Staying Calm and Focused on Competition Day: Tools for BJJ Athletes

by Team Digitsu
Updated: April 03, 2024
Come prepared and control what you can control to reduce anxiety on BJJ competition day.
Competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) can be a nerve-wracking experience, especially if it's your first time. The pressure to perform at your best, the fear of failure, and the unknown of what to expect can all contribute to feelings of anxiety and nervousness. However, it's important to remember that these feelings are normal and that there are steps you can take to calm your nerves before a competition. Finding ways to calm your nerves to perform at your best and focus on what you can control is essential. This article will explore breathing, meditation, and mindfulness techniques to help you stay calm and focused on competition day. We will also discuss the importance of focusing on what you can control, such as getting a good night's sleep, staying hydrated, and surrounding yourself with positivity. By implementing these strategies, you can approach competition with confidence and calmness.
Breathing to Lower Your Heart Rate on Competition Day

If you find your heart racing before competition or unable to relax, breathing is a powerful technique to lower your heart rate. Taking a few deep breaths stimulates the vagus nerve and signals the parasympathetic nervous system to calm the body. Our heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, and muscles relax, thereby inducing a sense of peace and tranquility. One Technique referred to by Stanford's Dr. Andrew Huberman is the "psychological sigh," which can hijack your body's stress response and instantly turn off feelings of stress.
To practice this technique, try the following steps:
  • Two short inhales through the nose
  • One long exhale through the mouth
  • Repeat one to three times

This technique can be especially effective when practiced regularly, but it can also be helpful on competition day to help calm your nerves before a match. Remember to take a few deep breaths whenever you feel anxious or overwhelmed.
Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are powerful tools that help you calm your nerves before a competition. When you practice mindfulness, you focus your attention on the present moment and allow yourself to let go of racing thoughts and worries. This can help you feel more grounded and present, which can, in turn, help you feel calmer and focused.
To practice mindfulness meditation, try the following steps:
  1. Find a quiet, comfortable place to sit or lie down.
  2. Close your eyes and focus on your breath.
  3. Focus on the breath. Let your body naturally inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth.
  4. When your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath.
  5. Continue this practice for 5-10 minutes, focusing solely on your breath and the present moment.

It's important to note that mindfulness meditation is most effective when you're already familiar with the practice. If you're new to meditation, it may be best to try it out and become comfortable with the technique before attempting it on competition day. However, even a few minutes of mindfulness meditation can help calm your nerves before a match.  There are many YouTube videos online and popular apps to help with this practice, such as Headspace, Calm, Insight Timer, Buddhify, The Mindfulness App, Waking Up, and countless others.

On Competition Day, Control What You Can Control

On competition day, many factors are outside your control - the judges' calls, the skill of your opponents, the tournament bracket, the spectators, the tournament venue, and so on. When you focus on the uncontrollable, it takes your head out of the game, and you create negative emotions. You are no longer immersed in the present moment, and your performance declines rapidly. These things can create stress and anxiety, but ultimately they are outside your control. Instead, focus on what you can control.  BJJ Champion Mason Fowler likes to stay focused by reminding himself how bad he wants to win before each match.
Here are a few things you can do to stay in control on competition day:
  1. Get a good night's sleep: Adequate sleep is crucial for optimal physical and mental performance. Make sure to get a good night's sleep before the competition so that you're well-rested and ready to perform at your best.
  2. Eat Properly: Eat a proper meal for competition day and come prepared with snacks as often you may not compete on schedule.
  3. Stay hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for optimal physical performance, so drink plenty of water leading up to the competition.
  4. Come prepared: Make sure your gi or no-gi gear is packed, a mouthguard and other necessary items in your bag.  You can prepare this the night before, so you have one less thing to worry about that day off.
  5. Warm up properly: A proper warm-up is essential for preparing your body and mind for competition. Take time to stretch, practice techniques, and get your heart rate up to help you feel more energized and focused.
  6. Surround yourself with positivity: Surrounding yourself with supportive friends and coaches can help you stay positive and motivated. Don't isolate yourself or let negative thoughts take over - instead, focus on the support and encouragement of those around you.
  7. Visualize success: Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you feel more confident and prepared for competition. Take time to close your eyes and visualize yourself succeeding in your matches. See yourself executing your techniques precisely, staying calm under pressure, and ultimately coming out on top.
  8. Focus on effort and attitude: At the end of the day, you can control your effort and attitude. Give 100% and approach each match with a positive and determined mindset. This can help you stay focused and perform at your best.


Competing in BJJ can be a nerve-wracking experience, but there are steps you can take to calm your nerves and focus on what you can control. Techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, and visualization can all help calm your nerves and stay focused on competition day. Additionally, ensuring you get a good night's sleep, stay hydrated, and warm up properly can help you feel more prepared and confident. Surrounding yourself with positivity and focusing on your effort and attitude can also be vital in helping you stay calm and perform at your best. Competing in BJJ is an opportunity to test your skills and push yourself to new limits, and it's an important tool for evaluating your skills and progress. Remembering that your life isn’t over whether you win or lose would be best. You can approach competition confidently and calmly with the right mindset and preparation.
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