Here are the top 6 tips & tricks to make your first tournament experience a success!
- Don’t wait for the tap: When you train, you don’t want to hurt anyone, but here, if you have to break their arm because the ref isn’t paying attention or they’re being stubborn, you might have to be mentally prepared to do so. There will be people who take it too seriously and who do not tap when they should. You have to be ok with the consequences of hurting someone in a way that you wouldn’t do in your home gym/school. If you’re behind on points and you need the sub, you have to be willing to commit even if they don’t tap.
- Read and memorize the rules. These can differ tremendously from tournament to tournament. Some submission grappling tournaments don’t allow guard pulling for instance. Think about and plan for all the ways your opponent and you can take advantage of loopholes, stall for time, etc.
- Level of intensity: This varies depending on the gym you’re at. In some places people go around 85-90% in open rolls, and the second place it was more like 65-70%. Whatever the case may be, people are usually NEVER going 100% because if you were, people would be getting hurt all the time and no one would improve if they’re falling back on brute strength over technique. A few weeks before the tournament, you should find a few guys who you regularly roll with–preferably of equal or slightly higher weight and skill–and pretend it is a tournament situation where you are going all out–using 100% of your strength, doing stuff that you are too nice to do to noobs in the gym and having these things done to you (all of which are technically within the rules). Simulate the tournament, have someone with a stop watch using the same timed rounds, keeping points, etc. Do “shark tanks” where you roll with fresh guys who rotate in on you every round. You will likely find that your condititoning does not hold up as well under these circumstances as it does in friendly open mat rolls–adjust accordingly.
- Cutting weight: I wouldn’t advise doing this if it’s your first tournament, but if you are doing it, do a trial run a month beforehand if it’s more than 10+ lbs you plan to cut. Make sure you’re not cutting too much.
- Morning of: get there early for registration and to find out when and where you’ll be fighting so there are no last minute snags. Bring bananas, plenty of fluids and some granola bars or fruit as you may end up not having the chance to have a full lunch or dinner. A book isn’t a bad idea either as long waits and delays are common.
- Pre-fight: If you have the chance and are competing later than others, watch your competitors’ matches to see what their strengths/holes are and get a sense of how gassed they will be when you potentially face them in the next round. However, if this is your first time, I’d recommend waiting in a different area than your competitors(i.e., the guys in your skill/weight bracket).