Overcoming an Adrenaline Dump

Hi Evolve Family

It's Brett Gleason writing in the Evolve Blog again. If you are thinking of competing in the upcoming BJJ tournaments, you might find the following article a worthy ready. Enjoy!


Standing in front of your opponent waiting for him (or her) to affix their coloured anklet or belt, you’re thinking to yourself, "please not now; any other time, but not now!” You feel like you weigh 1,000 kgs. Your arms are made of wood. Your feet are mired in mud and are so heavy you don’t know if you can move them. Your mouth feels like it’s full of cotton. All you can see and hear seems far away. Your hands shake and any fine movement with them is completely out of the question. Your heart feels as if it may leap out of your chest at any moment. After the adrenaline has run its course, you are suddenly more fatigued than you can ever remember. It is unfortunate because you’ve just reached the halfway point of your match.

Did someone drug your coffee?

No, you’re not on drugs. But at the same time, you are under the influence of some of the strongest chemicals your body can handle. You have just experienced an adrenaline dump.

One of the most common obstacles to peak performance in competition (especially for beginner and novice competitors) is the dreaded adrenaline dump. In light of the upcoming BJJ competitions around Asia, it seems appropriate to take some time to examine this phenomenon and look at some ways to overcome this common performance killer.

As a beginner or novice, it is advantageous to prepare as best you can for any and all new circumstances you may encounter. Remember, there are circumstances within your control and there are some that are out of your control. You can’t prepare for every contingency, but there are strategies you can use to increase your chances for success under even the most demanding situations (including the adrenaline dump).

Normally, we very rarely encounter a situation stressful enough to cause an involuntary release of adrenaline. Sometimes though, if we closely avoid a car accident, or stumble on the stairs and catch ourselves at the last minute, we may experience this natural, autonomic response to stress.

The involuntary release of adrenaline is often referred to as the adrenaline rush. Medically, it is more commonly known as the acute stress reaction or the fight-or-flight response. The incidence of the release of adrenaline at an inopportune time is often referred to by competitors as an adrenaline dump, Although this natural reaction produces unwelcome side-effects, we can take steps to prepare ourselves and learn to control the elements of this process.

These unwelcome side-effects include the following:

-Heavy breathing and heart pounding
-Paling or flushing
-Dilation of blood vessels for muscles
-Dry mouth
-Extreme fatigue

These physical changes have given our species a terrific advantage in evolutionary terms. However, for the beginner or novice BJJ player who is competing for the first time, these changes can be debilitating and can cost the unaware competitor his/her match.

A good analogy is: For the beginner, competing daily at your school is like swimming in a pool. Competing for the first time in a tournament with adrenaline added, is like swimming in a rough ocean for the first time.

Let’s look at some ways to mitigate the effects of this performance-draining adversary. Then, we may begin to body surf this rough current, rather than fighting it.

Train your game plan relentlessly. The more confident you are in your plan and execution, the less likely you’ll be hit with the adrenaline dump.

Breathing control
Utilizing disciplined breathing techniques are your ticket to controlling the dump once it has already begun. Slow, steady breathing will tell your brain and body that there has been a false alarm, and this will help ease the side-effects that interfere with your performance. Because of the breathing factor, yoga is a great complement to BJJ training.

Try to place yourself in situations during training that challenge your fear response. For example, during your free roll time, roll with the player who gives you the toughest time (while everyone else is watching). Be creative in devising your own ways to push your limits in class enough to release your adrenaline. This should be progressively more difficult each time.

Private lessons with your coach prior to your competition can make a huge difference in your game when it comes time to compete. Ask your coach to help you overcome your fear response, and you will gain excellent techniques to alleviate the symptoms of adrenaline dump.

The best competitors in the world, no matter what the sport, use visualization strategies. Develop and perfect your own and it will contribute enormously to your game.

Let’s try a new visualization:

Standing in front of your opponent waiting for him (or her) to affix their coloured anklet or belt, you’re thinking to yourself, "now is the time; all the hard work is for this!” You feel your heart beating in your chest, but the rhythm is comfortable. Your breaths are steady and measured. Your tunnel vision and hearing exclusion is the result of singular focus. Your body feels like a champion racehorse waiting for the gates to open. You control your fear and anxiety. You are confident that you are prepared as well as can be. You are ready to win.

I hope this will help both beginners and more seasoned players. Train hard, but train smart. Best wishes to all who are competing in the upcoming tournaments!

Evolve Mixed Martial Arts® is Asia's premier brand of MMA academies. Evolve MMA ranks among the best academies in the world for Muay Thai, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and Mixed Martial Arts.