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adjusting to black belt level

    Wed, 2008-04-09 12:05 — delicious bass

    Although my knee still isnt 100% I have been very excited to begin competing as a black belt, (I have previously fought in special events against black belts as a brown belt). I am still in the process of making adjustments to my technical and mental competition game. Perhaps the hardest thing for me is to maintain mental concentration for a full 10 minutes. I have a bad habit of starting slow and getting down on points early in a match. Over the years a large percentage of my matches have been come from behind submission wins or last second guard passes where i end up winning 3 to 2.
    What I am noticing is at the black belt level, the athletes are much better at protecting their lead, using points to advance their submission game or just riding out a lead doing just enough not to get called for stalling.
    Does anyone have any suggestions for adjusting to the 'professional' level?
    My strategy is to compete as much as possible to become more comfortable against elite opponents. Over the past eight years training and competing a few months of the year in Brasil, I have already matched up against many of the competitors in my division and had good results. However, I have always been of the opinion that the lower belts are practice for the black belt where things start really counting.
    Maybe Rafa or some of the other black belts can talk a little bit about how they adapted their games (both mental and technical) to be successful at the black belt level.

    LovatoJr's picture

    It is hard fu**ing work. Where do I start?

    Competing a lot will definitely help a lot. The thing is, you don't want to compete just to compete because if you are not mentally there then you will lose and that can mess with your confidence. Once you start to feel comfortable with the new time limit and the new stock of guys that you will be competing against, I would suggest to compete less and put more emphasis on being as prepared as you can be for the major events.

    The GAME can make you or break you. I think of every match as a game. It is about who can be ahead at the end of the time limit or who can catch their opponent slipping and tap them. You have to understand that there are many different types of competitors, some are happy to barely win, others will open up and play more. So, your game has to be sharp and well rounded enough that you can match up with all these different types of people you may run into. Know yourself and know what you want to do. You have to be very smart and know that the smallest score can be the deciding factor for a match.

    I personally have had my share of ups and downs. You are going to lose, but you have to believe in yourself no matter what. You might go against somebody who has a big name or has a lot of experience and you might think that it doesn't affect you mentally, but it is hard for it not to. You might not play the way you know you can, but in the end it is all a learning experience. Once you start beating the "big names" then your confidence gets stronger and you will feel more comfortable playing your game against anyone.

    I also believe that everything that happens at the other belts don't matter at all. It is just a big process of development that leads to the black belt, then it matters. I never won the major tournaments at the lower levels, but then at black belt I have won most. Everything has started to fall into place in my game during the time I have been a black belt. So don't think that the only successful black belts are the ones that won everything coming up. You can be great if you just always try to get better and continually challenge yourself.

    I hope this helps. I might of said a lot of stuff that you have heard before. It is kind of hard to type it out and have it make sense. I could talk about it all day though.

    (It also helps to have a great coach who knows you and knows how to get in your head and help you believe.)

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    three harmonies's picture

    Good advice overall, even helps us puny white belts out!
    Jake :)

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    huge5's picture


    one day i hope to have this problem...

    great question and advice.

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    delicious bass's picture

    good points gumby. i have always believed that if you go out there to "have fun and see how you do" you will lose (unless you're bruno fernandez who seems to have success approaching competition this way). you should enter every competition to win. i am guilty of this myself at this years pan ams, i cornered cung le against shamrock the night before and flew down to the pan in the morning, missed my flight and ended up pulling into the parking lot as my name being called. i sprinted into the building hopped the competitors fence, weighed in and stepped on the mat. i ended getting swept at the beginning of the match but was able to come back, re-sweep, pass, get the back and the choke. my second match against lucas leite i felt way too relaxed, and just cruised into getting submitted at 8:30 min.
    the point being that this is not how to compete. as you said gumby, to compete, you must prepare to win and believe in yourself, your coach, your training 100%. travel is part of preparation too, everything is. one needs to get adequate rest and reduce outside stress to focus on your game, and your mental preparation. i'm looking forward to refocusing my training and continuing to improve to be successful at the black belt level.

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    Bonobo's picture

    This is tip top info.

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    TheComish's picture

    WOW... some great advice Lovato Jr. and Gumby

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    The Bishop's picture

    All of you just blew my mind....

    As many of you know, I have been a "Life blue belt" 'cause kids family etc. have beena huge distraction from my love for jiu jitsu. I recently started rolling again with Gumby and I love it.

    But as far as competition goes, I'm 50/50. If I dont win by submission I lose on points. I have never gone in 100% like "I must break you" (like Ivan Drago). Somewhere inside, I feel I don't have a right to feel that way.

    I don't know if I'm holding back an inner beast, or, am I preparing to make excuses for losing to a guy who is A) better or B) wanted it more? Reading your posts (all of you) is helping me get my "old jiu jitsu mind" back.

    Right now at least, I feel whatever animal instinct that I HAD, a lot of it is gone. I'm having a hard time regaining it. Then I had small run of injuries and other things that forced downtime: Staph, twisted ankle, strained peck....All in the last 3 months. So, its HARD for me to find and keep a centered mind, let alone gain consistent confidence on the mat.

    Sad thing is, I know the unsure on the battlefield are usually the dead. Crazy.

    One Love,
    The Bishop

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    LovatoJr's picture

    Good stuff Gumby!

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    JT Torres's picture

    Man this is really great information, i have just learned alot from reading here.

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    delicious bass's picture

    great advice.

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