Fear automatically has a negative connotation when spoken or read. The human mind has been habituated to recognise fear as a bad thing. Why do we detest fear so much? I personally think fear is a critical ingredient in creating champions and a pioneering element of greatness. Without it, would we be so propelled to pursuing our endeavours otherwise?

Fear can trigger the creative capacity to visualise all the possible future scenarios that we could possibly anticipate in a competition, but it can also make or break how we perform if we cannot manage the anxiety and thoughts of the unknown. 

How much fear is too much and how does the Hyperfly team manage their preparation? Social media can often fail to highlight the less glamorous parts of a training camp and the ugly side of training, including the injuries and the breakdowns.

With one of the most sought out events of the year, the prestigious IBJJF Worlds is looming around the corner, we have come to interview some of our athletes on their Worlds 2018 preparation and what they fear most on the road towards competition day. 

Athlete Q&A |

  1. What are your general feelings during preparation for a big competition like the Worlds? Does it change with the calibre of the competition?
  1. What is the biggest hurdle for you in terms of competing?
  1. Do you think fear is a necessary ingredient in progress and becoming a successful competitor?
  1. What advice would you give to your white/blue belt self?
  1. What are your biggest challenges in getting ready for high level competition?
  1. Do you like to use visualisation to prepare for competition? (Elaborate on your answer)
  1. It’s event day. You’re in the bull pen. You are getting called by the ring coordinator to head over to your mat. What are your feelings in this moment?

 Jared Dopp |

1. I'm usually pretty excited when preparing for a competition in general. I do get a little more excited for larger events such (Pans, Worlds, ADCC) but I try to mimic that for all competitions.

2. The biggest hurdle for me in terms of competing is my school work. I'm working on a graduate degree in chemical engineering so I have to put in a lot of hours for research and I'm not allowed to travel as much as I'd like.

3. I don't think fear is a necessary ingredient but I think a person's ability to overcome fear is necessary. I've always been told that being nervous about something is a sign that it means a lot to you, but you can't let those nerves, or fear, hold you back. In my mind, you have to be able to overcome the fear/nerves if you want to be a successful competitor.

4. I did way better at blue belt than I am now so maybe my blue belt self should be giving me advice! I might tell my past self to try new things in training more often. Allow the game to grow a little sooner.

5. My biggest challenges when getting ready for a competition are 1) finding the time to get the training I need and 2) finding enough training partners. Issue number 1 is due to my career choice but number 2 is because of where I'm located. Our academy in Ames, IA isn't very big so we don't have a deep stable.

6. I've actually never been big on visualization in any of my sports. I've always been cautious of it because I don't want to get stuck on one scenario and have that affect my performance. However, I will sometimes run through various scenarios in my head and come up with ways to make them work in my favor. For example, I'll visualize different grips an opponent might go for during a takedown battle and play out my counters in my head. When I do it this way, I feel like it keeps my mind sharp and opens up new possibilities.

7. I get butterflies in my stomach and my heart starts racing. I take some deep breaths and think about how much I love this feeling. I'm happy to be there and do something I enjoy. I'm excited to compete and see how far I've come. 

Lucas Rocha 

1. Yes, the motivation is always different when you can become a world champion and make history in the sport, knowing there is not to many champions around. So I like to training harder, during the 4-5 weeks before competition.

2. I never had any hard time to compete, I was lucky back in Brazil with only 17/18 years of age, I got into a program where the state were sponsoring some athletes, so since that age, I had the chance to travel and compete around the world. Actually this was the first year that I had to get some points in order to compete, I had to compete in an extra IBJJF Open to raise  enough points to be able to qualify for Worlds. It wasn't too bad, I only needed 3 more points, but unfortunately I ended up injuring a finger and it definitely ended up changing my way of training.

3. Definitively , the fear will keep you safe, as well as bringing value to your fights, it will keep motivated to do it. If you don't care at all, you will have no reason to be there and you can easily give up positions and lose matches.

4. As far as competing? Don't lose your position, and score first. They only fight for 5-6 minutes, one mistake is crucial. Overall? Just trying, and try to learn from any situation, top, bottom, and as often as possible, I believe we need it as black belts. It makes a difference when you feel confident and comfortable in all circumstances.

5. Definitely, time management and balancing training, today I run two BJJ academies and uniforms (affiliations?) for over 70 other around Europe and the US. Having that alongside with the training preparation it becomes a quite a load. But I can really say that I love it, I really enjoy these two sides of the sport, the competing as well as the teaching, it’s just amazing.

6. Yes, I believe you really have to visualize, things gotta get real in your mind in order to become real in your hands. After visualizing things so much, you can start really believing that you can accomplish things and it definitely makes you more confident. And confidence is crucial in this business.

7 Unstoppable. I like to think of Mike Tyson's Quote: ''The closer I get to the ring the more confident I get. Once I am in the ring I am a God.'' It helps hahaha.

Matthew Gillette 

1. I think that training does ramp up a notch in preparation for Worlds. Everyone is pushing it to the limit everyday in the gym. I believe that rising tides raise all ships, so with everyone pushing the pace we all grow stronger. 

