limited space to warm-up and drill, and to be honest these warm-up areas can be kind of intimidating when you first start competing. This is a great time to start building your pre-match confidence - walk out to the center of the warm-up area, take the space you need and start your routine in front of everyone like you've done it a hundred times.

​Keep Your Mind Focused On The Task At Hand

Have you ever found your mind drifting off during a match? Suddenly, you’re replaying that embarrassing mistake you made earlier, or you’re daydreaming about the celebratory pizza you’re going to crush after the competition. Believe me, I know the feeling. This lack of focus, my friends, is a recipe for disaster in Jiu Jitsu competition.

To perform your absolute best, you need laser-sharp focus on the task at hand, not letting your mind wander to distractions. One effective technique I’ve used to stay anchored to the present is practicing mindfulness. Before a match, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. 

Feel the air entering your lungs. Tune in to the sensations in your body. Quiet your thoughts and bring your attention to the sights and sounds around you. This will help calm any pre-match nerves and ground you in the moment, enhancing your ability to react quickly and decisively to your opponent’s moves.

Now you're ready. Go out there and win.


Stepping into the world of Jiu Jitsu competition is an adventure like no other. It's a challenging and rewarding journey. Embrace the process and remember that victory isn’t determined solely by who gets their hand raised at the end.

Ultimately, becoming a a better competitor comes from within - the dedication, discipline, and resilience you bring to those mats.

July 03, 2024