The Beginner in Competition with Prof. Carlos Lemos

January 12, 2022by bigpromoter0
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“I think the biggest mistake is to not try.” Prof. Lemos
Many Gracie Barra students start jiu-jitsu and begin to become interested in the idea of competition. It’s a great way to motivate your training and test your skills in a live situation.
Along with the decision to enter a competition, there are many questions that come up for the novice competitor. This week we have Prof. Carlos Lemos to answer some of these questions for you.
IG: Prof. Carlos Lemos
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GB: For newer students to Gracie Barra, how does a student know when they are ready for competition? Is it time training? A level of physical fitness? Knowing a certain number of techniques?
Prof. Lemos: Normally I advise my students to not compete unless they reach the 3rd stripe on their white belt. The GB Method and Curriculum allows our students to start live sparring at the third stripe. Before that, they are really doing only set / specific sparring and practicing drills or techniques. Live sparring starts at the third stripe. Therefore live sparring is the closest experience to a competition before they start to compete.
Once they start doing live sparring, and you start to see a better level of fitness and condition. I start to detect an improvement, the dedication. Then I start little by little talking to them about competition and the benefits of winning or the learning that competition can bring to somebody. And to jump-start the jiu-jitsu development of each new student.
GB: For a first-time competitor, what should be their mindset looking at that first tournament experience? Dead serious about winning or look at it as having fun?
Prof. Lemos: That’s a really good question. I strongly advise my students to compete with the mindset of winning and learning. Because if they come with that approach of winning or learning – regardless of the outcome of the competition there will always be room for growth. When they perceive the competition as an opportunity for growth. So I never send them over there with the mindset that ‘win…or it’s the end of the world”. I think that is the worst thing that somebody can do to the students.
But more of an open mind that ‘Okay, we are going to train and do everything that we can to win’, but it’s only in the competition that our weakness or mistakes can be exposed. Therefore if we can see what we need to work on to improve, that is always a win-win opportunity for the competitor.
GB: What to focus on in training for that last month before the tournament?
Prof. Lemos: Focus on the last month before the competition is essentially work on your best moves is to set up a game plan that you are going to be using. Workaround the situations and the possibilities of that game.
I normally like to have a few guard moves, a few passes, a throw, and a transition to the guard. That’s how I normally work. And of course, from a few spots, you can always capitalize on your favorite submission depending on what game you are setting up for your competition. So it’s really working exclusively on your favorite moves and working the possibilities around those moves. That’s how I normally train for a competition.
GB: What is the biggest mistake novice competitors make?
Prof. Lemos: You are allowed to commit mistakes. I don’t think ‘what is the biggest mistake?’
I think the biggest mistake is to not try. To stay in the comfort zone of your Gracie Barra academy and only train with your buddies that you are used to. I think that is the biggest mistake.
Coming down to competition I think that the novice – the earlier belts are the best ones for you to get out there and try and learn from it. When you can afford to commit mistakes. Rather than in higher belt levels where when you are a brown or especially a black belt one mistake can cost you the tournament.
So I think the time to commit mistakes is really when you are a beginner. I think the biggest mistake is to not try.
GB: The most common question we get at Gracie Barra’s blog is “I feel really nervous before a tournament match. Is this normal? How do I deal with the nerves?”
Prof. Lemos: The most common question is of course natural. Everybody feels nervous when they get out there. You know the possibility of an injury, the shame of losing in the first round, of not being able to perform, and the list goes on. The disappointed friends and family.
But what I normally tell my students is: ‘You see the person on the other side. He is feeling everything that you are!” And the one that is going to come out of this on top is whoever can control these emotions. There is a famous saying of Napoleon Bonaparte, the French emperor, and dictator which was like ‘The coward and the hero, they fear the same way. The difference is what they do with their fear. That is what defines them.’
GB: What advice can you share with the new competitor?
Prof. Lemos: My advice for the new competitor would be don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to fail. Leave all that you have out there. Don’t bring anything back home. And whatever happens, you will feel fulfilled and that you achieved something.
Most important to not give up. I have a saying which is ‘Hard to beat… impossible to break!’ That’s the mindset and the spirit.
See also on GB Blog: GB Inspiration: Prof. Flavio Almeida on overcoming struggles
Writer: Mark Mullen, Gracie Barra Black Belt

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