BJJ Tournament Tips and Advice

BJJ Tournament Tips and Advice

BJJ competitions are a great way to test your BJJ skills against an evenly matched opponent. Your first few BJJ competitions will be nerve-racking, so any advice that could help you to prepare is crucial. Journalist Lucy Wynne speaks to serial competitors Giva Santana Brown Belt, Michael ‘Reige’ Tatum from the United States and 7-0 Pro MMA fighter and Dean Lister Black Belt Luc “Doberman” Rosseau from France to get the inside scoop on tips and advice for competing at BJJ tournaments.

Luc has had lots of successful performances at competitions all over the world such as being a black belt ADCC trials finalist in Europe 2016, x2 Naga Europe champion, NAGA California Champion, Dumau Asia Champion, multiple IBJJF Opens champion and much more. If anyone knows a thing or two about getting on to the podium it is this guy. Michael has competed at all belt levels up to brown, has trained BJJ for 10 years, and has buckets full of tournament experience.

In this post, The BJJ Box finds out how both Tatum and Rosseau prepare for their own tournaments and advice they would give others when it comes to being successful at tournaments; whether that be local or international.

Preparing for a Tournament

Competition Mindset – If you are going to compete in BJJ, you need to train accordingly. The level of intensity and aggression in a competition surpasses anything you will have experienced in the gym. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to getting in the right mindset but there are some things that will help enable that.

Tatum says, “Ideally, I like to be in the gym at least four days a week, and doubling or tripling up if I can. Just so I can keep sharpening my tools, and I train with a variety of my training partners so I get to experience a lot more different games from people I don’t normally get to see. It’s like going to an open mat, but being at home.“

He expands, “I typically like to stay consistent with my training (4+ days a week, multiple times a day), while trying to eat intelligently, and not feel like crap at practice. I genuinely try to keep a positive, upbeat attitude about everything as well. I juggle a day job, plus taking care of my new niece now, so that adds extra stress, so just staying consistent and focused, but keeping it playful.”

Final prep before a tournament is to make sure you’re all packed and ready to go. Tatum advises, “Make sure you’ve got everything packed and ready to go. Tape, gi, potentially an extra gi nearby just in case something goes wrong. Try and get into the right headspace as well. Competition is physical, but the mental side of things I think is the hardest part of it.”

Pro MMA fighter and BJJ black belt competitor Rosseau backs up Tatum’s point, “Every tournament can be prepared differently depending on many factors. I like to do a simple six rounds of six minutes full of hard sparring three times per week to feel ready for anything.” He expands, “On the day everyone has their rituals, but in general, just meditation, being conscious, aware, and relaxed are the best in my opinion. Relaxed, but not soft, like a loaded gun ready to shoot anytime.“

Also, make sure you know the rules of the tournament you are competing on. BJJ is one of the only sports where the ruleset changes depending on the competition organizer.

Train Hard or Train Smart?

This question is one that will vary from person to person, however a mix of the two seems to be the correct answer. Tatum says,

“Both, and I think both are equally important. There needs to be that push where you are challenged physically, and even mentally. But hard sparring can’t be every day. So it’s important to have hard rounds, and rest rounds.”

Rousseau agrees, “Training volume before comps depend on many factors, injuries, mental state, physical state, lifestyle; there are different recipes more appropriate at different times. Training hard and smart is the best. Light training is the best way to injure yourself because your body is soft and not prepared; hard sparring with people you know that are safe is the best.”

How to get on to the Podium

First place may seem unrealistic to some, but a place on the podium isn’t. However, with a good team and good coaches you should be able to end up in the top. Rousseau jokes, “getting on the podium depends on many things, one way could be to join an IBJJF competition in master 5 with no one in the category which would make you 1st..aha.” He continues, “In general hard workers, people who are dedicated and don’t give up, train with good teams and good coaches, always end up on the top. Talent is the least important.”

Tatum advises to not get too ahead of yourself, “Be better than your competition that day! But in all seriousness, take it one match at a time. If you’re thinking about already being in the finals, I think you’re being disingenuous to every opponent on the way there, and they’re all to be respected and taken seriously. Just go out there, and have an idea of what you want. Your strengths and your best positions, and just diligently attack that and try to keep everything where you’re strongest.”

Advice On How to Win On Points

Tatum advises in order to earn points you need to slow it down when it comes to positions in order to achieve full control in positional dominance, “Learn to settle into a position. A lot of times, people will rush through positions because they want to hurry up and win and try to get the submission. The beauty of jiu jitsu is that before submission, there’s the element of control, and that’s the most important part in order to establish points. If you mount someone, and rush to go for the submission, but can’t secure and stabilize the mount, where was your control or positional dominance? So when it comes to scoring, being able to slow it down and maintain that control is crucial. “

Rousseau states, “To win on points depends on your skills and style. Some people have a great guard so they need to use it, some are wrestlers and need to be on top, (but they need to be careful on top to avoid sweeps) it all depends on who you are, and who your opponent is, to adopt the best strategy in order to win on points.”

Points or Submission?

When it comes to competing, is it better to go for points or go for the sub? Advice given from both athletes was to play the points game, but if the submission is there then go for it. Tatum says, “Play smart for points, but if the submission is there, and you’re confident in it, go for it. Especially if you’re losing pretty badly. What’s the worst that’ll happen, you lose more?”

Rousseau backs this too and says, “Points and sub have to not be selected apart but both are to be taken into consideration at the same time. You can go for sub 100% of the time and still watch out for points.”

“It’s Just Jiu Jitsu.”

Tatum states regardless of the outcome, people will still be proud of you just for competing in the first place,  “It’s just jiu jitsu. The people who loved you before, will still love you, win or lose. If it’s just fun and a hobby, whether you win or lose, will have no significance in the real world. So just go out there, and give it your best, because people will be proud of you for just doing it.”

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