Building a Tournament Gameplan
Building a gameplan for jiu jitsu competition can be difficult; especially if you really have no idea where to start. When I do private lessons this is typically the most common reason why the student has booked my time. They want to learn how to build a tournament strategy, and what they should work on specifically to improve their gameplan. As someone who has been fortunate enough to deeply study jiu jitsu statistics, there does appear to be a semi-clear path to doing this properly.
Most practitioners’ struggles with deciding on if their plan should be theoretical vs. practical. This is usually the first decision you have to make when deciding how you want to approach training to implement your strategy. A theoretical plan may center on concepts, ideas, and general tactics. A practical plan would be more focused on specific moves, grips, and positions. So which is best?
In all of the “It’s Science” studies we’ve published on our site - and in Jiu Jitsu Style Magazine – one clear element sticks out about the majority of top competitors that we’ve studied. Most are very rigid with their approach to every match. They perform the same move’s, get the same grips, and wind-up in all the same positions. Some are almost robotic. You can see pretty clearly that most of these competitors come in to the match with very specific movement and techniques that they would like to apply. While there may be some conceptual element to what they do, it’s clear that the vision that guys like Rafa Mendes and Royler Gracie have is very defined.
This spells out that for the majority of competitors, a practical approach to game planning typically is the preferred choice of top competitors. This means that when you’re training and strategizing for a tournament you should focus on specific techniques and positions that you’d like to implement and enforce upon your opponent rather than general ideas of what you’d like to do.. A rigid training program that focuses on implementing strengths in your games, combined with repetitive positional sparring is likely a good fit for this.
While most competitors took this approach, several succeed applying a more conceptual approach. Guys like Keenan Cornelius and Braulio Estima found success using a variety of varying approaches. However, to determine their exact approach and strategy you would probably need to dig deeper into their training methods and mindset.
So as you build out your tournament strategy for the upcoming jiu jitsu season be sure to meditate on this information and see if it can help bring further definition to your gameplan. It’s important that you don’t overthink every aspect of a tournament plan, but as the old saying goes, “those that don’t plan, plan to fail”.