Mental Strength for in and out of the Ring
Firstly, the mental aspect of competition is one of the most essential lessons any human being could ever learn. It is not just to keep you at the top of your game in any sport or activity but will teach you more about your own brain and how to control your reactions mentally went under a stress situation.
The two challenges most people face when looking at a competition is fear, fear of the unknown.
The other one is anticipation, otherwise known as the ‘what if’ factor.
Both are somewhat related and yet can trigger equally disappointing results both mentally and on the mats/playing field.
The problem with fear is not that you have it, it’s that it is never the best decision making circumstance for complex situations. Fear has a place in all of our lives if you were being chased by a lion, fear would be your adrenal response telling you to either fight or flight hopefully you chose the latter. Fear is a great decision maker when the decisions are few. If you can imagine being chased by a lion, the only thing going through your brain would probably be something along the lines of “run! run! run! run! run!” Which is exactly what you would want to be doing. However when dealing with complex situations which require complex decision-making sometimes in a fast-paced environment fear is not your best ally here.
Anticipation can fatigue the brain and draw you into a situation that you are too mentally tired to respond to. Often athletes complain that they were up all night before a big event thinking about the ‘what if’ factors. Often as you enter the ring you’ve played out so many scenarios in your head that you can’t remember which one is the best for this particular circumstance or competitor.
Mentally as you enter the ring you should be excited and motivated to get in and do your very best. You should also be happy to be competing. Often this is an overlooked attitude and athletes don’t enjoy the moments they have on the match until later.
So how do we get from Fear in Anticipations to Happy and Excited?
Well, as the saying goes perfect practice makes perfect! That just means that if you want to have a strong and stable mindset you need to practice and drill and exercise and do everything you can with the exact same competitive mindset you want to have when you step into the ring. When you feel fear coming on it is important to recognize it and see it for what it is. If you want to change course you should probably know where you already are. Just recognizing your fear for what it is will build confidence in you the exercise of pushing the fear back and focussing on the excitement will allow you to build more more confidence as you do in practice. Also, consider this, How many times have you done these moves? How many times have you practised these exact techniques? Has your coach and teammates prepared you for this event? If you can confidently answer “YES” in all these situations you can walk yourself back from that fear sensation to a place where you can better make decisions.
When dealing with over anticipation, the best direction is to realize that the training is already been done. You are not going to mentally think of a technique or a move or situation that you haven’t trained for in the one day or overnight circumstance right before you enter a ring. You are not going to come with up with a better answer that you have not trained in the short time before you enter the ring instead focus on the fact that you want to be there.
Look for triggers that bring you into the ‘what if’ mentality. Dismiss those triggers. Stay away from them right before a competition or before you enter a ring. Stay happy and excited and don’t allow your mind to slip into what could possibly happen only because you’ve already done the preparation for what could possibly happen. That is what your training is for!
The night before your competition the moments before you went to the mats those moments are meant to be relaxed and happy and spent focusing on things you enjoy. Happy and calm mind can fire up and be more excited as you enter the ring without taking on the anxiety they can be associated with competition. If you wouldn’t go into a ring without first physically preparing for the competition you were about to face why would you possibly enter a ring with a mentally preparing for the competition you were about to face?
In summary, think like a Champ, train like a Champ, become a Champ.
These mental exercises are like push-ups for your brain. And they won’t only help you when you’re in the ring, they can help you do better on exams in school, tough work situations, or any stressful event they can take you out of your mental game.
This is just one example of how martial arts strengthens the mind and the body, OSS!