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Mind Games Mental Toughness and BJJ Part 1

Why Winners Win??

How do we predict who will win a match? If BJJ was a purely physical sport, then Caio Terra and Marcelo Garcia would never win in the Absolute division, yet they do. If winning in BJJ was purely down to knowledge, then players who knew every move under the sun would win every time, yet they dont. If it was just down to luck then why do we see the same people on the podium time and time again? Nobody can be lucky every time they step on the mat! So there must be something else that separates the winners from the losers. We focus so much on cardio, strength, and flexibility or trying to gain an encyclopedic knowledge of the myriad techniques available to in seminars, books, and videos that we often fail to place any emphasis on the dimension of combat sports that might actually be the missing piece to many a championship puzzle: mental toughness. The question is are you tough enough? Defining Mental Toughness Dont tap, bro! ~ Everyone at every grappling event ever You hear this time and time again from the sidelines at competitions across the world. Some people call this fighting with heart or spirit. And like some people, you may believe that resisting tapping out to submissions is the be all and end all of being mentally tough, but theres more to it than that.

Much more.
Graham Jones, a prominent sports psychologist, defines mental toughness as the ability to be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, resilient, and in control under pressure. He lists some of the key psychological characteristics that a mentally tough athlete must have: an unshakable belief in their ability to achieve competition objectives an insatiable desire and an internal motivation to succeed as well as an ability to rebound from setbacks with an increased level of determination the ability to remain focused in the face of distractions and disregard those internal and external distractions the ability to regain composure after something unexpected happens the ability to accept and cope with the inevitable anxiety that competition brings From a behavioral standpoint, being mentally tough is having the psychological tools to identify an objective and the neurological skills to execute your plan to achieve your preferred outcome with focused determination and tenacity. In this definition, you can think of an objective to be

one stop along a trip to somewhere. The outcome, however, is not the final destination itself it is the result you are looking for. They are similar to a point, but different enough that it requires you to work your brain in two different ways.

Objectives vs. Outcomes Know The Difference

I know what I have to do, and Im going to do whatever it takes. If I do it, Ill come out a winner, and it doesnt matter what anyone else does. ~ Florence Griffith Joyner Having an outcome in mind is not a bad thing in and of itself. For most of BJJ competitors, the outcome they desire is winning. The problems arise when you are so focused on winning that you are not mentally flexible enough to divert from your original course of action when roadblocks appear. To be so caught up with winning or losing that you let emotions take over and fail to be calculating and objective during competition can be the difference between achieving your preferred outcome and not. It is the equivalent to going on tilt when playing poker you are making decisions from an emotional place rather than from a rational standpoint. To be mentally tough, you must be able to separate your immediate tactical objectives from your long-term preferred outcomes. Its how you deal with any unexpected twists and turns along the way that highlights what mental toughness is all about.

Flexibility is Strength
Notice that the stiffest tree is most easily cracked, while the bamboo or willow survives by bending with the wind. ~ Bruce Lee David Diggle, a behaviour consultant in athletics, states that competitors will often crack under pressure when they feel that they have no options left to them. This is, in fact, one of the major goals in sport Jiu jitsu to close off all options for your opponents and dominate them so completely that they lack the will or ability to fight back. People often compare BJJ to chess. To win in BJJ is to check, or stop, your opponents escape routes at every turn.

Thus, being mentally tough involves being confident enough in your own abilities that you allow yourself to be flexible. This gives you a neurological Get Out of Jail Free card, allowing you to change up your game plan midway when your original one is stymied. Just because your original route to your planned outcome has been blocked, doesnt mean you stop. It means you need to regroup, recalculate, and re-plan quickly and confidently to take a detour, if you will and still be confident that you will progress towards your desired outcome. Always leave yourself an out.

Whats Your Plan B?

