I've been thinking about this subject a lot lately. BjjGrrl (Leslie) wrote a post about it today in fact. It's just that tournament time of year, I guess.
I'm far from expert in this arena, having competed at a grand total of 4 tournaments and trained for 17 months overall, but here's my perspective so far. It will be interesting to see how it changes over time.
First, why go to a tournament? Ahem-- why compete in a tournament? You might go and watch just to see how things work, to learn, to film for teammates, etc. But why compete? Just to try it out and see how things go is one possibility. The opposite end of the spectrum might be to win medals. Somewhere in there will also possibly fit things like repping your school or measuring your progress. It depends, probably, on how big of a school you train at as well-- I'd imagine smaller schools might encourage competition more so you can experience different games and body types/sizes. My academy is so freaking big, I can go six months and not roll with a good friend (who trains the same classes I do) just out of sheer randomness, and there's a wide variety of games burbling around too, but we're lucky that way.
But if you're going to a tournament with at least some hope or dream of performing well (not even necessarily winning matches) then you would do well to put thought into how you will try to make this happen. The sound advice of my friend Ulises, as we drove to my first tournament (when I'd been training about 6 weeks total) bears repeating:
What's your favorite submission? Go for that! And if you're not in position to go for it, get into position for it, and go for it then.
Eerily like Roger Gracie's "pass, mount, choke" no? And definitely not terribly focused on points. There's nothing wrong with a points focus, it's just different. They do nest together well though. My first 3 tournaments all I could get through my animalian brain was "get on top and choke them out!!!" So it worked out pretty well points-wise, on the way to getting the subs. But it's handy to remember that you need both hooks in to get back points, for example. And it's great to have a corner who tells you points differentials and time left. [Oooh... another topic for soon-- what makes good corners! But anyway.]
Of course as you develop greater skill and dexterity, so do your opponents. You can't just expect to muscle someone into giving you their arm for an armbar; best have a plan for tricking them into giving you the arm, and several backup plans for the before and after. In other words, you can genuinely threaten them with a choke that will legitimately tap them if they don't defend; when they do defend, you transition to the sweep, and as they base to counter, you toss the armbar in the mix. Duh. I know, lockflow, chained attacks, whatever you wanna call it, we've all heard it. But if you're like me, you hear it *all the time* as you're being flooded with information from different instructors, higher belts, training partners, all of whom want to show you their favorite thing... to say nothing of all the extra materials available on the internet, on DVD, in books... How do you go about picking "your" thing(s)?
I wish I had the perfect answer. LOL. I don't. I notice about half the time I see a new move, it's high school infatuation all over again.. just look at my posts on judo and specifically on seoi nages. I get all googly-eyed and promise myself I'll drill it and work it until it's mine. Which lasts until I see the next new-and-sexy move-- unless it's one that obviously requires longer legs or greater upper body strength. Then I have a habit of trying it 4-5 times and giving up. (Only, hopefully, to discover later that with increased mat time, it is easier because of the invisible extras that are more present, like hip movement etc.)
How have I gone about picking "my" game, such that it is? For example, takedowns. I tend to be stupid physically, lacking in gross motor coordination, so things that are simple to grasp are the things that stick with me the most. I hate drilling takedowns (mainly because I hate being taken down, even though yes, I know how to breakfall) and I hate sparring takedowns, but I force myself to do both because I'd rather it happen in the friendly environment of my academy than on the mats at a tournament. I have played around with stuff but what tends to stick for me are pieces of a chain that has a beginning, a middle and an end. In other words, not a big variety of techniques that all depend on different grips, but about 4 things that work without a lot of pawsing around. I like simplicity; when I recall Donald saying "never let them settle their grips on you" it's a bright-line rule I can apply across the board.
I have measured the techniques (takedowns and others) that are taught to me with the following factors:
* is it simple?
* does it look like something I can remember even in the heat of the moment when adrenaline kills any semblance of motor coordination skills?
* if I screw it up, does it leave me in a worse position?
* can I fit it in with anything else so I have a followup?
* does it depend on physical attributes I feel comfortable using?
So I'll tell you right now, I won't be pulling any flashy flippy trickstery stuff on Saturday. I stick with things that don't unravel under stress. I also prefer to maintain dominant position. When someone tells me they're losing position by going for subs, I pay attention to how they learn *not* to do that and try to incorporate it.
When I'm getting ready for a tournament, I guess I look back over the last month or so of rolling with an open mind. I try to figure out roughly what are my go-to moves, what am I finding myself in position to do most often, and what am I successfully landing. That right there tells me what I probably should do at the tournament. I definitely tone down the "learning new tricks" thing a month or so beforehand. Maybe some tweaks are cool-- new concepts even-- but whole new attack series are likely to just fuddle my brain.
And now a greater challenge-- dinner out, with family friends, the night before weighins, in lieu of class (though I hope to make it for the last hour of open mat.) Yeah, I trained already twice today, but dammit...
"Obsessed is just a word the lazy use to describe the dedicated."
--- Russell Warren