Before a fighter prepares to match his skills - in a controlled setting or otherwise - nervousness and fearfulness will more than likely be experienced at some level.
While some fighters can block these impediments to performance from their mind, to focus on the challenge ahead, many cannot control these powerful forces, forces that could potentially render them incapable of executing the skills needed to dominate the opposition.
In MMA competition the prospect of injury realistically presents itself at a higher level given the wider range of fighting variables encountered (multiple weapons and means of attack, and skills required), making this form of fighting a frightening, although exhilarating, experience for most.
In any given fight the combatants are likely to be relatively evenly matched as far as skills and abilities are concerned. Thus what separates a great fighter from an average one usually does not hinge on physical capability but rather mental ability.
All things considered, the fighter who can direct their emotions toward victory and foster within him or herself the right mental attitude will more than likely emerge the victor. An amateur fighter recently e-mailed me asking why he experienced negative thoughts prior to each fight.
He went on to say that before each fight he had felt "very nervous and tense" and had never experienced such acute emotions before with any other sport he had participated in. I pointed out to him that his mind was his biggest weapon and that to control the outcome of his fight he must first control his thought patterns during the stages immediately before. This fighter's dilemma underscores the impact the mind can have on performance.
This athlete is coming to the realization that fighting is more a psychological than a physical game and what one must understand is that preparing for any fight presents one of life's biggest mental challenges and involves a major psychological component.
Fear of the unknown, lack of confidence and an inability to concentrate fully (independently or combined) are three ways of explaining why many fighters feel nervous and fearful prior to a fight.
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While fighting sports (MMA, boxing, K1 and kickboxing; to mention four) present an element of risk and pose dangers unfamiliar to other sports, they also promote a major adrenaline rush.
This outpouring of adrenaline - the hormone that underpins the body's "fight or flight" nervous response - can work to not only pump a fighter up, thus potentially improving their performance, but have the opposite effect when it is overproduced.
| The "Fight Or Flight" Reaction.
The set of processes that occur in the body when it is confronted with some form of physical or mental stress. For example, if a person is faced with danger (as from a vicious animal about to attack), the nervous system signals for adrenaline and other hormones to be released into the blood.
These hormones prepare the body either to confront the attacking animal or to flee to safety (thus, "fight or flight"). Changes in the body include increased heart rate, dilated pupils of the eye (to improve vision), and increased supply of blood to the muscles (to prepare the body for action).
When a fighter pumps out too much adrenaline, usually as a result of heightened nervousness and fearfulness, they essentially place themselves into a primitive survival mode which puts them in a constant state of "high alert" which, in turn, causes them to become over responsive to stimuli.
A fighter in this state may face premature exhaustion (high nervous tension will drain the body of its energy resources) and respond to their opponent's movements in an erratic fashion (a good fighter will look to control the situation, not strike without rhyme or reason).
For an athlete to control overproduction of adrenaline, and therefore nervousness and ultimately their performance, they must first have total confidence in their abilities, eliminate fear and concentrate on the task at hand - variables we touched on earlier.
These variables, crucial to MMA success, all feed into one another; meaning that to eliminate fear and concentrate fully it is important to first have total confidence, but to have total confidence requires a focused, fearless outlook. Some key pointers on how to build on these aspects, which significantly influence fighting ability, follow.
Have total confidence in your ability to get the job done. Feeling like you will let yourself, your family and coach down will only serve to place an additional burden on your shoulders and, given the stressfulness of the situation you are entering, this is the last thing you want prior to any fight.
Think totally positive thoughts and remember: all the great fighters have an unwavering sense of belief in their ability to win at all costs. You too must foster this attitude.
Take time to relax and settle your mind in the moments before a fight.
Before taking the long walk to the ring/octagon, spend at least 10 minutes sitting quietly, thinking about the outcome of the fight. During this time, block all negative thoughts from your mind and concentrate exclusively on winning. The mind is an amazing tool that, properly trained, will literally manifestly produce the results you want. Rest your mind completely and program it for success.
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Program Your Mind For Success.
Read The Julien Greaux Interview Here.
Use visualization to strengthen the mind/performance connection.
See in your "minds eye" the outcome you want. The more vivid a representation you can visualize, the better the results will be. Think in explicit detail with regards to what you want to accomplish.
Think the same positive thoughts over and over until they are permanently imprinted on your subconscious. Then, through autosuggestion (kind of a mental pep talk where you make your thoughts reality), bring these thoughts to the fore at fight time. Visualization can be done anywhere at anytime - before a fight and after training are good times.