BJJ Competition: How to Create a Game Plan

When you compete in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, your emotions can become overwhelmingly turbulent. Between the adrenaline dump, fear of losing, and jumpy nerves, things can get a little chaotic. In fact, you might find that your mind forgets everything it knew about Jiu Jitsu. Everyone handles these situations differently, but if you have little competition experience, it can be extremely difficult to deal with. This is where a competition game plan comes in hand.

Why Should I Create a Game Plan for Competition?

A competition game plan gives you something to rely on in the chaos of the moment. It provides you with a default reaction to each of your opponent’s actions, and it allows you to do this instantaneously. Additionally, it allows you to act before your opponent does, because you know exactly what you want to do and do not need to wait for your opponent to act first.

How do I Create a Competition Game Plan for Me?

First and foremost, your default techniques should be your best techniques (or the techniques that you are the most familiar with). To start with, see if you can come up with a technique that you like to do that can deal with each of the following questions. If you can come up with one technique per situation, can you come up with two? See how far you get before you’re unsure if it’s something you could actually execute during a sparring sessions.

Your Standing Game

Do you have a plan for if your opponent decides to...

  • Sits down?

  • Pull guard?

  • Takes a Judo stance?

  • Takes a Wrestler stance?

Passing the Guard

Do you have a plan for if you need to pass your opponent’s...

  • Open Guard?

  • Closed Guard?

  • Half Guard?

Maintaining Your Guard

Do you have a plan for if your opponent tries to pass your...

  • Open Guard?

  • Closed Guard?

  • Half Guard?

Your Win Condition

Do you plan on winning via...

  • Submission?

  • Points?

How do I Implement My Game Plan During Competition?

You need to practice your game plan. A lot. In order to be effective, it must come second nature. It’s okay if it doesn’t work all of the time, or even any of the time. What matters is that you have a go-to set of techniques to deal with each situation. Start out small, and slowly incorporate more go-to techniques for each new scenario you encounter and don’t have an answer for. For now, keep your game plan top-level, and don’t get too far into the weeds.

What if My Game Plan Doesn’t Work and I Lose?

This might be a hard pill to swallow initially, but the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter if your game plan works or fails. What matters is that you follow your game plan to the best of your ability and can dynamically adjust to each opponent. If your game plan doesn’t have an adjustment for a particular opponent or situation, then work with your coach or training partners on how to update the plan for next time. Remember, the win or the loss isn’t important; what matters is that you learned from your mistakes and you got better.

What if I Continue to Lose Over and Over Again?

It doesn’t matter if you lose. Your gym’s honor isn’t degraded. You not no less of a human being. You have not brought shame onto your family. Seriously, though, I’m going to be real with you: No one cares, and you shouldn’t either.

If you have high hopes of being a top-level competitor, no one will know your name until you are a black belt world medalist. Even then, there will always be someone who is bigger, faster, stronger, younger, more athletic, etc.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What belt are you?

  • How long have you been training?

  • How many competitive matches have you done?

Taking the above into account, let’s put this into perspective: Unless you are a black belt who has been training for 15+ years and competed in 200+ matches, you shouldn’t worry about the fact that you’re losing matches. These losses are learning opportunities.

How do I get Better at BJJ Competitions?

With anything in life, there is only way one to get better. You just need to get out there and do it. Still, there are things you can do to

Compete Regularly

In the same way you need to drill a technique in order to become proficient with it, you will need to compete regularly in order to become comfortable with competing.

Record & Analyze

Record your matches, analyze the footage, and figure out where you started losing and what you could have done differently. Focus on what you can control. What can you improve upon? What can you learn? What can get you get better at?

Critical Feedback

Likely, your coach will be there at your competition, and they can provide feedback in-the-moment. Additionally, you can show the video recording to other coaches or people you want feedback from. Remember not to take any feedback personally, even if you disagree with it. Keep in mind that just because you’re open to all criticism doesn’t mean that you have to adopt what they say.

Plan & Strategize

You have watched and re-watched the video of your match dozens of times. You know every thrilling moment of victory and every agonizing second of defeat by heart. Additionally, you’ve received feedback from your coaches and talked about each match endlessly. Now you can come up with a plan on how to fix any holes you identified or any situation you didn’t know how to deal with.

Situational Drilling

Once you have a plan on what you need to work on, get to it. Get together with a trusted training partner or coach and recreate the tough situations you encountered during your matches. Were you struggling to break your opponent’s grip? Find a teammate with a strong grip and figure out how to deal with it. Little by little, you can start to patch the holes in your game and get better.