Getting ready for competition is a process. Early on, it’s about building your fitness and endurance, and about working on your skills to develop your game. When competition day rolls around, the work should be done and there are more immediate things to focus on. You should have been tapering your workload, so that by the time you get on the mats, you are rearing to go and not burnt out from running at redline.
As soon as the brackets come out, check the times and mats for your matches, so you are there in plenty of time. Mentally, I like to prepare myself to expect to face the strongest competitor in the division. If I get them, I’m prepared, if I don’t then I think I have the mental edge over my opponent.
Expect that there will be no good quality food available at the venue, and take along something to snack on that you can eat and still comfortably compete, bananas are always a favourite. Some people like to drink honey to give them energy, but high sugar levels may exacerbate dehydration by stimulating less water absorption.
You also need two sets of competition legal attire. If you have to change your gi for any reason, you will only get a couple of minutes, so you need it on hand, and not running around trying to borrow gear and face disqualification.
6.2.3 Technical Fouls
“When an athlete’s gi is rendered unusable and he/she is unable to exchange it for a new one within a period of time stipulated by the referee.”
Also take along a hoodie to keep warm, your favourite music (and headphones), and footwear for when you are not on the mat.
8.2.4 “Athletes should use footwear up to the match area and wherever their use is permitted.”
The main thing in the hours before your fight is to remain calm. Getting too hyped too early leads to being exhausted before you even step on the mat.
Check your weight on the test scales as soon as you get to the venue if you are close to the weight limit. If possible, also check on the official scales as sometimes these will be different, but this is generally not allowed.
When the time is coming for your division, start to get prepared. Go to the toilet, and have a team mate listed for your division. Start to warm up, listen to your favourite music that motivates you, and mentally start to ramp up. I like to break a sweat before my first match, so I’m not trying to get up to speed while someone tries to choke me.
When your division is called, go and get marshalled straight away. This gives you time to change anything if you need to, and otherwise allows you to settle in and get focused while you wait in the bullpen.
A lot of times, the first thirty seconds of a match will be the most intense. Try to avoid being overwhelmed, and know that the pace will soon settle. You should not be concerned with saving energy for future matches. The time is now, give it your all. My coach Robert Drysdale says that if you lose, you should be crawling off the mats because you gave it your all, and that your opponent should never go on to win the next round because you made them work so hard in your fight.
If you win, rehydrate, recover and get ready for the next round.
If you lose, don’t lose the lesson. Review footage to see mistakes that can be corrected, and ask advice from your coach.
Regardless of the result, you should celebrate taking on the challenge and putting yourself out there. There are plenty that didn’t.