Fighters experience a level of stress that many people are not familiar with. Fighting isn't a sport that one can play; when an athlete is in the ring, their life is on the line. Perhaps this is why the pre-fight jitters can make the most confident person breakdown. Mike Tyson said that before he won his national amateur title, he thought about quitting and going back to Brownsville. However, true champions learn how to harness their emotions and use it to their advantage. No matter what your doing in your life, whether it is making a presentation, going for an interview, meeting your VP or going on a date, your can use these mental tips to help you relax and optimize your performance.
1 - Believe in Your Preparation
"You can map out a fight or a life plan, but when the action starts it may not go the way you planned and your down to your reflexes. That's where your roadwork shows. If you cheated on that, in the dark of the morning. Well, you're going to get found out now, under the bright lights." - "Smoking" Joe Frazier
On fight day, the athlete should realize that the hardest part; the training, is already over. All the techniques that the athlete is able to use has already been programmed into their mind and body. At this point, there is absolutely nothing one can do to improve other than relax and allow their natural reactions to occur. When the fight happens, the mind and body will not have the time to think about new techniques, rather it will replay the techniques that have been engraved into their mind and body. At this point, the fighter must have absolute confidence in their preparation. The athlete knows weather they put the work or not and they know if they either pushed themselves when they were training, or they didn't. This is why the preparation is so critical, the preparation is what fighters will fall down to. Fighters do not rise up to the occasion, but rather fall down to their training.
This applies for any major obstacle or event that you are going into. Did you do your homework? Did you practice that speech, did you look over your notes, did you research what type of things the person your meeting is interested in? Did you review how long it will take to get there? etc.
2 - Visualization
In combat sports, technique trumps everything. There is ALWAYS a weapon that can trump another weapon, or a weapon that should be used in a specific application. For example, against a taller opponent, the smaller person will want to optimize their range so that they are not stuck at the end of their opponents weapons. Also, when someone throw a lazy jab with their chin up, one can time a perfect overhand right to capitalize on exposed chin. The applications of these techniques can be trained by visualizing the process in the mind coupled with physical practice. Since the mind controls the body, the mental visualization practice allows the fighter to effectively and quickly pick the right technique in the midst of battle while the physical practice allows the fighter to effectively deploy the move. This way the response is both mentally and physically engraved into the athletes mind.
Getting ready for a major event can be the same. If you are making a presentation, visualize and rehearse the presentation so that you know what you are talking about. Visualize the entire experience, from the moment you walk in front of the group, all the way to the end. Now specifically to public speaking, you should never memorize the entire presentation because then the presentation will appear reversed and not sincere, but you must know exactly where everything goes; that way you can speak confidently and naturally. When you are going to a job interview, visualize yourself speaking confidently and sincerely.
3 - Form a Support Network
Although fighting is an individual sport. The athlete's team is critical during their preparation; as they will help the athlete follow rule 1, which is believe in your preparation. It is inevitable that as humans, we may will feel weak and not want to train. At this point, it is up to the athletes training partners to not only know how to motivate them, but also how to push their buttons to trigger them to push harder than ever. My training partner was Mike Durst, a 170 lb top ranked amateur fighter who I always talked trash to. If I ever felt lazy, I would pair with him, because I knew with him, if I get lazy he will still try his best to beat me up. When we ran, he would always try to beat me, and since I am a better athlete than him I would rather die than let him win. When people saw us sparring, they would think we had some issues with each other because of how hard we went, however this is just how we improved.
In addition, an athletes support network will boost their confidence when they need it. The moments before a major event, you want to have a solid team around you to tell you that your strong, or even to take care of small things that you shouldn't be focused on. Finally, your support network will be your cushion during the dark times.
4 - Hope for the Best, Expect the Worst
The reality for an athlete in combat sports is that you may get hurt. If they don't accept this, then they shouldn't be in this sport. No body wants to be knocked out, get a broken rib, broken nose, etc. however, an athlete must accept that sometimes this may happen. We can't go through life so scared of what might happen that we stop taking risks. Fighters ask/think to themselves"what is the worst that can happen?" They learn to accept that even if the worst happens, its not the end of the world and they will be able to move on. So what if they get knocked out or hurt? the best fighters in the world get knocked out but they just move forward and continue.
Think about whats the worst that can happen. Does the result really matter? So what if you get nervous during a presentation and screw up a few words?
When you carry this mentality, you will be able to relax more and often with proper preparation, the worst case scenario never comes to be.
Michael Zhang is a key contributor at Driven Fighters. He is passionate about the fighters mentality and motivating other people. He has associated walking into the boxing gym as the day his life changed. His story shows that with hard work anything is possible. Having taken himself from being labeled by his high school teachers as a failure and almost dropping out to opening numerous businesses and graduating with his Master Degree in Engineering (University of Toronto). At just 18 years old, he was featured on CH News, and awarded the Young Entrepreneur Award. His passion and desire to help others made him a perfect example of what a driven fighter is. He has 20+ fights including a national amateur tournament belt.