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What is your tournament training plan?

You’re training to go from a casual capoeirista to a competitor. You can’t fake it, you have to earn it. What does that mean? It means you’re going into the tournament having already won. You’re building to an inevitable outcome. You now have 8 weeks to go through training camp.

You might be asking now, “What is a training camp?” You may have heard of professional fighters going through their camps so you may be familiar with the concept. It’s an intense period of planned cardio, strength, and technique training in the weeks before a bout. In our case, the tournament. What I’m going to provide for you are the pillars of what I focus on when training my students for competing: cardiovascular endurance, capoeira technique, time management and nutrition and rest. Everyone’s camp may look a little bit different in method, but all camps should focus on these pillars.

Plan your camp to be around 6-8 weeks in length. Start with an intense cardio regimen in week one. This is to shock you and let you know where you are physically and mentally. Week two will be light and each successive week will gain intensity and duration in your workouts. Week seven (of an 8 week camp) will be HELL WEEK, which will be the hardest week. Week eight will be an active recovery week, a lot of stretching and light effort aerobic exercise.

1.) Establish and build your cardiovascular endurance.

Question to ask: How do I develop the mental toughness to push through fatigue?

Over the duration of training camp there will be a consistent increase in the intensity and length of cardio conditioning. You have to plan your workouts to do a little bit more than you think you can each session. Commit to your plan and track your progress.

You should be working on your fitness most days of the week. This should be objective based over the length of your camp. There will be a cyclical nature with cardio, strength, and technique training. If your cardio endurance is poor you won’t have the opportunity to display your technique. As the old saying goes, “fatigue makes cowards of us all.”

Trainer’s Tip: Complete your exercises in conditions that challenge you. For example, if you’re running, build in sprints. Progressively plan your workouts to build in bigger challenges and tougher conditions.

“The trick…. is not minding that it hurts.” - Lawrence of Arabia, 1962.

2.) Refine your capoeira practice.

Questions to ask: What techniques should I train? How can I prepare for the unpredictability and nerves of the actual competition?

Your performance in the tournament is being judged based on three main categories: form, variation/volume, and effectiveness. Your execution of the movements in your game must be clean and precise. You must include a variety of movements (e.g. kicks, dodges, quebradas, balanca, escapes, etc.) You must also be purposeful and effective with your movements. You should be aiming to control the game.

Build your capoeira training around the aforementioned rules. Think of multiple ways to attack, trap, and evade your opponent. Be strategic with your training. Drill specific attacks and responses to common movements. For example, you as a capoeirista know that your opponent will most likely do the following movements: meia lua de compasso, queixada, martelo, au, negativa etc. Because you know this, prepare for it. Drill effective responses to these high frequency movements.

Additionally, because you know there are obvious responses to frequent movements, use this to your advantage. You do the high frequency movements expecting the responses that you prepared earlier and use this knowledge to trap your opponent.

Trainer’s Tip: Map out your drills. Focus on the skills you need to develop. Then drill your technique beyond just doing it right. Drill until you can’t do it wrong.

Good trainers have their athletes obsessively drill their techniques “Over and over and over... till they think they’re born that way.” - Million Dollar Baby, 2004.

To get beyond the unpredictability of facing an unknown opponent, train uncomfortable. For example, you hate getting up early and running. Do it. Get up early and run 2 miles. You need to do things that make you uncomfortable.

To tackle the nerves of competition day, develop a 5 minute warm up routine that you use for each camp workout and for tournament day that does not require props. This routine should become a tournament training ritual. You should put your complete focus into the warm up and get excited for the training or tournament that is about to happen.

Pick five exercises you do for a minute each. Keep the sequence the same every time. Pick four normal exercise such as jumping jacks, skips, shuttle runs, and burpees. Then add in one very specific movement. One example could be to ginga with balanca for the fifth minute. By adding this final exercise in it brings your focus specific to training for the tournament. This is your way to prep your body for the intensity of what it is about to happen and get your mind in the zone.

Trainer’s Tip: When tournament day arrives pay attention to the timing of the events and do your warm up about 15 minutes before your bracket competition. Head into the roda with confidence. You are there to compete. Imagine competing with a younger sibling. You don’t want to harm them, you just want to beat them and you have the confidence that you can. You have that fire in your belly that motivates you to outcompete your younger sibling. Channel that every match. If your “sibling” does win though, you’ll be happy because they performed well.

3.) Manage time.

Question to ask: Should I train every day?

Trainer’s Tip: Plan your camp with a weekly schedule and commit to it.

Your fight camp should be 6 to 8 weeks long. You will train 5-6 days a week. At first add in 2 days of training camp to your normal capoeira training schedule. Increase the number of camp days as you get closer to the tournament until you have 5 training camp days during HELL WEEK. Be sure to plan your schedule with your teacher so you can be sure to attend all rodas and events, as well as your regularly scheduled capoeira classes.

When planning your camp, first and foremost, your cardiovascular endurance should be paramount. If you can’t breathe you can’t play capoeira. Second, in order to be deliberate with your movements you must have the strength and the experience drilling the techniques. Third, practice in the format of the tournament. Grab a training partner and play 3 rounds of 30 seconds each with 15 seconds in between rounds. Try it again with one 45 second round. You will need to be prepared for multiple scenarios as you progress through the tournament.

A typical training session should have the following components: your specific warmup, intense cardio, some strength exercises, and practice games.

Trainer’s Tip: Work with your teacher to learn how to judge the games. Watch other people’s practice games and judge according to the three criteria: form, variation/volume, and effectiveness. Film your games and then judge them according to the criteria. Compare your scoring with how your teacher scores the matches. Ask questions to learn their thought process.

4.) Practice sound nutrition and rest habits.

Questions to ask: Should I cut weight, and why? Is nutrition a part of camp? How much sleep/rest should I get in an average camp day?

Not every athlete is coming into camp overweight, but nearly every athlete can improve their nutrition. During fight camp your time will be maxed between life demands and training, eliminate extra stuff to think about by meal planning and batch preparation. Balancing the macronutrient composition of your diet and timing your meals appropriately around your workouts will provide your body the fuel it needs to do the work and the building blocks for gains.

For the majority of fighters, cutting weight offers a leaner, lighter frame to work from which can enhance reaction times and perceived exertion. Cutting weight should be considered before you start camp and built into your program through your meal prep to account for caloric demands. I typically recommend a gradual 8% drop in body weight for most athletes from the beginning of camp to the end. From my experience, while weight loss is mentally difficult to push through, athletes can maintain performance and mental stamina with this loss.

In order for your body to recover from the increased training load sleep is essential. Set a regular bedtime to establish a schedule that helps regulate your body’s rhythms. I recommend getting at least 9 hours of sleep a night during camp. Go to sleep thinking about your morning cardio or visualize yourself competing.

As you plan training for the tournament keep in mind the recommendations provided in this article are based on the practices in my academy in Sacramento. There are many versions of training camps, this is just one method I’ve found effective.

Trainer’s Tip: Reel in the excess. Practice healthy habits. While in camp, cut out drinking and super late nights. No matter what, don’t make excuses. Results or excuses, you can’t have it both ways. Life is short. Put yourself out there. No matter what, you will have a positive experience. Win or learn.

"A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd

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