The Mental Art of Competition: Part 1

Photo by: BJJpix

Like everything in life, Jiu Jitsu has a huge mental component. Being an active competitor, I am constantly trying to find ways to improve my mental state before during and after matches. So the age old question goes: what is the best mentality to have in regards to competition?

My personal goal is to always be detached. I go into every match with all the tools I need to win that match; the only way I am going to do poorly is if I fail to allow those tools the space they need to work.

Lately, when I enter a match with a game plan, I try to limit that game plan to the very first step. I try to determine where the opponent is going to want me, and determine where I want to be. I then spend the initial moments of the match feeling what my opponent wants to do to me and addressing it as it happens. I find that when I am able to do this fully and purely, I am best able to dictate the pace and direction of the match.

There have been times I have deviated from this method; in fact more often than not I deviate from it. Sometimes, when I try to go out there and dictate my game, I am very successful, but if the other person is tougher or more determined than I am, I fail and I lose the match.

The most important detail for me is to be completely relaxed, and shed any pre match jitters. I personally find that joking around about stuff completely not related to Jiu Jitsu can help me not be nervous when it’s go time.

Perhaps the most important detail that anyone who competes often knows is that the more mat time you have and the more varied your mat time is the more confident you’ll be. I go to open mats for the specific purpose of rolling with people I’m not used to, thus getting rid of that innate stranger danger that we all have in our tiny minds.

As a corollary to that: compete as often as you can. The more times you’ve been to war the more comfortable you’ll be going to war. Also the bigger the stages you compete on the better you’ll psychologically handle both the bigger stages as well as the smaller ones. Once you’ve competed at a couple of IBJJF events you feel a lot more comfortable at them, and the smaller local comps? Those become relatively easy. My coach, Pablo Angel Castro III always says “Don’t fight the event…”

I am going to explore competition mentalities over the next few articles, if you have any thoughts you’d like to share please do so on the various comment threads attached this one. I’ll be monitoring them and if I see anything I like I’ll be sure to give you credit personally.



Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and





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