By TXMMA Staff // Tony Trammell // Photos: Mike Calimbas
Galvao, Bastos, Dopp, Antelante discuss mental and physical preparation for high level competition
November 4, 2015 – What is the definition of a champion? Webster Dictionary describes a winner as, “someone who takes first place in competition or someone who is marked with superiority”. Outside of what people see from an athlete, it takes hours of dedication; perfecting one’s skill at their craft. You end up with many nights coming home sore and tired; only to wake up early to do it all over again. Each day, pushing your body to its limits in hopes of achieving perfection.
You will find them in the gym honing their skill, because to be a champion requires sacrifice. The dedicated Jiu Jitsu competitor will train twice a day, six days a week and still find time to work strength and conditioning. However, this is not true for all of them; some have full-time jobs or are students.
The biggest obstacle in any athlete’s path is themselves. We have all experienced self-doubt and resistance at some point in our life but knowing how to become self-confident is key. Steven Pressfield said in his book The War of Art, “The more important a call to action is to our soul’s evolution, the more resistance we will feel about answering it. But to yield to resistance deforms our spirit.” After speaking with multiple competitors, one thing is certain; to be mentally prepared is more important than all of the hours in the gym.
With the 2015 IBJJF No Gi World Championship approaching on November 7th and 8th and being held in Long Beach, CA, TXMMA wanted to speak to the competitors to see what it takes to be a champion. What does it take to put it all on the line in hopes of achieving greatness? What are the sacrifices that have been or must be made?
Angelica Galvao (Black Belt, Atos)
Angelica Galvao is a 29 year old black belt who competes at lightweight and represents Atos Jiu Jitsu under Andre Galvao. She has been competing for six years total and took a break from training and competing in 2004 when she was pregnant. She did not return back to training until the end of 2010.
What is a typical day for you?
A typical day of training for me starts with me waking up early to eat a healthy breakfast in order to be ready for conditioning, cardio and two bjj sessions. I try to always eat healthy with proper portions of food to maintain my weight for competing. I do love to eat chocolate, but I save that for the weekend and only eat dark chocolate.
What do you think it takes to compete at the highest level?
Becoming a world champion comes with many sacrifices. I always say that our training starts before we get to the gym because we have to give things up like staying out late or going to parties in order to wake up early. You have to always be focused on what goes into your body so eating out is limited and typically I eat at home. Basically, there is no social life during the training camps for the big tournaments. Discipline is the key to being successful in anything not just Jiu Jitsu. Hard work is never in vain.
What is your favorite memory competing?
In 2014, I won a world title as a brown belt and was promoted to black belt by my husband and head of Atos Andre Galvao. That has to be the most memorable moment I have had competing. My advice for someone looking to get on the winning track would be to train smart. Try to divide your training in a way you can work more on your attacks than defense. Don’t go home with a question on your mind; ask and learn every day. Make sure you are mentally prepared before you step onto the mats. Picture yourself as a winner and set your mind to give everything you have on the mat.
Is it important to have a support from your family when competing?
It also helps to have a supportive team and family when you compete. My daughter, even though she is young, understands when I am tired, frustrated or grumpy as I get ready to compete. All she has to do is give me a hug and smile after, and that is the best prize even if I win or lose. My husband is my coach, my professor, and my boss who supports and challenges me the most. It also is great to have a sponsor like War Tribe Gear who has supported me even when I was injured and could not compete.
Marcus Antelante (Black Belt, Soul Fighters)
Marcus Antelante is a 31 year old 1st degree Black Belt who competes at middleweight and represents Soul Fighters. He has been competing for 12 years with one of his biggest wins coming in the Worlds NoGi finishing 3rd place.
What is a typical day for you?
First, I start with a training session at noon where I focus on some drills followed by several rounds of sparring. After that, I will eat something light and go to the gym for my strength and conditioning that my professor Italo Villardo sends me from Brazil. I have a little time to rest before returning to the gym to teach my classes at night, where I focus more on drilling certain positions and less sparring. I try to train 6 days per week, 3 times a day but sometimes that is difficult to do.
What advice would you give to a competitor not living up to their potential?
You have to believe in yourself and respect what your coach tells you. Always be willing to help you teammates, and they in turn will help prepare you. If you want to be a champion, there is no secret, the mats do not lie. You have to be here every day, drill a lot, respect the instructors by paying attention, and only working the technique they show you. You have to have discipline on what time you wake up, when you eat, and when you go to sleep. You must change everything in your life in order to become a champion.
How important is mental preparation and what do you do to prepare?
Mental Preparation is 99% of the game when competing in Jiu Jitsu. It is very important to be mentally strong, especially one day before you compete. You cannot let your mind have negative thoughts. You must be strong every day and leave your mind empty. In order to help me prepare mentally before I step onto the mat, I sometimes listen to music or stay quiet and think of my game plan and my positions.
What kind of support to you have from your family?
I am very fortunate to have my wife support me in preparing for the tournaments. She takes care of everything. She is a huge help in making sure in the days before I compete, that my weight is right and that I have everything that I need. My family supports me in my choice to be a competitor since I was very young. Currently I’m living in Texas and even though they are in Brazil, it still helps to know they support me. I must thank God for keeping me healthy in order to train every day. Also, for having a sponsor like Brazil Combat who has been with me since blue belt is amazing.
