Since Dev is shutting down his blog Fueled by Fear, I wanted to preserve some of his stuff... all that follows is his work.
I wanted to talk a little about tournament prep in this post. I'm not overly experienced, but I've done 5 tournaments now (2 small - Jiu Jitsu By The Sea and Kugtar, 3 bigger - Pan Ams, American Cup, Worlds) and I think I've got my routine fairly in order. Hopefully this will help out some of the guys who are doing their first tournament soon (there's another in-house Jiu Jitsu By The Sea this month, and of course the US Open is next month).
The IBJJF has standardized rules that pretty much everyone follows, including the scoring system. They are posted here. So far I haven't seen too many tournaments that deviate from them by much, if at all.
One place a lot of beginners (including myself) have questions is on sweeps. A sweep is from any form of guard, and results in the bottom guy coming on top...in control. So a sweep can come from either full or half guard, and you have to hold the top position for 3 seconds to get points.
Speaking of position, any time you improve your position (passing guard, mount, etc), you have to maintain control for 3 seconds to get the points. You do not get points for going from full to half guard.
An advantage is an interesting phenomenon. It's basically the ref's way of officially keeping track of who's being more aggressive (my interpretation). When you go for a pass, or a sweep, or a submission, and you don't get it, or you don't hold the position for 3 seconds, you get credit for trying in the form of an advantage. It's not a POINT, but if the score is tied, then they count advantages. Better, of course, to get the points, but keep trying for stuff.
The main place some tournaments deviate is from the standard weight classes. The On The Mat series of tournaments goes by 10s (160, 170, 180) and they weigh in without the gi. Not sure why they are not the same, but what do I know?
Understand that you normally weigh in with your gi on. Ordinarily gis weigh 3-4 pounds, but you never know what the difference will be with the tournament scale, so I plan for 5 pounds every time. I've been way under in every tournament.
Also, you weigh in RIGHT before you step on the mat. It's not like a wrestling meet where you have time to rehydrate or something. You can't cut weight like that and expect to perform well. I tried at the Pan Ams and about died after my first match. Since then, despite weighing 182, I haven't tried dropping any weight. Much better to have a good breakfast the morning of the tournament.
At the big tournaments, they have all had a "practice" scale in the warmup area so you can check yourself prior to stepping on the official scale.
Unlike practice, you can't wear any extra stuff other than your gi and a pair of underwear. No rash guards or t-shirts, except for females. No mouthguards. No groin protectors. They all give an "unfair" advantage, either offensively (a cup in the back of your elbow can really make an armbar worse) or defensively (a mouthguard can let you hang on during a face-crusher choke attempt).
At the big tournaments, they will check your gi. The IBJJF rules say you can have white, blue, or black (and no mixing colors), but some (like the Lake Tahoe one this weekend) say only white or blue. Weird. Anyway, no crazy colors, although I have seen some girls allowed to wear pink while competing. Depends on the tournament with how lax they are.
And they'll check the fit. You're allowed 4 fingers' width from the wrist with your arms out straight in front of you, but I haven't seen anyone push this limit. They also check the tightness - they have a little sleeve-checker tool they use that basically ensures someone can grab your gi on the sleeve - I think it's also designed to be 4 fingers' width, but I don't know for sure. And the collar/lapel has to be a certain thickness too. I would venture that 99% of reputable gi companies meet the specifications, but if you like a tighter fit on your gi make sure you check with someone like your coach.
All tournaments will post a schedule of events. Make sure you know what time your weight class starts. This time is ideally when they'll start calling matches, but depending on the promoter, it may be late. I've never heard of anyone starting early. Normally they start with the lighter weights and work up, but if they've got 6-10 mats going, they could multitask and call some of the heavier classes as well, especially if there's a lot of guys in one class. Because you could potentially be the first match called (even at light heavy or heavyweight), make sure you're there, dressed, and warmed up as much as you can be. Sometimes master and senior classes are called first, other times, they're after the adults. You just can't know until you get there. As a master light heavy I was in the first adult match called at one of the in-house tournaments.
At a smaller tournament you will probably not have anywhere to warm up aside from going outside and doing some jumping jacks or something. Kugtar was an exception - they have an MMA cage there, and used that for warmups. A little crowded, but at least you had some room to roll. The big tournaments have the "warm up area," which I put in quotes for a reason. It's usually jam-packed. At the Worlds, there was a ton of room under the bleachers, which worked out fine, but there's no mats, so don't plan on working some sexy techniques or anything on the hardwood.
Time Between Matches:
IBJJF rules state they have to give you at least the regulation length of your match (5 minutes for white belt, 6 for blue, and so on) in between fights. Usually it's more, and I think everyone tries to make sure it's all fair and even. They'll call your name over the loudspeaker to report to the check-in guy, or your mat. You have 3 calls before you're DQ'd, so don't freak out and get there - take your time, stay relaxed, and even intentionally sit through your first call so you know they're on YOUR time (it's a mental thing).
