Mind Games – Mental Toughness and BJJ [Part 3]


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 teacher’s 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 don’t 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 “I’m going to take him down” instead of negatives such as “I’m 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.  It’s inevitable.   Everyone does.


The reality is that you most likely won’t win every match.  This doesn’t 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 student’s 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 it’s one that’s well worth taking if you want to enhance your performance both in the martial arts and in life in general.  Don’t 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


Mind Games



 A graduate of McMaster University’s School of Rehabilitation Science, Sen has a very scientific mindset to both his game and his instructional style.  His unique slant on BJJ stems from his understanding of biomechanics, human function, and therapeutic exercise.





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