BJJ Tournament Jitters are not just for White Belts

Tournament Jitters, BJJ, Competition

Tournament Jitters – We all get the jitters – that jumpy feeling before you’re called to compete. Even the pros feel anxiety before a big match but they have strategies to calm the mind. When it comes to performance anxiety, bjj competitions can be like public speaking; the focus is all on you and your competitor. Many will close their eyes and visualize winning in great detail: stepping on the mats, submitting their opponent, raising their hand in victory and receiving a medal. Coach Malachy sometimes visualizes a completely different setting, so instead of a noisy gym packed with tense competitors, he visualizes waiting for a train. Same hubbub, but no stress, no jitters. Ms. Sarah likes to detach by wearing headphones and listening to soothing music. Some competitors keep the adrenaline rush at bay by being very social, chatting with positive people, maybe even practicing with friends. Still others will do deep breathing. Accept that nerves are normal, learn what calms you and do that.


  1. Concentrate on the “NOW”
    Don’t lose your focus by jumping ahead to the future, thoughts of a past loss, or what you didn’t train for (“shoulda, woulda, coulda”). Practice training your mind on focusing on the NOW. Take a moment, pay attention to your foot steps, sounds, sensations, and smells; it can all redirect your focus on the “NOW”.
  2. Direct your focus on YOU
    Recognize and replace these thoughts – Who’s is watching, will I disappoint my coach, all my teammates performed well, my opponent looks better than me. Start to recognize these thoughts as roadblocks and the moment they start to fog your focus, immediately return your thoughts to present time or put on those headphones and zone out! Keep the focus on YOU, your job, and your performance. This is your journey!
  3. Change the Channel
    Stay Busy! We cannot directly control the outcome of a match, so overthinking something that is uncontrollable, might stir up nervousness and performance anxiety. We can plan our distractions the week before the bjj tournament. Hang out with friends who are not related to bjj; maybe it’s time to try yoga! Fill your calendar to avoid down time and the tournament jitters.
  4. Train Often
    Like our friend and competitor, Chuck Willen says, “Train often, compete often”. The more you compete, the easier it becomes. Nothing calms our nerves like the confidence that comes from the feeling of being prepared. In each competition you will become more comfortable with your surroundings, more relaxed and more focused.
     Should your child compete? Children already compete often for attention, for grades, for friends and will continue to compete throughout life. Why then, don’t we teach our kids a more empowering perspective about competing? Competition is not about winning or losing; competition is about testing yourself. The more you push yourself to compete with the best, train in every class and compete in competitions, the better chance you will have to empower yourself to be the best you, in every aspect of life.
  5. Have FUN
    Don’t be so serious! Adding too much pressure, is just that, TOO MUCH pressure! The lid of nerves is going to explode! When you lose the fun, you lose the bjj skills to win the match. So get in the game, have fun with your friends, look for a challenge, and SMILE! –  YOU ARE A JIU-JITSU COMPETITOR!

OSS! – Black Label Jiu-Jitsu