2. I believe my biggest hurdle in terms of competing at worlds this year will be the fact that I am only 11 weeks post knee surgery. So I have only been back to live training for a few weeks. I got hurt January 1st and it took three months with doctors, MRI and insurance to get my surgery date. So my biggest hurdle is coming off a four month layoff and trying to hang with the best in the world on my worst day.

3. I think fear can be a great motivator but I also think too much fear can paralyse you. If you fear losing, it can be used for fuel to train harder to ensure it won’t happen.

4. The advice I would give to my white belt/blue belt self would be to always believe in yourself and to fight every second of the match.

5. For me one of the biggest challenges I face when preparing for tournaments is time. I am a husband and father of 3. I work a full time job. I train three times a day in addition to teaching 2 classes every night. My packed schedule leaves very little down time and it can become very stressful to juggle all those responsibilities. However I think that’s what drives and motivates me. Pressure builds diamonds

6. I am huge on the cerebral aspect of fighting and sports psychology. I use visualization to prepare for every tournament. I close my eyes I imagine the arena I create a detailed image in my mind the sounds, the smell, I feel and see my arm and hand being lifted as I physically lift it up in the air. I do this several times a day. This exercise records mental muscle memory and when I go into tournaments my arm expects to be raised at the end of every match. It’s one of the reasons why I never jump up and down or go bananas celebrating when I win. It’s because it’s never a surprise to me, it’s an expectation. My mind expects that result because it’s been conditioned to. I have been there thousands of times in my head and hundreds of times in real life. I think a lot of success is about making the big moments into small everyday moments. We never have to give much thought to everyday moments because they have become normalcy. So through visualization and mental prep we can take out nervousness and fear because we’ve already been here before.  

7. There are few greater feelings in the world than being called on deck. The pure rush of endorphins, the excitement of knowing the time is finally here. The work, the sacrifice that all led up to this chance to turn your dreams into reality. I try to take it all in, to really soak up every ounce of this moment the lights, the crowd the arena. This is where I am supposed to be this is my purpose and my passion and it’s showtime

Nathan Mendelsohn 

1. I feel like there is definitely a different vibe when training for a tournament like the Worlds. Becoming World Champion to me is a culmination of nearly two decades of hard work training jiu-jitsu so the pressure to make sure everything is exactly perfect is higher than it is for any old tournament. The knowledge that all the very best athletes in the world are all showing up at their utmost preparedness to try and take that same gold medal definitely pushes me to do everything I can to be the best version of myself possible.

2. For me the hardest part is always dieting. Or the least fun part anyways. Over the years I have dialed it in pretty well though and it has become less a matter of weight cutting or more a matter of making my nutrition just a part of my every day lifestyle.

3. No, for me fear is the enemy of progress and success. One of my mentors Greg Amundson always teaches that in life you can feed either the Dog of Courage or the Dog of Fear with your thoughts and mental energy and which Dog you choose to feed determines whether you are headed towards success or failure.

4. Compete as much as possible. I think I felt like competing once a month or even every other month was enough back when I was a blue belt. I would tell myself that especially at 16-18 years old I should have been competing every other week.

5. My biggest challenges that I face getting ready for high level comps is balancing preparing myself and also not neglecting my students. I hope they appreciate the energy I put into them, but also understand that my competitive prime is finite and that one day my sole focus will be on them and that it is important that I make my own competition success my priority at this point in my career.

6. I use a lot of visualization and mantras to keep myself in the correct mindstate. I imagine things like my hand being raised, running to the fence where my supporters and coaches are after a big win and having the gold medal hung around my neck. I also repeat and implant the thoughts into my own head that I know will lead me to success. 

7. This is it. The moment I enjoy most in the entire world.

Demian Balderrama

1. Anxiety, excitement and nerves. Everybody is tough at worlds.

2. Some of the biggest hurdles for me are cutting weight and injuries.

3. Sometimes it helps.

4. Train as much as possible,especially with higher level competitors or higher belts. Get out of the comfort zone.

5. No injuries, proper nutrition, no mental stress.

6. Yes and no,for the end result of the competition yes, for each match no, because many times things go very differently of what you expected. So improvisation based on your training is a must.

7. Nerves and excitement.

Aarae Alexander

1.I always get super stressed and excited before a huge competition like Worlds. That’s just my perfectionist personality. I start getting really hard on myself in training because I want to perform well and win. 

2. The biggest hurdle for me competing is just letting go of all of the crazy stressful thoughts that I have and to just relax and go out there and do what I do. 

3. I do believe that fear is a necessary component in becoming a successful competitor. I think you can’t be successful without a little bit of fear.

4. I would tell myself to relax a little bit more and enjoy the process of training and competing. 

5. My biggest challenge is taking everything too seriously and being too hard on myself leading up to high level competition. I always have to get my mind right and just focus on what I want to accomplish.

6. I visualize myself on the top of the podium getting the gold medal. I also visualize myself in matches (tough ones where I’m in bad positions and have to figure out how to get out and win and matches where I get quick finishes).

7. I’m probably feeling super determined and focused. I always say a quote to myself repeatedly before stepping onto the mat. “All you, give ‘em nothing.” Basically meaning let’s go do this and leave it all on the mat in the process. 

Whether you are a competitor or not, we all experience fear in one form or another, how does it affect your training? 

Share your experiences with us.

We look forward to seeing and meeting some of you at the Pyramid. 

Sophia Pakter