What makes a great competitor?

I asked Sim a “simple” question: “What is one thing that makes a great competitor?”What makes a great competitor?

So a long, long time ago I e-mailed Simpson Go (Sim) a question about competition. Based on his answer, I was going to write this great article comprised mostly of the thoughts of what I would consider a “high level” Jiu-Jitsu competitor.

After reading Sim’s reply, I decided to change my focus, making the article far less epic but hopefully more thought provoking.

I asked Sim a “simple” question: “What is one thing that makes a great competitor?”

And this was his answer:

“I think a great competitor has an idea of what exactly they want to do in a match. You have to know where you’re strong at and where your opponent is weak at. If you look at Leo Vieira in his match with Eddie Bravo, he was passing Eddie’s guard in his weak side. You also have to believe in your techniques. If you go for your moves half assed, then it will never work. Another thing is having a never-give-up attitude. Even if you’re down or in a bad position, you have to believe that you can come back and win the match. Like Roger vs. Margarida and Jacare vs. Roger. “

While he listed more than one thing that makes a great competitor, I have to agree with his entire statement. Although I am not on the technical level of Sim, I want to add my two cents worth. As a white belt, I got destroyed all the time at tournaments. The only way I was going to win was if my opponent suddenly got a craving for a cheeseburger and left the tournament. Which, even though I compete in heavyweight or super heavyweight, just doesn’t happen. I attribute my losing to not having a definitive plan on how to play the match to my strengths. I simply went out there and thought because I had trained for a few months I could win. The problem was I never sat down and worked out a plan to win.

In my mind, developing a plan on how you will win is one of the most important things you can do as a competitor. Am I saying I am going to win the next Abu Dhabi? Definitely not, but developing a plan of attack in my mind, will always make a better competitor. For instance, if you are a guard player work to get to guard. If you are a mount player, work to mount. And if you are Telles, well you know….

So if you are a great mount player, why are you trying to do an armbar from guard, instead of doing a sweep to mount and playing your game there? To most, this probably sounds almost elementary – and it is – but you would be surprised how many schools don’t teach you how to win. Students are shown move after move, never learning how to chain them and never learning how to be a good competitor. You will notice that some of the top gyms are consistently winning and that is because the instructors at that gym know these secrets and teach the students how to be successful in competition.

Take Sim’s advice and learn what your strengths and weaknesses are and work on them. Always try to take the match to your strengths. When you allow your opponent to control the match, you are handing them the win.

Out of curiosity, I asked Sim a second question: “What made you a good grappler?”

”I would say that having an analytical approach helped me a lot. I always tried to think about what I needed to work on. Ever since I started training, I tried to make it so that my practices had a purpose. Rather than just coming in, and going all crazy when I spar, I tried to use the moves that I learned and if the guy came up with a counter I would ask my instructor or try to figure something out. Another thing that helped me out a lot was watching competition footage. That was one of the things that Marc Laimon taught. He taught me how to watch tapes. I believe tournament footage is better than instructionals because you get to see the set-up and everything else leading up to the move. The guy is also doing it against an opponent who’s resisting,” said Sim.

Again, great information. Always make your practices have a purpose. Don’t just go to the gym to roll or to hang out, unless you don’t plan on being competitive.

Recently, I was training with Ryan Hall and we hit on this same topic. Some students will do moves a certain way – just because that is what they were taught. These students never search for the explanation or justification of a move.

In my opinion, it is better if you can learn concepts and reasons behind a move. Analyze why it is done a certain way. By thinking through a move, you may discover that the general concept can be applied to other parts of your game.

Take the time to develop your strategies in the gym. By developing strategies that work against opponents that know your game, you will be able to dominate a match against an unknown opponent in competition.

So, take this advice: play your game, practice with a purpose, and have fun.

Bruce HoyerBJJRadio.com

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Bruce Hoyer