Here are some mental tips and techniques that once applied, will go a long way in improving your game and help win your fights.
Practice these Exercises and when you become skilled at them, I promise you’ll be crushing many of your opponents.
1# Expect a hard Fight mentally and physically, that will go the full duration
It’s better to be underwhelmed than overwhelmed. Always expect a hard, long fight and plan for your highest level of effort. This will set the pace and intensity for the bout and it won’t be fun for your opponent either. Unless he plans and expects a hell-of-a-fight like you do, the odds will be in your favor to win, as willpower alone can win fights.
2# Train past your pain threshold
Only you know your threshold. It’s not quantity that’s important, it’s quality and even more specific: quality with intensity.
If you just work hard, that’s won’t be enough. You need to reach your pain threshold and stay there. Get comfortable living there. Then, when you think you can’t physically take anymore- surpass it. You can do it, even if you think it’s physically not possible.
Let’s say I dumped a million dollars at your feet and said you can have it as long as you destroy the pads I’m holding until my arms are raw- could you do it? Of course you could and you would. That’s the intensity you have to find. Ignoring pain and smashing through training whether your body co-operates or not. I’m not talking about injury type pain; I’m talking about fatigue pain. If you have any sort of injury or issue, NEVER train through it. Preserve the body, and stay in the sport longer.
Back to crushing through training; tired or not is irrelevant. That’s the mental state you have to be in. Anything less you will get your arse handed to you in the higher ranks. Also, when you step into the ring and you’ve exceeded your pain thresholds in training, you’ll be confident and unafraid of the pain that’s coming up in the fight.
3# Practice keeping your emotions in check
You fight your best when you’re focused, methodical, and your arousal level is just short of peaking. Emotions especially anger disrupt this flow. You want to be stable emotionally when you fight. Think about when you’re angry; Are you able to make decisions, drive properly or debate effectively? Of course not. You need to practice controlling your emotions and remaining calm in sparring and in fighting.
Reduce volatility for stability.
When you do this, your opponent won’t ruffle your feathers and you can stay focused, clear and fight smart. Practice this in sparring.
4# Feel Inspired, Not Desperate
Keep the big picture in mind, the greater vision, and the reason WHY you are in the fight game. A constant reminder will not only keep you focused but it will make you feel good, excited and inspired and alleviate some pressure that’s always there preparing for fights.
On the other hand if what’s driving you is fear of losing, fear of opinions or take things personal like equating results with your self worth, then you’ll be riddled with anxiety and pressure. This will either debilitate you or at least make the whole experience less than enjoyable. All of us have negative self-talk demons, but you can consciously change your perspective and enjoy the positive emotions and energy surplus by doing so.
5# Accept your situation and circumstance even if its not ideal
We see the glamorous side of fighters’ training camps and their preparation on YouTube videos and take their fights on TV at face value. Successful fighters confidently boast how their training camp is going excellent and so on. What we see and interpret online is totally and absolutely distorted.
Many fighters training camps, personal lives and circumstances leading up to fights are less than ideal. Entering fights with injuries is common for many. There will almost always be something that doesn’t go right in the lead up of a fight, and when you hear fighters say their training is going great for their upcoming fight on an interview; remember they have to say that regardless! Imagine a fighter admitting that he’s not focused because his wife left him and that he’s carrying an injury or arguing with his coach? No. You say everything is going perfect and you don’t give anything away that would be an advantage for your opponent.
If the stars aren’t aligning for you in your training camp, don’t fret. You’re not alone. This is the rule than the exception. This is the life of a fighter. You work with what you got. You jump hoops, you soldier on and you get creative and you-fight-and-you-learn-and-you-repeat. That’s the reality.
6# Start from Zero every round, especially when the fight goes bad
This mental hack is probably the most powerful: Every round, for every moment if you can, constantly forget whatever just happened, good or bad and focus only on what’s happening now and moving forward. But you really need to practice it.
Firstly, what usually happens when your opponent is getting the better of you? You get flustered trying to figure out how shots are landing on you. This usually means you’ve been distracted and is a perfect example how the tricky fighters pick their opponents apart; distracting opponents into focusing on the wrong thing- what they’re going to do next as opposed to sticking to their own game plan.
Don’t get distracted when things go bad- keep fighting regardless. Keep fighting even when you are losing because you are always one punch away from winning. Or at least survive and give out a competitive fight and never give up.
Back to the technique: You have to practice looking forward, eliminating the past, pushing whatever happens aside, and don’t try to figure out too much in the heat of the moment (you’ll have time for that later). If you get rocked in the round, forget it- it didn’t happen. Maintain emotional stability, focus and be consistent fighting; avoiding a performance drop or loss of confidence.
Not over-thinking in a fight is also counter intuitive. You might say “well I need to figure out what my opponent is hitting me with so I can counter it!” and that is true, but if you don’t pick up on it within a second or two during a fight then most likely your opponent is out-skilling you in an area, and you won’t have time to fix your weakness during a fight or competitive spar. In which case you should change the dynamics of the fight, which I’ll mention in a second.
During sparring, you don’t have to just focus forward. In training you can THINK and try figure everything out. You have time, you can experiment, you are relaxed and safe, and you can make plenty of mistakes.
In a fight though, if you haven’t figured out how your opponent is landing on you near instantly- then don’t take the risk overthinking it. Assume your opponent sees something you don’t, and you don’t have time in a short fight to fix it. You likely have a hole in your game which you’ll work on later in the gym, but for now you have to win the fight and this means avoiding the danger (this is why I encourage training in both stance because when you don’t have an answer to an opponents attack, then by just simply reversing your stance usually throws them off enough to where the fight dynamics change and the problem goes away, or at least reduces for that fight. That’s till you go back to the gym and upgrade your skills).
This technique is good to use even if you are winning. When you feel you’re ahead you may relax and drop your guard, which happens a lot, so eliminate the memory of you winning the last round as well. Always fight as if you have to win each round.
7# Act like a Winner even if you don’t feel it
A good habit to have in sparring or training is to keep a Poker face. Don’t give away what you are thinking, and especially never show that you are tired. Not even in training.
When you train or fight, people are watching. You’re always communicating non-verbally whether you you know it or not. The boxer who huffs and puffs during a fight and showing everyone he’s tired does not look like a winner. Even if he lands more shots, he looks like a loser. As a judge would you give a boxer like that the win? I wouldn’t.
Practice hiding what’s going on inside you so you don’t give your opponent confidence and an extra wind to attack you. Don’t give the judges a reason to think you’re soft and not deserving of a win. Act even if you are in excruciating pain. You can go home afterwards and sook. For now, suppress all emotion and fight with a Poker face.
Visualize the terminator, a machine with no emotions- and be that. At the end of the fight fling your hands in the air as the winner, bounce of your seat in the corner in between rounds, stand tall and strong and look unfazed. Be consistent and once you set the pace, keep it. You must do all these things to keep the odds in your favor.
Every one of these details are part of the fight just as much as the techniques, willpower and smarts. Practice and Polish up your body language during training.
These are simple, subtle yet powerful mental techniques that when you practice daily will greatly improve your success and will at least make your sparring partners and opponents dread fighting you!
Do you have any subtle but effective mental techniques that have worked for you? I’d love to hear it by leaving a comment below!