Do You Hesitate In Competition?

There’s an important rule that I’ve learned from competing often, and that is to never hesitate. One can be patient, one can be smooth and intelligent with movements, but once you’ve decided to do a move or technique, don’t hesitate; just go for it. If it fails, deal with that failure after the fact, but always anticipate success.

I wrote an article a while ago about “trusting the technique” and the importance of believing that your techniques will work. On the other side of that belief should be a steadfast willfulness of action. For me, it has led to success on many occasions.

I recently competed at a tournament, and was up against a very technical and talented brown belt. I had just watched this brown belt defeat two opponents and we were facing off in the finals. He pulled guard, I saw an opening and I lunged for a knee bar, successfully finishing the submission and getting the win and the gold. While I was doing the submission I was actually noticing how poorly I was applying it. I noticed that I didn’t have proper leg placement, that I didn’t have the submission at the right angle, but I figured I had already gone for it, so I might as well give it my all. In this instance I was successful as a result of my disregard for technique, but it could have gone another way.

In another instance I was up against a seasoned, high level competitor. He managed to get the drop on me with a sweep into a heel hook, but I was fishing for one of my own. Had I defended the heel hook instead of attacking I may have survived longer, and who knows what would have happened. However, I firmly believe that I did the right thing in that situation even though it cost me the match.

Competition isn’t a place to experiment, it isn’t a place to hesitate or to observe, but rather it is a place to try to put your techniques to the test, to see them in full action and see what works and doesn’t work. If I’m hesitating it’s a result of not believing in my technique.

Hesitating will make a technique fail, and it will potentially open up avenues for your opponent to catch you off guard. Hesitation is a result of training in a way that doesn’t encourage action, so if you find yourself hesitating in competition, change how you roll to be able to attack without hesitation.

The best way to learn to avoid hesitation is actually drilling. The more you drill the more your body becomes attuned to certain movements, certain actions, and certain reactions. If I’ve drilled entering an arm bar from mount 10000 times, chances are when I get to mount my arm bar entry will be very smooth and automatic.

This should be a goal for anyone who trains: reactions should be automatic and without any hesitation. Otherwise, they are likely to fail.

For those of you who compete, do you find that hesitation or lack thereof make a difference in competition performance? Do you do anything to reduce your hesitation in competition?


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