Fact: 90% of your losses will be caused by your mind playing tricks on you.
This short article will reveal the secret to control your mind and have it assist you in your wins instead of being controlled by it which may cause your losses.
As Martial Artist and Mind Coach, I went through experiences which made me first realise that the mind plays an important role in the ring or cage, then got me into studying how the mind works and finally how to work with our mind so to optimise our chances of success and victory.
This does not mean that if you become mentally very strong or that if you see a sports therapist/mind coach you will win all your fights; if you are slow, weak and unskilful, you will remain slow, weak and unskilful even if you turbocharge your mind. Mind Coaching can turn good fighters into better fighters and “potentially good athletes” into actually good athletes but it is obvious that you need to put in the training, dedication and, most importantly, the true passion and love that is needed to be a winner.
Most of your losses will come from nerves, loss of focus, loss of the belief that you can win, lack of judgement when competing and all and more of these are cause by your mind playing tricks on you. Among other things, mind Coaching can help you keep the focus, determination, belief and coolness which can make the difference between winning and losing a fight. Mind Coaching can give you back that 10-30% of your performance in the cage by helping you:
- Stay calm and focused
- Be able to see the match from a third perspective when needed. This can greatly help you contextualise your skills and game-plan
- Be able to not waste energy and gas by “forgetting” to breath properly
- Throw snappier and faster techniques by keeping your nervous system relaxed
- Through mental rehearsal, be more familiar with occurrences which the match may present
- Recall specific states of confidence, determination, motivation, inspiration etcetera by performing simple neuro association exercises
- Build a firm belief to be able to win the match, before and during the match
Think about this for a moment; if you are not completely relaxed, your nervous system will respond by becoming more tense. How many times have you noticed your trapezius or neck become stiff after a long day dealing with stressful situations? Your nervous system responds to your thoughts by interpreting them and transforming them into good feelings, bad feelings, excited feelings, nervous feelings, pleasurable feelings, feelings of fear etcetera. Most of these thoughts come in our mind unconsciously – without our conscious control and sometimes even awareness. So, a thought comes into our mind, it gives us feelings and our body responds accordingly.
Imagine having negative, doubtful, fearful or agitated thoughts in your head without conscious control over them; these would create relevant negative feelings and your body would react accordingly by tensing up. This would not be a noticeable phenomenon, at least not until someone like me can help you notice the difference, but it would be more than enough to take away the edge and snap form your punches, your kicks and slow you down compared to what you are normally able to do in training. This may or may not be enough to allow your opponent to block your techniques, avoid your take downs and then counter attract. However, it is apparent that this would certainly decrease your effectiveness and I would personally not like to take the risk of having such disadvantage.
So how do you overcome that Body Stiffening State? How do you avoid your own mind tricks being performed on yourself? Whilst there is a long list of things that you can do, I have listed 3 simple techniques which can help you become more aware of your thoughts and feelings and consequently control the reactions that your body would have so that you can perform at your best without playing mind tricks on yourself.
- Spend at least 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening mentally rehearsing how you would like the fight to go. Picture as many scenarios as you can including coming out of difficult positions and moments of the fight. Although you obviously want the mental rehearsal to end in a victory for you, include situations that you are not comfortable with, whether these are the entrance, the referee brief before the belt etcetera. Always imagine yourself being relaxed and in control during the mentally rehearsed fight. Obviously, make sure you win your mentally rehearsed fight
- Take a few minutes to sit down and, with your eyes closed, recall a time when you felt totally relaxed, focused and in control. Imagine going back to that time and see whatever you saw as you felt so calm and relaxed, imagine hearing whatever you heard in that positive state and feel the feelings that you felt as you were so relaxed and in control. When you feel that the feelings are strong, press the index finger and the thumb of your dominating hand together and imagine storing these positive feelings on those 2 fingertips. You can do this with any feeling you want. The key here is to recall a vivid memory of the desired feeling and press those 2 fingers together when the state is at its peak. The other element which can help ensure the successful outcome is the repetition of the exercise; the more frequently you do it, the better. 3 times per week for a few months should do the job
- Avoid thinking in negatives. Your mind does not process negatives and so when you say I don’t want to lose, I don’t want to have difficulties, you are focusing on losing and having difficulties. Try hard not to think of a pink mouse running on your shoulders… really try hard not to think about that pink mouse and if I asked you to tell me what you had in your mind now it would most definitely be a pink mouse. You must think about it in order to not think about it. You cannot erase a thought that is not there and so you must put it there first. Trouble is that once the thought is there, it gets hard to get rid of it. If you do not want something, focus on the opposite. Instead of saying I do not want to lose, say I will win. Instead of saying I do not want to feel nervous, say I will feel relaxed etcetera.
These above are 3 simple bite-size techniques which can and will make a massive difference if you learn them, practice them and apply them rigorously. The rest is up to you. Remember, non of the above can become your BJJ coach, your wrestling coach, your boxing or kickboxing coach. You need all of those but you also need a mind coach; if you cannot have one that works with you then at least do what you can on your own.