The most successful people are those who are good at Plan B. ~ James Yorke Lets face it: 90% of the time, Plan A doesnt pan out exactly how you envisioned it would. Examine your own game plan. When your opponent is blocking your triangle attempt, do you continue to try to force the submission or do you perhaps switch to an armbar or an omoplata? Or do you trap a leg and attempt to get a top mounted triangle? If you can remain composed and trust in your training, you will remember that you have other options. If Plan A fails, you need to come up with Plans B and C. While its advised to have some plans developed prior to a match, you also need to be able to change up your game on a milliseconds notice. Your level of grace under fire is a direct testament to how you train. Do you flail wildly or do you deal with each problem effectively and efficiently?

Be Prepared
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure. ~ Confucius Drilling will build both the quick recognition of positions you can exploit and give you the confidence to go through with the technique in a technically correct manner. Rolling will give you the mat experience to know whether the technique works for you in a live situation against a resisting opponent. Increase your available options by drilling a few similar techniques a simple way to instantly double your options is to drill a technique to both sides. Then work on flows or series of technique that either link together based on specific positions and grips or share similar movement patterns. Learn your skills progressively so you can answer those what if? questions that often arise. By doing this, you can add techniques to your arsenal that you can pick and choose from at a moments notice with the confidence that they will serve you well. Take only the techniques that are high percentage with you into battle all the rest will more than likely fail you if push comes to shove. And remember: if you build your game on fundamentals, your foundation will be solid. Knowing that you are well prepared coupled with an unshakable belief in your own ability to face unexpected change will allow you to go into any match with confidence and composure.

Remember the 5 Ps:

Proper> Preparation> Prevents> Poor> Performance

Where Do You Call Home? A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. ~George Moore Another concept that you may benefit from if you are prone to floundering is figuring out your Home Base. Your home base is that position where you can adequately defend yourself, calmly reassess the situation, and launch your best attacks from its where you stockpile a vast majority of your techniques. Your home base should be your go-to position in times of trouble. You should know how to get to home base from any situation. Know where your hands and feet need to be in order to establish your home base. Your hands and feet give you focal points and keep your head in the game. Use them like anchor points to mentally ground yourself and eliminate any guessing games you might be playing executing techniques you know to be effective. An example of a very simple home base plan would be Get back t o guard; Put hand in deep cross collar. You can build this into a drill by having your opponent put you in varying threat positions with the challenge of getting back to your home base position as quickly as you can. From this home base, you should develop your strongest submissions and sweeps. You can add resistance, time limits, etc. to challenge yourself to be improving constantly. Having the knowledge that you can get back to a safe and secure position can help reduce anxiety when you find yourself in trouble on the mat. And then your coach knows what to call out when he sees youre in trouble: HOME BASE!
Mind Games Mental Toughness and BJJ Part 2

Move Passed the Past

Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past. ~ George Orwell Motivation is another factor to consider when it comes to mental toughness. Its hard to remain motivated to press on when your opponent is dominating you. To be mentally tough, you need to be able to disregard the past in the moment and move on. Dont dwell on how your opponent nearly caught you in that kimura from cross side position. Giving negative thoughts even the smallest amount of mind-space is like planting a seed of doubt that will take

root like a weed and slowly erode your confidence. Control the past by denying it any hold on you during your match.

Program Your Mind For Success

If your mind tells your body to stop, you will stop. Train your mind first and enslave your body to it. ~ Unknown Your mind is an incredibly complex computer that, just like the ones we use daily to surf the Internet and type up reports on, can be programmed to make you more successful. Heres where the aforementioned objectives come into play: set frequent objectives in training or in life and reward yourself for reaching them. By rewarding yourself for accomplishing these objectives, you will condition your mind to expect rewards for achieving.