Milton Bastos (Black Belt, Samir Chantre BJJ)
Milton Bastos is a 33 year old Black Belt (light featherweight) who represents Samir Chantre Jiu Jitsu. He has been competing for 20 years, and his first match was at yellow belt. After having a bad neck injury, he almost decided to quit competing. After receiving some inspiring words from Ricardo Franjinha Miller, the founder of Paragon Academy, he came back to win a World Title as a Brown belt in 2010.
What is a typical day for you?
I teach four classes a day, and I try to train three times a day at least. I will also try to get together with other black belt friends in the area for training. I don’t do any strength and conditioning, just a lot of Jiu Jitsu. I also don’t really have any certain diet I follow because I have a pretty high metabolism. I just eat whatever I want. As I get closer to competing, I just try to make better choices by eating clean.
When you prepare to compete what is most important to you?
The most important thing for me is to always have fun when I compete. The competition is like my playground. I’m always excited to be there. Leading up to the competition is always exciting as well. Being able to hangout and train with the guys, getting to see people who you have trained with in a while. This is the life that I choose and every day is exciting, even when I’m not getting ready to compete. I still remember the first time that I competed 20 years ago as a yellow belt, and I still love it. One of the best memories I have in competing was when I won Worlds in 2010 as a Brown Belt. I had several hard matches that day, but I was able to overcome them all. The final match was very tough with only a few seconds left. I passed his guard, went to knee on belly, and I just remember looking up and seeing my whole team around me yelling and celebrating.
Do you have support from your family when competing and how important is the mental aspect?
My mother never has liked that I train and has always asked me when I am going to get a real job. My wife and son are very supportive though, and are with me at the gym most days. My son is just a Gray belt, but he competes also. Mental preparation is by far the most important because sometimes you go into a match with an injury, and you start to doubt yourself. You start to ask yourself: Did I even train enough? Did I rest enough? What is going to happen if I get stuck in a position? If you have a strong mind, that will help you a lot sometimes. It’s more important than getting into shape. I am also thankful to have the support from my sponsor, War Tribe. I had a bad injury last year. I was not able to compete, but they stayed with me the whole time.
Jared Dopp (Black Belt, Lovato BJJ)
Jared Dopp is a 26 year old (Super/Ultra Heavyweight) Black belt under Rafael Lovato, Jr. He recently earned a silver medal in the 2015 ADCC after a forty minute final match with Orlando Sanchez. He is currently a full-time student working on getting his second degree, and only able to train a few days a week.
What is a typical day for you?
I am a full time student, so my training is different from most competitors. It is really basic. I go once during the week after school or work, and we will do the series of the day which lasts about an hour. After that, we will spar based on what tournament is coming up. Saturday training is a two hour class, and only for blue belt and above. This class is for people getting ready to compete, or for people helping other people prepare. In the beginning, we do a lot of drilling. You start with your takedowns, then passes, and finally your submissions. After that, we move to position specific training. For example, we will do back drills where one guy is trying to submit, and the other is trying to defend and escape. Finally, after all the other training, we then do rounds and the time depends on how far out we are from the tournament. For instance, if we are three weeks out; we will do up to six rounds of sparring. The closer we get, we’ll do less rounds and more drilling.
Competing at the higher weight class; how is your diet?
When I compete at Ultra Heavy, I do eat whatever I want but responsibly. If it’s 8 am, I’m not going to have ice cream. I’ll save that for later in the day. When I compete at Super Heavy, I do clean my diet up quite a bit. I don’t want to leave any doubt that I’m not going to make weight the week leading up to the event. I have not missed weight yet and don’t plan on it.
Since you are a full-time student and you compete so much, how do you manage your time?
I have been competing for over four years now. Dedication comes in many different forms. For me, it has required me giving up a decent amount of my social life. Obviously I socialize when I’m at school and at work, but if I get any free time; I always go to the gym. I also do strength and conditioning on my own. I have to make time for that; whether I have to miss sleep or not. Dedication is about making time for your jiu jitsu training, for the gym, and you have to get the sleep you want. I think those three are the most important parts of becoming a champion. It is very easy to miss a week of training and tell yourself, “oh I will make it up”.
What advice would you give a competitor looking to improve their competition game?
The biggest thing would be consistency, especially if you are having a hard time winning. As you progress, consistency training is still a big deal. As a lower belt, when you don’t understand something or you don’t know why something is happening, you need to spend a little more time with it. That is not just in Jiu Jitsu, but with everything in life. I think that people who are having a hard time developing their game; they just need to keep training. Don’t get discouraged. Eventually you will figure it out by training and asking questions; someone will help you. The better you are prepared physically, the better mental state you will be in. Having said that, it is not necessarily true for everyone. Right now, I’m not able to train as much as I would like but feel like I’m always prepared mentally. I believe that you should be more mentally prepared to compete than physically. You have to go into the match really believing in your abilities no matter what your game is.
Do you have anyone you would like to thank?
I am thankful to be part of such a great team and to have supportive coaches like Rafael Lovato Jr. and Justin Rader. Whenever I go to San Diego, I train with Xande and Saulo Ribeiro. They are very helpful and answer any questions that I have. I would also like to thank Hyper Fly, Studio 540, and Jiu Jitsu Engineers.