A Competitive Mindset

Are you one of those competitors that does extremely well in class but absolutely chokes when it comes time to compete at tournaments? Have you seen that training partner of yours that you normally slaughter, Monday through Friday, tear it up while you continuously get knocked out of competition in the first round? Having a hard time figuring out why you’re not competing at your full potential? Keep reading, this post is for you!

As many of you know, the past year has been a tough one for me. Numerous injuries, life threatening ones at that, forced me to take some time off training. And, if that weren’t enough, my fianc√© and I broke up the night before I left for the Pan Ams this year. Trying to get my mind “right” for competition was next to impossible; or so I thought.

I lost my first round match at the Pans. I replayed it over and over again in my head. I didn’t perform even remotely close to my full potential. I’m not taking anything away from my opponents victory; Seth Smith is a GREAT competitor. In fact, he’s Ryan Hall’s top brown belt. He walked through everyone else, right up to the finals. But, that has nothing to do with my poor performance.

Looking back over my 7 years of competitive jiu jitsu history, no one would argue that I haven’t won my fair share of tournaments. I have 2 Pan American medals (bronze at the 2009 No Gi Pans and a silver at the 2010 Pans), I’ve beaten some of the regions top brown and even black belts at super fights and invite tournaments in KY, OH and IN. I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that when a competitor sees my name in his bracket, he knows he’s in for a tough match.

All that said, I’ve also lost, a lot. I’ve experienced defeat as much as I have victory. I’ve gone through periods in my competitive career where it was months and several tournaments before I won even a single match! What kept me going? Why didn’t I quit?

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t prefer winning to losing. Anyone that says otherwise is crazy.

Thomas Edison made over a thousand attempts before he found the cotton filament used in the first lightbulb. I wonder how many times people called him crazy? I wonder how many skeptics he had?

The trick to making it in this competitive game–remaining emotionally smooth and steady…like a Cadillac. I literally repeat that sentiment in my head, over and over, before a match. I don’t allow myself to be overly joyous in victory or depressed in defeat. Smooth and steady, just like a Cadillac…

Psychological pressure can absolutely KILL an incredibly talented competitor. You CAN’T let the pressure get to you. When I watch the greats like Marcelo Garcea, Pablo Popovitch and even my team mate, JT Torres, I see them all living by this mantra…smooth and steady like a Cadillac baby!

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