Let’s face it, for those of us who have competed, most if not all us have felt the anxiety in the moments leading up to a jiu jitsu competition. Our breathing grows short, arms and legs begin to feel weak, we break into a cold sweat, and maybe our stomach begins to feel a little woozy. A pre-competition bout with anxiety can throw us totally off our jiu jitsu game plan, our hard work and preparation. Studies have show that high levels of anxiety hinder our sport performance.
Anxiety in Jiu Jitsu – A Normal Feeling!
Anxiety is a very normal and basic part of life, helping us mobilize into action. However, too much anxiety can be counter-productive. High levels of anxiety before and during a jiu jitsu match can drain you of mental and physical resources. Up to a certain point, one’s performance improves as their level of anxiety goes up. Once your anxiety level goes beyond this optimal point (which differs between individuals), your performance begins to suffer.
With this in mind, it would be foolish for us to try and rid ourselves completely of anxiety. Also, I would be concerned for the elite jiu jitsu competitor who claims he is 100% anxious-free prior to a big match. What is more likely the case is that this competitor has learned to keep his anxiety in check and use it to his or her advantage.
So what can you do to keep anxiety in check?
It starts first with acceptance. To overcome anxiety in jiu jitsu competition, we must first accept that anxiety is going to be with us in any high pressure situation whether we like it or not. Strive to embrace the anxiety as part of your moment-to-moment experience of life. Anxiety is part of what makes us human and it can be used to help jump start your performance in jiu jitsu.
Breathing and Meditation for Jiu Jitsu
In situations where you begin to feel overwhelmed, you can always return to the basic practice of relaxation or meditative breathing as a way to help yourself calm down and re-center. In intense situations, focusing in on your breathing is analogous to rebooting a computer when it starts to go on the fritz. Keep in mind that I’m not talking about ordinary breathing. Too many people are quick to overlook the benefits of focused breathing because they think they know how to breathe effectively. The truth is that most people DO NOT know how to utilize their breathing as an effective and reliable coping skill. And yes, breathing for athletes is a skill. Plenty of online guides are available that can assist you with improving your ability to utilize breathing.
Realistic Goal Setting
Think about the goals that you have set for yourself. Are they realistic? Or are you aiming for the impossible? When you set goals that are too lofty, especially in jiu jitsu competition situations, you’re are putting yourself under tremendous pressure and setting yourself up for failure. For those who fall victim to this, it’s no wonder why they feel the weight of the world on their shoulders. You most likely will not become a jiu jitsu world champion over night. It’s going to take a lot of training, time, and failure before you make it to the top. Make an effort to think in realistic terms and adjust your goals to match your unique circumstances.
The use of visualization and imagery is a powerful tool for performance enhancement. Many, if not most, elite athletes use a least some form of visualization to maximize their results. The rush you might get from watching an inspirational movie is the power of this technique at work. Come on, admit it. Visualization involves imagining yourself successfully overcoming an anticipated jiu jitsu performance situation.
Going hand and hand with the technique just described above, positive self-talk can have a tremendous impact on your ability to realize your potential in jiu jitsu. We all have from time to time an internal voice that criticizes us on our actions and abilities. Did you ever have someone in your life who always had something motivating and more importantly something positive to say? Instead of letting negative thoughts contaminate your thought process, talk to yourself in a positive manner. Don’t be your own worst critic and instead coach yourself with positive statements. You can do it!
Practicing the techniques briefly described above in jiu jitsu competition situations or any other anxiety provoking situations for that matter, you will eventually begin to feel a difference. Like most things in life, the important thing is that you give each of these techniques a try learn what works best for you.
Now let's hope I can follow my own advice ;)