BJJ Competition Nerves

Everyone gets nervous before a competition, granted some more than others. For some the quality of their game will suffer. We can’t be flippant about nerves as the link between anxiety and athletic performance has led to a whole field of psychology, sports psychology


Many grapplers use visualization to manage their nerves, improve performance and develop confidence. Visualization, involves imagining yourself successfully competing at an event.

For visualization to work, close your eyes and imagine the moves that you would make in order to win. Try to imagine yourself moving at full speed just as you would on the mats.  Think about it through your own eyes, not those of a member of the crowd or your coach. You should be viewing the scene (The mats, the referee, the barriers) as you would if you were really there, everything through your eyes.

Make it as real as possible. Concentrate on the noise, the announcements, everything that will happen as you get ready to get on the mats and then fight.

Set Those Goals

Clearly defined goals help to measure success, but they must be achievable, challenging is good.  Break tasks down into smaller parts with a series of short-term goals. This could be as simple as “get side control and control it”, “Isolate an arm or move to mount”. Don’t have too many, keep it simple, anything else is a bonus to be celebrated

Ways To Relax

Relaxation techniques (Yes “Just Chilling”) are helpful for reducing the physical symptoms of those nerves,  such as an increased heart rate, tense muscles, and quick and shallow breathing. This can be used at any time leading up to a  competition and may be particularly helpful when practiced the night before or in the hours preceding a fight  to help keep nerves at bay. One of the most common is the simple act of progressive muscle relaxation, yes, back to “Just Chill”.

Cognitive Restructuring

Don’t panic, it’s a posh name for thinking positive.  Change your habitual ways of thinking. With nerves before grappling, recognizing negative thoughts straight away allows you to stop them before they take hold. Now replace them with more positive ones. Adapting the way that you think about competitions can be really helpful. Planning to always grapple at your best, regardless of how important you think a training session or competition is, causes you to apply less significance to major competitions and in turn reduce the nerves before you fight.

Build Self-Confidence

It may be difficult to imagine yourself being confident in a competition, especially if you usually wilt under pressure. Just keep it simple, focus on past successes, ignore the failures. Make practice and preparation (eat well, sleep well etc)  a priority and continue until you have increased  your ability to succeed. Remember those goals?

Distract Yourself

I suggest you don’t want to be distracted while grappling! In the build-up though, talk with teammates or fellow competitors, read a book, listen to music, sing, whatever helps keep your mind from generating negative thoughts.

Focus On What You Can Control

If you become concerned about who is in the crowd watching you, or that the other grapplers are better than you, take a deep breath, remind yourself that these are aspects of the competition that are beyond  your control. You control your own performance, how well prepared you are, and how well you use techniques and strategies to get those concerns under control… such as progressive muscle relaxation and imagery. That’s right we are back to “Chill”

To Finish

I am not a psychologist, just an individual who enjoys sport. I have nerves just like everybody else, and yes I take my own advice and “Chill”

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