I had initially intended on writing a 2 or 3 piece set of articles about the mental art of competition and call it a day, however each time I sit down to write the conclusion, I’ve thought of more aspects that need to be explored to fully understand the psychology behind BJJ competition… Oh well!
Perhaps the most valuable weapon that any BJJ practitioner can acquire is patience. I can think of countless moments in which I had a submission cinched up and I got impatient and tried to crank it only to give the other person the space they need to escape. The reality is that if I am able have the discipline to apply submissions slowly and gently my chances of actually achieving the goal of the tap go up substantially.
Patience is a tricky attribute to gain mastery of as it requires an understanding of timing coupled with a level of calm that many of us spend a long time developing. There will be moments during matches where we are better off quietly waiting for our opponent to act because they are liable to put themselves in danger when they do.
Outside of competition, patience is an attribute we strive for in our day to day training. We must be patient in order to drill (drilling can get boring at times); we must be patient when it comes to getting better as there is no substitute for mat time. Those of us who value belt promotion must be patient with that realizing that it is completely out of our hands and entirely in the hands of our coaches or instructors.
In a self defense situation, patience is what differentiates someone who is defending themselves from someone who is committing assault. Very often, by being patient we can diffuse potentially bad situations entirely, avoiding the need for violence.
We can also use patience during matches to be able to conserve energy for the moment at which our energy will be best used. Especially in submission only, patience is what often determines the winner of a match. The guy who is able to wait for the other guy to get tired is often the winner. Similarly, in points matches, often the person who rushes their intended move winds up getting scored on, or worse submitted.
Patience is perhaps one of the very most difficult skills that BJJ teaches us, and in competition makes us most effective. Do an exercise: the next time your roll: see how slowly you are able to submit people. The slower you can move the more controlled your movement will be. You’ll feel like moving faster in order to get the tap, but slow it down to the point that your movements are glacial. If you are able to still force the tap, you are heading in the right direction
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 www.facebook.com/emilfischerbjj and www.twitter.com/Emil_Fischer