Better Breathing for Jiu Jitsu Through Meditation

Flickr/Creative Commons: Ippon Kumite

After I competed for the first time, I realized I needed to work on my breathing for competition. I did need to improve my cardio, yet the nerves still affected my breathing. Meditation was a tool I had already used on a regular basis, but I began to increase it along with visualization. When I visualize being in the tournament, I can feel my heart beating faster. With the meditation, I was gradually able to calm myself while visualizing the match.

I know most people talk about anxiety before matches, yet the level may vary among individuals. Also, where they carry their anxiety may differ as well. Become observant with yourself to determine the specifics on how to help yourself. My stomach would be fine while others talked about theirs feeling upset or not being able to eat. I would have a tightness in my chest and hold it all in that part of my body. No matter how great my cardio felt before the tournament in my white belt days, it felt like I had none on game day. I needed to practice my breathing as if it was my cardio practice leading up to the competition. 

I recommend starting by choosing a position that is comfortable to you. It is important to be completely relaxed in your position so you are not distracted by it. Previously, I tried meditating sitting up, yet I was so focused on my posture that it became distracting to my practice. I have since begun to lie on the floor with my legs up and against the couch or bed. In this position, I am completely relaxed. For me, being on the floor feels more suitable for feeling grounded. I recently began lying on an acupressure mat which brings me even more relaxation to the process.

You have so many choices when deciding on what type of meditation to follow. You can focus on each breath going in and out of your body, a specific mantra/positive affirmation, visualizing, or just watching your thoughts go by like the news information at the bottom of a TV channel. There are various apps available and YouTube-guided meditations with words, music, or both. Choose one that connects to you and change it regularly if necessary. I like to change mine when I feel like I’m so used to it that I’m focusing more on my thoughts than the guided meditation. It is important to remember that you will still have thoughts go through your mind which doesn’t mean the practice is not working. Just like when you are training, a not-so-great workout is better than none at all. The more you practice, the easier it will be to empty your mind.

Meditation is something I recommend to anyone regardless if they are in a sport or competing. It is great for overall health both physically and mentally. Practicing it every day is ideal for at least 15 minutes 2 x a day. Although I recommend just one minute if you are having any resistance to getting started. The reason for this recommendation is to build the habit. Practicing for one minute every day is better than 15 minutes sporadically. Once you are in the habit, then you can build the time. Meditation is done to clear the mind which is best when competing. Whenever there is overthinking, it leads to hesitation and can hurt your performance. When your mind is clear, then your body can work on the instincts you practiced in the gym.

Leading up to a competition it is best to increase meditation time and frequency along with visualizing your matches. With the slowed breathing, I know I can breathe better during my match and cardio alone isn’t going to keep my gas tank. The benefits are worth it even if you don’t compete and I feel it is extremely helpful if you do.


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