Are you struggling to be your best self on the competition mat?

By Gustavo Dantas

How many times have you felt frustrated and disappointed after a match, because you knew that you could have done so much better than what you have showed? You probably kept telling yourself: “That was not me there, I didn’t perform the way I practiced, I’m so much better than that!”Most likely without even realizing, you committed a Mental Mistake that influenced your performance.


Even though I accomplished good things in Jiu-Jitsu, I struggled to perform to best of my ability for a long time. Winning or losing is not the point here, but performing to the best of your ability and being your best self on the mat.


The reason why I mention that is not about the winning or the losing is because often times you can have a great performance and lose, or have a poor performance and win. That is why I believe your goal should be performing to the best of your abilities with the tools and knowledge that you have right now. Sometimes your best will be enough to win, sometimes it won’t, but at least you will be in peace with yourself knowing that you did the best you could.




Based on my thirty years of Jiu-Jitsu experience, I decided to list of “The Top 10 Mental Mistakes BJJ Competitors Make and How to avoid them.” These are Mental Mistakes that I personally made or my students have made, and I hope this list can help you to cope better with some of the mental mistakes that you might have made in your Jiu-jitsu journey.


The first three mistakes that I shared were:


Mistake #1– Focusing on the outcome

Mistake #2– Fear of disappointing others

Mistake #3– Fear of making costly mistakes


These three mistakes feed from each other, and if you don’t re-frame those thoughts you can get caught in a “vicious cycle”.


Very often competitors put some much focus on the outcome of the tournament that this mindset end up holding them back from being their best selves on the mat. The fear of disappointing others, like family, friends and teammates can produce a fear of making costly mistakesthat could lead to an undesired tournament outcome (a loss) and end up disappoint others. As you can see it’s really easy to get caught in the “vicious cycle”, with one mistake feeding the other.


How to snap out of the “vicious cycle”?


I’m going to share with you the three strategies to improve your thought process and snap out from this painful cycle.


1- Self-Awareness.Think about what you are thinking about. You need to catch yourself and stop immediately when you realize that are engaging in a irrational negative self-talk.


2- Challenge the thought.Take a deep breath and ask yourself: “What am I telling myself? Is this a rational or irrational thought totally based on assumptions?” Which means, Do I have control of it or not?


“What if I fail? What my friends and family will think about me?”


Do you have control of the outcome of the tournament? No.

Do you have control of the expectations the other might have of you? No.


The human being is born with only two types of fears: Fear of loud noises and fear of falling, every other fear YOU are creating in your own head.


Ask yourself: “Are these thoughts moving me away from my goal, or towards my goal?


3- Make a choice.Now that you are aware of your negative thoughts, you recognize what you can and/or cannot control, you need to make a choice.


Are you going to stick with the negative thoughts that are holding you back and/or moving you away from your goal?

OR you are going to re-frame the negative thought to positive, and move forward towards your goal.


Keep one thing in mind: “YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE, NOT WHAT YOU DO!” Winning or losing a tournament, it will not make you a better or worse worthwhile person. Don’t mix up your image as an athlete with your image as a person. Do not rely on the outcome of a tournament to feel good about yourself as a person, because you have no control of the outcome.


Anytime you focus on things that YOU cannot control it will lead to muscle tension, anxiety and most likely not performing to the best of your ability. I’m not saying that you can’t win being anxious, but you might have a hard time reaching your full potential and being your best self on the mat.


If you would like to know the other seven mental mistakes BJJ competitors make, please visit You can watch all ten videos or download the audio version as well.


Jiu-Jitsu is an INCREDIBLE personal development tool, and if you would like to AMPLIFY the power of this tool, competitions are a great way to do so!


Gustavo Dantas


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