This guest article is from John Thompson. John is a 4 stripe blue belt under Ricardo Pires. He trains at RPBJJ East, and also teaches defensive tactics, firearms and physical training at area police academies.

When I say I posture I mean the body language and presence of your opponent, and his affect on your game.  In other words you’re about to spar with a tatted up, 4% body fat,  mean looking dude and your body and mind are going into overdrive.

There have been many good articles recently on the mental game of BJJ and other sports but this is also a topic that most of us have had to deal with so I'll relate some personal experiences and how I have found my way of controlling the natural anxiety we have when our subconscious is sending coded signals to our conscious mind telling us "oh crap this guy can hurt us".

Recently I had the pleasure of sparring an accomplished mma guy who fully looked the part with loads of tattoos, tough guy hair cut and mean looking beard. This guy was big and projected every bit of intimidation that he was going for - he was posturing.

Posturing has been a part of combat since cavemen started whacking each other with tree branches thousands of years ago . As I sat kneeling on the mat I worried about getting hurt.

We’ve all had the experience of rolling with meatheads, and for us OGs (Older Grapplers) the thought of getting hurt or re-injuring a prior trauma can be overwhelming.  I had a few choices; I could be submissive and possibly get hurt being overly conservative and slow to react, I could refuse to roll with him, or I could put things in perspective and see the posturing for what it was. Nothing more and nothing less than what I determined it to be.

As I continued to kneel I used my visualization techniques to remind my conscious mind of how I roll and what I do every time I grapple.  I used positive self talk to remind me that I'm in control of what happens and that I chose how I react.  I used my pre-sparring ritual of putting my hands on my knees and centering my breathing (the touching of my knees is a pre-performance tactile cue).  I also watched this guy roll with others before me so that I knew what to expect.

So what happened?  I rolled really well.  The mma guy was new to the gi game and I observed this prior to rolling with him. I used my gi experience as my primary tool and that allowed me to gain confidence and slowly get into more no gi type techniques that made the sparring more challenging for both of us.  The match went great, this guy rolled with restraint and maturity and proved to be a great training partner, totally dispelling any fear that I had.

In my job in Law Enforcement I frequently confront people who haven't decided how they are going to deal with me in situations that have a high chance of escalation.  At work I use posturing as a critical tool in the first step of avoiding a physical confrontation.

I'm tall, I'm big, I'm aware of everything that is going on around me and most importantly I act like I own the place. (I project this whether it's  true or not.)  My whole body and mental projection is that I'm not somebody to mess with and this stops most assaults before they start. No one wants to start a fight they think they are going to lose. Treating people with dignity and respect plays a big part too, If you act like too much like a jerk, no amount of posturing will save you.

I like, the 5 P's Rule, (Prior Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance).  I train mentally and visualize prevailing in many scenarios.  I have a plan with many options and I use prior performance as a foundation for whatever I do.

Remember that perception is reality.  Watching this guy roll before me was a critical for me to develop a detailed to my response. It let me formulate a game plan and then think it through before rolling. Have a plan ahead of time and stick with it and you will do what you expect to do. Control your emotions and react to things that are actually happening, not what you fear is going to happen.

- John Thompson