- Get there early, especially if it's your first tournament. This will give you time to see how it's set up, you won't be worried about missing your showtime, and you can get your mind in the game by watching some of the earlier fights. Especially if it's a big tournament, because it's REALLY overwhelming when you walk into the frigging Long Beach Pyramid with no idea where to go or what to do. Better to take 10 minutes and sit in the stands and take it all in.
- Plan on waiting. You MIGHT get your second fight 5 minutes after your first, but you MIGHT wait an hour, or more. Depends on how organized they are. It SUCKS to be at 100% for 5 minutes, then cool down completely or an hour while your nerves are still going crazy.
- Stay where you can hear the announcer. I have not been to a tournament yet where you could clearly hear any of the announcements. It doesn't help if you can't pick up on a Brazilian accent, either. If you're waiting to be called, make sure you stay where you can hear what may be your name so you don't get DQ'd.
- Stay comfortable. I always wear sweats and a sweatshirt. First, it's relaxing. Second, if you need to get sweaty or just to stay warm, it's great, even if it's warm outside.
- Bring food and water. Even if you only have two matches, you might be there a couple hours. Bring light food, plenty of water, and whatever sports drinks you use. I personally recommend straight water, or maybe pedialyte, or watered-down gatorade. Some of those drinks are really strong, and the salts and sugars can overwhelm your system if you're really taxed.
- Bring a camera. Ideally one that can take decent video. We've got a Canon Powershot SX100 point-and-shoot, and it takes hella good video for a $100 camera.
- Bring a friend. Someone has to take that video, right? And make sure it's someone that WANTS to be around BJJ for most of the day. Already seen entirely too many girlfriends (sorry, ladies) who sit there for like 10 minutes as their boyfriends roll, and then want to leave. You want to stay in the mindset when you're there, and you want to support your buddies even if you're done. Bring someone that wants to be there with you.
Hopefully this helps the guys that are getting into tournaments soon. If anyone's got any more advice, PLEASE add a comment!
This list is the condensed version of several posts, including:
Georgette Oden: http://georgetteoden.blogspot.com/2009/10/advice-for-your-first-competition.html
My own post from a few months ago: http://devbjj.blogspot.com/2009/08/tournament-prep-advice.html
Advice from Alliance Atlanta (good tips): http://allianceatlanta.blogspot.com/2009/11/competition.html
Elyse's post on developing a game plan: http://www.gringabjj.com/2008/07/whats-in-game.html
Elyse's post on competing: http://www.gringabjj.com/2009/04/on-competing.html
First things first, here's Fabio Leopoldo talking about prep for the Mundials this past June. Only a minute long, this video has some great advice in it.
1. Start competing early in your career. There's no time like the present.
Prior To The Tournament:
1. Start preparing early. Think about a plan (Elyse's post is a good place to start).
2. Practice weight cutting prior to the week of the tournament.
3. Try to simulate an adrenaline dump prior to the tournament.
4. Know the rules: IBJJF and NAGA
5. Identify your high-percentage skills, drill them, and visualize them. See comments at the end of Georgette's post for more info.
1. Get as much sleep as possible. I know it's tough.
Day Of The Tournament:
1. Eat something if you can afford to.
2. Relax as long as you can prior to getting worked up for your match. Adrenaline only lasts so long.
3. Get to the tournament early so you can get a feel for how it's run.
4. Check and double-check the sequence of events. Make sure you know when your weight class is going to be called.
5. Stay where you can hear the announcer. It's tough to hear, and you don't want to be DQ'd.
Stuff To Bring:
1. Food and Drinks.
2. Someone to hang out with, if you're not with a group. THEY should bring some reading material unless they're really into BJJ.
3. Camera and extra batteries.
4. Cell phone for match coordination.
5. Warmup clothes and flip flops, and something to change into when you're done.
6. Ipod/MP3 player.
7. Extra first aid stuff - medical tape, aspirin/ibuprofen, antiseptic spray.
8. Small notepad and pen to jot down contact info for guys you meet.
9. Spare set of contacts if you wear them, and solution.
10. Money - cash, credit cards so you can buy snacks and swag.
Stuff You CAN'T Wear:
1. No rashguards or t-shirts, except for females.
2. No groin protectors.
3. No mouthguards.
1. Only white, black, or blue.
2. Make sure it's not too short, or too tight.
3. Will be checked prior to stepping on the mat.
1. You will weigh in right before stepping on the mat. No time to rehydrate if you cut.
For Your Fight:
1. Go into it with a game plan.
2. Use what you know. A tournament is not the place to try a new move.
3. Own your mat.
4. Get someone to corner you.
4A. (I thought this was FANTASTIC advice, from Leslie's comments in Georgette's post) If you can't get someone to corner you, listen to the other guy's corner! They'll sometimes tell you what you're being set up for.
After The Fight:
1. Write down your experience - stuff that worked, stuff that didn't, how you felt.
2. Review your video, even before your second fight. You'll see stuff you don't remember doing.
3. You will have at least 5 minutes between matches, but it could be upwards of an hour. Be prepared for both contingencies.
PLEASE add anything more you can think of.