While some people may choose material goods or luxuries as rewards, positive affirmations can be a powerful reinforcement as they are instant and can be given during a match from your coach, your team mates, or most importantly yourself. David Meyer, a Machado black belt, has a list of good mental affirmations in his excellent book Training for Competiti on: Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Submission Grappling including: My opponent will be more tired than me. The mat is my house and I will command it. I am better than I realize. Now, heres the key part: each time you achieve something, you need to tell yourself that every negative thing that was a part of the process that it took to get that reward is no longer important. By doing this in your training and your daily life, your mind will start to see each achievement as a mental reset point and disregard the negative parts of the experience, allowing you to move forward calmly and with focus instead of anxiety over what almost happened in the past / what might happen in the future. Dont let any negativity from past experience accumulate as even small mistakes weigh heavily on your mind, especially when many get added together. Clear your mind with each objective accomplished. Then focus on setting and accomplishing a new one. The future is yours to determine. The past is over and done with. From the above example, once you escape the kimura attempt give yourself quick mental praise for escaping and reset your mind. Now you need to quickly decide what your next objective will be and focus on it with 100% of your being. Dont get caught in a kimura! should not be your next objective! Objectives must be positive and active; they must be performance-based and progressive. So, Get back to guard or

Sweep him are good objectives as both require you to take an active role and both improve your position. Depending on your skill level or your current situation, you may need to break that objective down into even smaller objectives.

Positive Self-Talk
Self-suggestion makes you the master of yourself. ~ W. Clement Stone Negative self-talk has been the downfall of many never-weres in sport as well as life. Learn to re-frame any think into positive and task-specific statements that will help you accomplish your immediate objectives. If youve got a guy in your half-guard and hes bearing down on you, instead of saying Man, hes crushing me / Hes gonna pass my half guard soon / I can barely hold on / I couldnt sweep this guy if you paid me a million dollars!, regroup mentally and re frame your self-talk. First, reward yourself for getting him into your half-guard and then reset your brain: Good job keeping him in half-guard / Ive got him trapped / Lets sweep him! Then give yourself some new objectives to work towards: Get your hips outside / dig the under-hook on the same side / disrupt his base. You may be surprised to find that this once-unsweepable opponent is now 75% on his way to being swept. Sometimes, all it takes is breaking down what seems at first to be an impossible task into smaller, more easily handled objectives. You can talk yourself into accomplishing your objectives instead of letting your initial fears define your destiny.

Seeing Is Believing
I keep lookin over my shoulder and peepin around corners My mind is playin tricks on me. ~ Willie D of the Geto Boys, from the song Mind Playing Tricks On Me You may believe that someone may beat you because of his reputation, because youve seen videos of his fights, or because of your lack of faith in your own skill especially if hes beaten you before. This type of negative thinking often creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. Keep your mind-space free and clear of as many negative thoughts as possible they are counterproductive to your progress. Visualization Training can be useful in overcoming negative thinking. Picture yourself beating this opponent. Picture how its going to happen not only in the specific techniques but the

quality of your performance. Couple visualization with positive self-talk, and you will have a very powerful tool in helping rid yourself of anxiety and apprehension. You could also employ a similar technique, called Guided Imagery, by having your coach or a teammate talk you through a positive competition scenario as you picture it happening in your head. The idea in both cases is to for you to write the script for your own success and then make it happen.

Put Thought Into Action

The meeting of preparation with opportunity generates the offspring we call luck. ~ Tony Robbins In training, you can add Visualization Training to techniques like the Combate! drill. In this drill, first pick your go-to takedown, guard pass/position consolidation and submission, visualizing how they will fit together in a smooth flow. Once you can see it in your head begin drilling the flow live. Square off against a training partner, shake his hand, and have your coach say Combate! Now, execute your string of techniques again and again and again, with your partner offering little or no resistance. Do this for a 2-minute time span, and try to get in as many repetitions as you can. For each repetition, make sure your coach resets the match every time by having you and your partner shake hands and giving you the verbal cue of Combate! Your partner can also increase the amount of resistance he is offering with each repetition to get more of a live feel. This constant drilling of your go-to flow from the time the ref says Combate! is putting visualization into action. Will every match happen like that, with you getting to execute your best moves all in a row? No, of course not! But if you visualize it happening and drill it precisely, you will be able to recognize all the cues and execute your game plan when the right opportunity presents itself.
Mind Games Mental Toughness and BJJ Part 3

