What makes competition and sparring so scary? Let me tell you, it’s the unknown. Anxiety stems from the lack of control and anticipation over the situation and the outcome. So what should you do?! Control what you can, and embrace what you cannot. Pre-fight rituals (or pre-spar rituals) is one tactic that I use to help me calm my nerves before going into competition.
A pre-fight ritual is a set series of tasks/activities that you do each time before entering the stage to perform.
WHY PRE-FIGHT RITUALS WORK
Rituals work because amidst all the unknown associated with competition, rituals have the ability to ground you with the power of familiarity and therefore put the element of control in your own hands. Familiarity is built by the consistent reenactment of these rituals over time so take the time to practice and get acquainted with them.
MY PERSONAL EXAMPLE
Before every BJJ competition I go through a very specific set of rituals. I usually arrive 1.5 hours before my bracket. 45 min before my 1st match, I like to leave the competition area and find a quiet spot somewhere away from the action. I put on my headset, play some calming instrumental music and close my eyes for 25 minutes. I focus on deep breaths and empty my mind. At times, I even doze off. I wake up to the sound of the alarm with 25 minutes to go; I start putting on finger tape. The process of wrapping my fingers is extremely important for my psyche. I do not rush the process. I stay in the moment with each wrap and soak in all my feelings. Once all my fingers are taped, I get up and start my warm-up routine, which consist of a few sets of mouth clenches, jumping jacks, and burpees. I head toward the mats 10 minutes before go time.
What happens in a fight is unpredictable and chaotic, so I try not to make too many predictions nor do I try to control the outcome. I try only to control what I can, and that’s the pre-fight rituals which I do my very best to replicate the same each time. This puts me back in the driver’s seat.
CREATE YOUR OWN
The set of rituals you chose should be specific to you. Get creative and create your own routine. Rituals can be done 30 minutes, 2 hours, or even a day before performance. Just remember that you should try to keep the process as similar as possible each time you do it.
Ideas for Rituals:
- Listening to music (should be the same every time)
- Calling a friend, or loved one
- Taking a nap
- Taking a series of deep breaths
- Going for a walk
- Eating a muffin
- Watching the same TV show or movie
Now go take what’s yours.