MENTAL TRAINING

The Mind; Your Greatest Weapon (almost).

Our mind is the center of it all. It controls our thoughts and our actions during fighting and during training. During tournaments one can see some fighters tensed up and lose their concentration, especially if the spectators starts shouting and screaming obscenities from all directions. Some fighters appears relax and composed. Some appears brimming with confidence. Some are scared out of their wits! 
There is a reason for all these differences in attitude among the fighters. Just as some fighters have better physique than others because they trained their body more, so must we train our minds to be more able to help us succeed in competition/training. Exactly what is the objective of mind training? It is to make us more confident, more relax, and more able to concentrate on the task at hand. There are training methods to achieve such attributes. But before I talk/write about them, I must discuss another topic: fear. 

Fear
Fear; that’s the problem with some good fighters. They train hard, they look good during training. But when they actually fight they usually kiss the floor in the last round. This is because they fear losing. Losing their life, their self-respect, losing their health (like a spinal cord injury), and of course fear of losing the fight. What is it that is needed to overcome this fear, and thus become a better fighter? Below are some of the things that I’ve found out.

The Nine Steps to Courage
I found an article written by a certain Dr. John M. La Tourette. The title is: Nine Steps to Courage. He mentions that fear is the emotion created by our minds when faced with an impending evil. Courage is the quality of mind that enables a man to face real or imagined danger with self-possession or confidence.
According to Dr. La Tourette, there are 9 methods of instilling the proper beliefs for courage. They are:

  1. Mental housecleaning: To clean the mind of images or ideas that one does not want to happen using positive self-talk and positive thinking.
  2. Controlled breathing: Exercises that helps in controlled breathing helps one to relax in emotionally charged environments.
  3. Mental Imagery: To put pictures in your mind about winning and performing well, and not to put pictures in your mind about you being beaten to a pulp.
  4. Dominant Response Theory: The most current thought in your mind before the fight will dictate how you perform.
  5. Cognitive Restructuring: To stop any negative thoughts from resurfacing by shouting ‘stop’ (mentally or out loud) to the inner mind to force a ‘mental block state’.
  6. Strength Card: To recognise one’s own positive attributes (e.g. good sidekick, powerful sweeps, etc.) to increase one’s self confidence.
  7. Righteous Indignation: If somebody hurts you without provocation, your anger will make you fearless, as you concentrate on getting back to your adversary and not worry about your safety or how big the other guy is.
  8. Master Keys of Karate Physiology: This basically states that one should focus on the fight and where to hit the opponent, not worrying about what spectators are doing.
  9. Changes in Physiology: It states that if we want to be brave, we ‘act’ and ‘think’ brave.

‘Mind Gains’ by Health for Life
Still another resource is a book published by “Health for Life”, The book describes in detail the various subjects mentioned above. It has topics like visualization exercises, to concentration exercises, to goals settings, and much more. The knowledge in this book is based on the methods used by East European countries to train their athletes. East European countries have long been known to produce some of the best and most successful athletes in the world.

Most of the topics in this book are more or less similar to the ones above. However, there are some additions. Two of them are goal-setting and concentration exercises.

Goal Setting
The idea is that if you chart your progress, you can see your progress and thus your confidence will increase. For example, if you start working out in the gym, and at first you use 5kg dumbells. You record the weight and the number of repetitions you are able to do. After a week you record again the weight and number of repetitions. As you train you will become stronger and be able to carry heavier loads and do more reps. By charting your load and reps you will see your progress. And if there is no progress, you can investigate as to why such is the case (lack in effort, injury, etc). Thus, seeing your progress from the progress chart, your confidence grows. 

“Changing Attentional Focus” Exercise
Quoting from the book:
Find a room that has a radio and a TV set. Set the volume level of each to be about the same.
Find a comfortable place to sit facing the TV, within sight of a clock. Begin by listening to the radio (tuned to a talk show or the news). Now, block out the sights and sounds of the TV as much as possible. If need be, close your eyes. The idea is to watch the TV while focusing your complete attention on what you’re hearing on the radio.
After one to two minutes,switch! Now you should be watching and listening to the TV and blocking out the radio. Do this for another one or two minutes. Next, focus on what you are seeing on the TV and what you are hearing on the radio. Block out the TV.
Another variation of this exercise is to read a book instead of watching TV. 

Deepening Concentration
This exercise is help one to focus in situations where there’s a lot of distractions. Again, I quote from the book:
Choose a short positive statement about yourself, such as, I am strong and have good endurance. Make sure it is something you believe. Say it over and over again to yourself for two minutes. Notice how many times your mind veers away from the affirmation. Once you are able to stay with the affirmation without your mind drifting too much, increase the length of the exercise by a minute. Make 10 minutes your goal.

Conclusion 
I conclude that the following must be done on a regular basis (preferably daily):

  1. Goal Setting
  2. Changing Attentional Focus
  3. Deepening Concentration exercises

I would like to point out one thing; mental training cannot totally replace physical training! Mental training can be likened to strengthening the mind, just like technical training is to ‘strengthen’ one’s application of techniques. One should consider mental training on par with physical and technical training, and thus work on the three areas equally.