Ive heard from many very reputable people that BJJ is a mental sport before it is a physical sport. I understand that it is important to know moves as well as how to string them together, but there is a bit more to this than that.
For starters the reflexes we develop over time are really an expression of our mental acuity beginning to fully conform to what it means to understand Jiu Jitsu. We spend many hours drilling the same moves over and over until movements that were once unnatural become natural. Those of us who are able to absorb these movements faster and with higher precision tend to be the ones who also win tournaments.
Another part of the mentality is believing in the moves you do. I always hear the expression trust the move. Anyone who has ever learned a move, internalized it, and then hit it on a resisting opponent knows that if you are insistent upon the move working, it has a much higher chance of doing just that. As beginners we hesitate at all the wrong moments giving people chances to escape, at a certain point the movements can become mechanical and automatic and we are able to execute them almost as second nature.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the mental side of the game is a sort of unflinching belief in oneself that can border on downright arrogance. The idea is to believe, throughout an entire match that you WILL beat this other person. Dont be as concerned with what they are going to do to do you as with what YOU are going to do to THEM.
We hear some particularly mouthy athletes (specifically Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor) who talk about how they can beat opponents who arent even candidates for them to fight. While this sort of external dialog can be annoying to listen to for some people, the internal monologue is spot on. If you constantly tell yourself that you can beat anyone, you wont get any magic powers, and you wont actually be able in real life to beat anyone, BUT your chances of beating your next opponent go up because of your own supreme confidence.
Do not mistake confidence for skill, as you can be supremely confident and still get your ass supremely kicked. However, having a true winning mindset can be the difference between victory and defeat. If you truly believe that no one can beat you unless you let them, the jitters, the stomach butterflies, and all the other strange experiences we have as a result of stress can just melt away. This can serve as an advantage over an opponent who doesnt have the same confidence.
Emil Fischer an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete page at www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj