Tag Archives: breathing

Marcelo Garcia on Training for Competition

Marcelo Garcia put up a training discussion video on his site a few months ago, and I just came across it again on YouTube. He highlights the difference between going hard and going REALLY hard to the point where it essentially becomes a conditioning session:

I think that we (me and people I talk to or train with) often confuse the concept of “going 100%”. What does that really mean? You might think it means going as hard as you would in competition. But what does THAT mean? Do you really go all-out in competition, never resting, never pausing? In competition, you want to attack aggressively but you also want to not waste any energy and find safe spots to rest up for another burst of aggression. The ultimate goal in competition is to get a submission and score a bunch of points along the way. No part of that requires you in every case to push the pace to where your heart rate is at a constant 200 bpm.

But in training for competition… it may be beneficial to push the pace beyond what you would do in a tournament, to go to exhaustion in the first 2 minutes, hit the wall, and keep going. The things you’re working on are:

  1. Improve your mental ability to ignore the panic that comes with shortness of breath.
  2. Improve your ability to attack with good technique while exhausted.
  3. Ensure that your basics (e.g. elbow discipline, good base, good posture, grips) don’t break down when you’re exhausted.

110-percentThe intensity Marcelo goes at in the above video I’ve never seen him do in competition. It would be reckless and risky if he did. But in training it would help improve his conditioning. For many of us who don’t do 3-4 separate conditioning sessions a week, we have to incorporate the conditioning as part of the jiu jitsu training.

So, let’s call competition intensity as “going 100%”, and the type of non-stop intensity Marcelo shows as “going 110%”.

So how and when to train 110%…?

I think that depends on your personality, your gym, and your training partners. In the end it’s always up to you. Even if you do a “competition team training” session, there’s no one who will know that you weren’t going 110%. It’s up to you to make yourself hit the cardio “wall” and push beyond it.

Honestly, sometimes all it takes is one roll for me to hit the wall the first time. For example, I often roll with a blue belt, let’s call him Genghis Khan. He is very technical and can be very aggressive, especially when his guard is being passed. He is willing to take himself to his cardio limit and in so doing forces me to do the same.

It takes a lot of mental energy to “go 110%”. No coach can force you to take it to the limit (queue the music). When you come up against that feeling that you have to slow down, that’s when it’s up to you to not slow down. Forget the fact that there is still 40 minutes of training left. Forget the fact that not slowing down means you might get swept, passed, submitted. I try to think of it as a conditioning session and a mental training session, not a jiu jitsu match.

I personally prefer to throw in such training sessions whenever I’m mentally up for it. I find that if I had to stay up real late for work and so didn’t get much sleep that I can’t quite push myself in the right way while still staying positive and focused. If jiu jitsu is your life, then a better idea would be to organize regular 110% training sessions with higher ranks.  But again, no matter how many hard training sessions you organize, it’s always up to you to push yourself to the limit. The only person who’ll know that you coasted is you.

For me, the battle is first and foremost with my own weak-ass mind. Almost like a muscle, it requires training, and grows weaker if neglected.

Top 5 Reasons to Compete in BJJ, Judo, and Grappling

The following are some reasons I compete in jiu jitsu and judo. Not all of these may be true for everyone, but hopefully they give a little encouragement to those looking to compete in their first, second, or 100th tournament.

1. Refocus your training

Competition adds an urgency and focus to your training. For example, the knowledge that I will have to pass the guard of several opponents that will be resisting it at 100% while trying their best to sweep me motivates me to drill the crap of my guard passes, and take every detail of the technique seriously. I’ll watch instructionals on guard passing. I’ll watch competition footage on guard passing. I’ll find the guys with the best guard and work my ass off to pass theirs and when I fail, figure out why I failed, and how I can succeed.

That applies not just to guard passing, but to all techniques. The “threat” of competition focuses and motivates me to where I can’t help but get better in how and what I train.

2. Learn to relax and breath

When I watch or train with a top notch jiu jitsu or judo player, I notice that they are exceptionally good at finding positions where to relax and rest. Well, it depends of course. Some are great athletes that can push the pace the whole match, but they are doing so without wasting any energy. So they are relaxed even when they are aggressively attacking.

A big part of staying relaxed is breathing. The harder the training session, the more likely I am to hold my breath during scrambles. Competition matches are often one long scramble and are thus excellent opportunities to practice breathing in the midst of battle.

Good breathing is the key to having fun in jiu jitsu and judo. Without it, even the best athletes run out of gas prematurely, and have to then suffer out the rest of the match. The better I get at breathing the more I am able to train for many sets in a row, sometimes as long as 2 hours straight. I think you can get away with holding your breath in training (and many people do) but you can’t in competition. It’s where you have to honestly confront the counter-intuitive fact of grappling: in order to perform optimally, you have to relax and breath.

3. Bond with fellow grapplers and coaches

Not sure why, but nothing brings people together like kicking each other’s ass 😉 in a friendly and controlled environment. The judo and jiu jitsu mat attracts a community of people that respect the tradition and art of these sports to where many people can appreciate a tough loss as much as a tough win. At the end of the day, everyone’s tired, happy, and complaining about bad referee calls over a bunch of beers. I’ve made many friends over the couple years that I’ve been competing. Some of these are already beginning to develop into lifelong friendships.

4. Learn to not quit

There is a feeling that comes knocking on the door to my brain when I’ve been going hard , I’m out of breath, I’m being smashed by my opponent, I’m behind on points, and there’s still three minutes left in the match. It’s a feeling that says “quit”. That’s a test. It’s a test that comes up in different ways in all aspects of my life. If I quit, no one will yell at me, fire me, or hurt me. And yet, despite all that, I refuse to quit, for no reason other than a kind of proud stubbornness. Overcoming that feeling ripples through the rest of my life to where I can face each day with the confidence that I can take on whatever challenges it has for me.

5. The feeling of victory

I may lose over and over again (and learn a lot from it), but eventually, if I preserver, I will win, and it will feel damn good. Maybe not right away, maybe I’ll be driving back home or just getting an “attaboy” from a coach next day on the mat. I’ll smile and somehow the world will feel lighter on my shoulders. It’s foolish perhaps to attribute much value to winning, but life is fundamentally a foolish endeavor. And yet, there is something beautiful about working hard as hell for something, failing time and time again, but eventually getting it. That’s what life is about. Few places in life provide the chance for clear victory like the competition mat.

Losing your temper during grappling

Losing Your Temper

Losing your temper during grappling

One of the biggest benefits I gain from judo and jiu jitsu is an understanding and control over my ego.

There’s something about being armbared and choked that sets me off on a self-analysis that in the end makes me a better person. What I mean by “better” is an understanding of my place in the world, along with a greater respect for other people.

Sometimes, rarely these days, I’ll lose my temper. It doesn’t really reveal itself in anything I do on the mat, but I just feel a mix of frustration and anger. Last time it happened for me I remember was a month ago when I tried a butterfly sweep on a blue belt (and overall good guy) and he crossed the knee a little too hard, stuffing the sweep but also hurting me a bit. My body was exhausted, my mind was frustrated. I tried to reguard but couldn’t. Nothing was working. Unlike usually when I just keep trying, keep working to improve position, I stopped and when the set ended I walked off the mat. I was embarrassed for how much frustration I was feeling from something that is just part of jiu jitsu. I really didn’t understand the source of it. I just sat watching the sets, breathing, and 5 minutes later was fine.

Such incidents, as rare and insignificant as they might seem, is how I progress towards a calmer outlook on life, allowing me to deal better with difficult stressful situations on and off the mat.