The Calm Before The Storm

OSU or commonly used in BJJ OSS ~ Japanese term coming from the characters meaning push and endure, uttered by a student who understands the teachers instructions and will put forth maximal effort to follow them precisely. Develop a per-competition mindset. If you are in competition mode maybe one month before a tournament recognize that once you enter the dojo you are there to train not socialize. Commit yourself fully to listening to your instructor and executing exactly what he or she tells you do not go off on tangents, do not question your instructor unless he allows it,

and do not add to the technique being taught at this time. You are there to learn, but sometimes questions get in the way of the actual purpose of the drills being taught. Remember that your coach has a plan. Trust in your coach and focus on precision in training so that you will be as accurate with your techniques as possible in competition. Your coach is relying on you to be able to execute a technique as it was taught to you so that the next move can be planned in advance. Form a pre-match routine. On competition day do you listen to your iPod? Do you seek solitude or do you soak up the atmosphere? Do you need to calm yourself down or amp yourself up? Whatever it is, make it a routine so you can do it each and every time. This helps prepare your mind for the battle to come and puts you in your ready state. Put on your game face and dont take it off until the ref raises your hand. Once a fight starts, commit yourself completely to the match. Focus on your match and only your match. Zone in on that to the exclusion of everything else except your coaches voice. Use positive, self-affirming talk such as Im going to take him down instead of negatives such as Im not going to get submitted like last time. Keep negatives out of your mindspace toxic thoughts lead to toxic behaviors. Be willing to leave it all out on the mats with heart. Be unrelenting. Be persistent. Be focused. In the immortal words of Gold Five: Stay on Target!

Fight Your Fears

I failed over and over, that is why I succeed ~ Michael Jordan

You will make mistakes. Its inevitable. Everyone does.

The reality is that you most likely wont win every match. This doesnt mean that you just give up and not even enter a tournament. You should still go into every fight to win it and be unafraid of making mistakes. The fear of making mistakes is worse than making a mistake in and of itself. Fear paralyzes your mind and body, making you incapable of executing with speed and precision. Fear makes you second-guess yourself. What distinguishes the mentally tough from the rest of the pack is how you view your mistakes and how you deal with adversity. Instead of focusing on this fear and letting your anxieties clutter up your mindspace, focus your thoughts and energy on the process of becoming a stronger martial artist mentally as well as physically. You will become resilient enough to be able to bounce back from adversity.

The Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

Mental will is a muscle that needs exercise, just like muscles of the body. ~ Lynn Jennings Mental toughness, like any other aspect of your development as a martial artist, needs to be studied and nurtured and it should be a part of training as early in a students curriculum as possible. Even if you already consider yourself mentally tough as a competitor, you can still add new dimensions to your game by examining how you handle stress and anxiety both on the mat and off perhaps you can improve one aspect of your life by looking at another. Being mentally tough in all aspects of your life will allow you to better deal with anxiety-inducing scenarios. By understanding why you behave the way you do when presented with stressors what your mental triggers are you can then apply those skills to other areas. Knowing yourself well is a life-long journey but its one thats well worth taking if you want to enhance your performance both in the martial arts and in life in general. Dont miss an opportunity to become more attuned with yourself.

Forge a Martial Mindspace

My mind is my weapon. ~ Tyrion Lanister, from the book A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin To become a complete martial artist, you need to take the time to train your brain to be your ally, not your enemy. You cannot neglect this aspect of development if you wish to attain a higher level of proficiency and success. Train your brain as frequently and as often as you do your body and you will soon realize the power that the mind has in achieving greatness. It is a weapon that needs to be honed not unlike a blade. Keep your mind sharp and it will serve you well. By: Sen-Foong Lim