In my prior Into the Blue post, I began writing about the tournament preparations which I believe helped my overall execution on competition day. So, continuing in that vein…

Knowing my issue was mainly mental, I was approaching this issue almost entirely from the mental angle, despite the physical being present in my preparations too (BJJ practice, Gym time, sauna, etc.). We had already started to look at this issue as the pattern emerged with each tournament: freezing up, overthinking, not thinking, not listening to my Coach, etc. I wanted to be calm internally and I wanted that to be reflected externally in my execution as well as my facial expression – no strain, or anything, just a completely calm face, breathing calm. Occupying a state of “No Mind“.

Since we were already on the path to accomplish that task, and as mentioned in the prior post, I began reading ‘The Fighter’s Mind”. I also began to look at my mental state as it applied to my all of my training – a holistic approach. This included things like: my plan for how I executed my rolls (not just ‘my game’ but where my mind was, how I planned to be mentally during a roll), how I trained with my partners and how I approached my personal physical training at the gym.

Let’s start off the mats with my PT sessions, it’ll be an easier transition to move from there.

We all have our “go to” jams for working out. It keeps us “pumped”; excited, engaged and the right music helps to curb any potential boredom while grinding through the hard stuff. For the longest time, I would listen to aggressive music while lifting weights, doing cardio, etc. I felt it helped me keep up the tempo or that it kept me “psyched up” so I could “tear shit up” in the gym.

Well, that’s what I felt at least.

Ladies and Gentlemen… you don’t need to. Seriously.

I personally give my BJJ Professor props for planting this seed in my head. He has mentioned a few times to the team when talking about dealing with his own pre-comp jitters and keeping himself mellow. One of the things he did was listen to Bob Marley and other laid back Reggae music before his matches as it helped keep his mind calm and clear.

So that made me think, and I began to experiment…

Awhile back I had created a meditation station on Pandora, it helped me detach and refocus when the shit was hitting the fan in life. It took a bit for me to find the right kind of sound that I liked. Noises from the ocean, rainforest or desert accompanied by a didgeridoo really doesn’t do it for me. The primary seed for this station is an artist that goes by the name Liquid Mind. No nature sounds, just very calming. I dig it. So, in the gym, I began listening to this station while doing my PT. Heavy lifting, HIIT or steady paced cardio, even my repair/rehab work. All accompanied by Liquid Mind and similar artists thanks to Pandora’s algorithms. Surprise, surprise: My performance didn’t decrease.

My deadlift sessions (the main heavy lift I do) continued to improve on the same course as before when I listened to more aggressive music. HIIT and steady paced cardio didn’t see a decrease in performance, either. The only difference being that my overall temperment and mental clarity seemed, to me, better. It was challenging at first because I was used to the high-tempo beats. But in the long run, I was more calm; centered and focused. My breathing, something I had been working on having better control over for a while, seemed slightly easier with the calmer state of mind.

As an aside, I’d love to be a part of a scientific study to see how different music types impact brain waves and physical output / performance on the mat or in the gym. My theory is that while there could be some initial, provable difference, especially for a song one really gets into, but, overall my “hypothesis” would be that: measured over a specific span of time it would by and large lose its “power”, mainly being a placebo effect where one feels like they performed better with higher tempo music. I’m of the opinion that the mental arena holds the more crucial keys to greater performance – focus, concentration, meditative state, visualization, etc.

Seriously, if there is a study, I’d love to be a part of it, hit me up!

Before going to train BJJ was a little different…

Similar to my work in the gym, I was usually listening to rap or rock most days before BJJ. However, one of the things I had been specifically working on regarding my BJJ game (either in competition or training on the mat) was not being so “serious”; having a sense of play, curiosity and exploration while learning, exposing myself to more uncomfortable positions and risk on top of implementing my “game” during rolls.

So when it came to my audio choice pre-BJJ… Stand-up Comedy. Seriously. Genuine laughter relaxes the body as well as releasing positive chemicals that relieve mental stress. So I began listening to Stand Up. I began to feel more relaxed as I went through training.

Something important to note here, none of these changes are groundbreaking, mind blowing, paradigm shifting changes in and of themselves. But, I believe that the sum total of all the small, incremental changes helped me on game day. Up to and including being able to have a playful, non-threatening smile as I slapped hands and bumped fists with my opponents. And yes, I did listen to nothing but Stand Up on my way to the tournament and while I waited my turn to compete.

I hope, so far, I have given you a few things to think on regarding your game and how you train. Maybe it will help.

In the final installment – I honestly didn’t plan a three-part post – I want to talk about one final mental shift, specifically regarding the how when I approached my rolls in the gym and a couple observations on game day that I thought were beneficial.

Keep moving forward.