As some of our students prepare for upcoming competitions it is important to have the right mindset going into competition. Two common mistakes we see are focusing on results and focusing on a game plan. Focusing on the results of any competition was counter productive (being on the podium, having a certain title or other accomplishments). Results and accolades will be come and go, life will move on quickly afterwards. But usually thinking about the effects of winning or losing only adds pressure to athlete and inhibits their performance. Also when I started competing I would focus on a certain game plan or strategy and I found that when that match went according to the game plan, it was someone that I was already way better than. The people who were at my level or even better than me, those matches went to crazy places and positions and by being open to different situations I was more able to improvise and adapt. So instead it is important to think more about initiating the action, being aggressive, but being able to "flow the go" as Rickson says.
So I try to focus on the things I can control. I can control my effort in practice, I can control my effort in the warm up before the match (showing up a couple hours early, getting a bit of a burn in my lungs, a nice dynamic stretch, moving around on the ground with a buddy). I can control my effort in the match (trying to get my opponent out of position on my feet, trying to wear my opponent out, trying so many submission attempts, battling hard from each position). Too many times our students who are very technical try to go out there and only rely on their technique, but the technique is muscle memory. It is there or it isn't and you won't know until that day. Some times I can work on a series for six months and have it not show up in competition or I can learn something the week before and hit it live. Don't beat yourself up over if you were technical or not, but if you go out there and try to conserve energy beating the guy in only technique it is usually a losing proposition.
I also try to focus on my attitude. I try to be happy and grateful for the opportunity to compete. That I am healthy enough to compete, that I was able to get myself into such great shape. That I am out there competing with my friends and doing the thing that I am most passionate about. It is also fun to be able to go at 100% speed an intensity compared to an academy pace and try moves on opponents who don't know my game as well as my students. In the past I could put a ton of pressure on myself to win certain tournaments and I would be nervous and tight before the match. But now that I am older I think I am much more grateful to still be doing what I love and still competing and moving at a high level. I try to always reframe my nervousness as being excited or as Cael Sanderson calls it being "spirited".
I also try to focus in my belief in myself, that I prepared as best as I know how. How I prepare for each tournament will change based on previous results, but at each tournament I prepared as best I knew how and believed in that. I like to focus on certain sayings, mantras that you can repeat to yourself and focus your mind on. Travis Stevens repeatedly says "My name is Travis Stevens and I am an olympic champion." So I use a similar phrase for myself. Not focused on the results of being a world champion, but that I am one, even before it happens. I also like to remind myself of my best physical attributes, sometimes you can face some physical monsters out there, but it is important to remind yourself of what you bring to the table as an athlete. Long story short, don't focus on the medals, the glory or how the match is supposed to go. Focus on the things you can control, be happy out there, fight hard and live in the moment.
When I started wrestling a single leg grip was taught by my coach as a palm to palm grip with the outside hand on top to avoid someone stripping the grip. BJJ guys call it a gable grip, but I have never heard many wrestlers call it that. I had great coaches with one being a 2x NCAA D1 runner up and olympic alternate. Here is a video of him teaching his navy finish.
That still is a great finish and one that I use all the time, but in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu I started to have issues with the grip. BJJ and mma doesn't have shoes and a lot of the better Jiu-jitsu and MMA guys would limp their leg out of the single leg. For a highlight of that limp leg technique in action check out the video of Demian Maia vs Tyrone Woodley at 0:32, 1:20, 2:18, 2:25.
And here is a video of Ben Askren showing the technique behind the limp leg.
So how are the best guys in the world holding the single leg these days. Olympic gold medalist Jordan Burroughs showing what I call a guillotine grip because it is the same grip we use all the time on our guillotine choke so BJJ guys are familiar with it. It leaves the palm of the hand open to control the leg and get more control vs the limp leg.
Here is Ben Asken showing the same thing, he was the NCAA champ and undefeated Bellator fighter.
Here is John Smith, olympic gold medalist showing a gable grip in an older video. But more recent videos show him demonstrating the guillotine grip. Which he instructs his athletes to "cover that hand".
So one of the questions I get a lot is what should I be doing outside of the academy to improve my BJJ. I think having a balanced lifestyle focused on staying injury free is very important. I do a shoulder routine with thera bands everyday before I train or lift which improves shoulder muscles and helps keep me from developing any shoulder impingement from being too slouched over. For lower body I make sure to get some lifting in during the week along with walking my German Shepherd. For posture I think the walking helps along with regular chiropractic care. One of my hobbies is dog training and while it doesn't sound like a workout, but an active game of tug is a great way to loosen up before training. So for me a schedule that includes lifting, walking, chiro and dog training is a nice balanced lifestyle for when I am not competing. Other friends of mine such as world champion James Poupolo are big into yoga, Rafael Lovato Jr is big into mobility and strength work with his trainer Luke Tirey. World champion Jared Dopp is big into strength training, but he lets his strength coach know his primary objective is to reduce injuries. Saulo and Xande balance out their week with yoga and strength and conditioning along with mobility work from floor drills. Personally, yoga was always good great for my hips, but less so for my back. I would be careful with routines like crossfit that put a little too much focus on
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