Leading up to, and right before, the Tourney there are many practical steps that can be taken to relieve stress and help you to relax. Remember, all preparation leads up to the one instant that you throw the shot. Every other consideration is a distraction. That doesn’t mean you can’t talk to anyone and have to chant a mantra all morning before stepping onto the field. Focus is important, but don’t start the fight before you get in the list.
Before packing for the tourney trip, you should inspect your armor for possible weak links, check straps and laces, and gather all the necessary fighting clothes. Things like your supporter, and your lucky T-shirt. Pack them up carefully and set them aside. I like to make a little quiet ritual of re-taping my swords (I think of it as “sharpening”) the night before I leave. It’s also a good idea, if you don’t have one already, to assemble a simple repair kit with extra laces, straps and rivets and, of course, tape. I also recommend physically seeing and touching all the necessary documents (Auth. Card, Membership, Tourney Invitation, etc.) and packing them carefully with your armor. Don’t forget your I.D.
The night before, get as much rest as you can, and try to stay relaxed. Notice I don’t say “sleep”. That can sometimes be difficult beforehand. Staying up late and talking with friends can actually be a good way to relax. If you can’t sleep, my recommendation is to just sit or lie quietly and with your breathing even, try to consciously relax each major muscle group in turn. Do it in the dark with your eyes closed, it takes a surprising amount of concentration and can clear your head of other things. I usually find that I will drop off to a restful doze fairly quickly.
Be moderate with alcohol. A glass of wine, or a beer or two can help you relax and sleep. Too many can throw off your sleep rhythms, and being tired during the tourney is a distraction. Likewise, eat lighter foods with high Protein to Carbohydrate ratios. “Carbo-loading” the night before is a myth. Have the carbs in the morning, but avoid too much sugar, it can make your metabolism spike and crash too early.
Get to the site as early as seems reasonable. If the list table is open, go and register IMMEDIATELY. If possible find a spot with a view of the list(s) and call board, and make sure that your consort is comfortable. It is useful to have associates to help with this. Your priority should be to get registered and prepare for the tourney.
Take your time getting into armor. Re-inspect it again as you put it on. Have an associate check the fit and function of troublesome parts once you’re in it. Get inspected as soon as possible. If there is any trouble, you want the maximum time to remedy it.
All of this is to get possible distractions behind you so you can stay focused and relaxed. Not focused in the brusque tone/tunnel vision/game face kind of way. That works for some, but more often I find that leads to a harsh, semi-obsessed mentality that only adds tension.
Part 4, Attitude