I’ll be competing in the IBJJF New York Open next weekend. If I win every match, I’ll have around 7-8 matches. I’m of course only thinking about the first match, but it’s still good to go in knowing that I very well could have a long day and to be mentally prepared for it. Here are some thoughts off the top of my head at this moment on the week leading up to the tournament…
Moving Up a Weight Class
I have a tough week at work and my experience taught me is that lots of work means I’ll be sleeping less, and that staying on diet will be harder to the point where I very easily could burn out and not enjoy the competing experience. I’m currently 2.5 lbs under without the gi which means I’m probably over by 1-2 lbs with the gi. So I’m deciding to move up a weight class. I am confident I can do well against any size opponent. Most of the stress that comes with competing for me is derived from having to cut weight.
It’s tough to fight up a weight class in a culture that sees weight cutting as an absolute necessity. I’m sure many of the people that train with me will read the fact that I’m “1-2 lbs over” as an obvious case where I should cut those two lbs without question. But I really believe that I need to develop the ability to enjoy tournaments more, and that means doing nothing different than I do in training. I don’t cut weight for training. There are many days after training when I’m exhausted but happy. That’s how I want to feel at the end of next Saturday.
It boils down to this: I want to continue competing into my 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, and in order to do that I want to build a mindset that allows for that while having a more-than-full-time-career, family, etc. It might be different for different people, but from my experience of myself and people around me, a failed plan to “get in shape” is the main reason people stop competing. I want to compete when I’m skinny, I want to compete when I’m fat. It doesn’t matter. That mindset requires practice. I’m starting this weekend.
Bas Rutten: Competing for Yourself Only
I heard Bas Rutten (of all people) give two excellent pieces of advice on the Joe Rogan podcast recently. First, he said “if you fight, you can’t lose”. He explained that to mean that if he gets in there and gives everything he’s got, then he will be proud of himself at the end of the day. The only way to lose is to give less than you can, to give up, to quit. So I’m thinking less about winning and more about putting everything I have behind the techniques I’ve drilled over and over.
Second piece of advice the wise old Bas Rutten gave especially struck a note with me. I don’t remember the exact phrasing but basically he said that the only nerves and stress he felt about fighting is because of others: expectations, judging, etc. He said something like if he was locked in a room with a dude looking to fight and no one would see it and no one would hear the results, there would be no stress and no fear. It’s just another chance to test your technique, your conditioning, and your heart. That’s what I love about competing. The trick is to put myself into that state of mind. That, too, requires practice.
We’ve recently done a bunch of high-paced competition training sessions. That helped me develop a more aggressive pursuit of improving position in terms of wrestling, guard passing, sweeping, etc, but mostly it helped me deal with the feeling of being too tired to keep going. Last two big training sessions I came in mentally tired which was great because I got a chance to hit “the wall” early on and pushed through that.