A match between two solid mixed martial arts fighters looks like a contest of strength and prowess in their style, where the fastest, most skilled warrior will be the champion. However, it’s not enough to be a good fighter – you also need mental fortitude and toughness to be able to maintain your composure in the ring. In the face of any odds, you need to be capable of staying confident, and building that toughness in the mind is just as necessary as the toughness of your body.
Many fighters and coaches believe that mental toughness is the single most important attribute a fighter can have. Rich Franklin, a former UFC middleweight champion, once said that “training for a fight is about 90% physical and 10% mental, yet when you enter the octagon it becomes about 90% mental and 10% physical because all of the physical preparation is done.” George St. Pierre, one of the greatest fighters of all time, adds to this by saying that a fight is 90% mental because “the work is already done, you can’t do anything more to prepare.” Sport psychologist Brian Cain, who has worked with various MMA fighters, believes that if a fighter is in control of himself mentally, they can perform carefree and to the best of their ability.
All of these people agree on one thing – having a strong mind during a fight is the difference between winning and losing. Luckily, mental toughness is a skill that can be improved with practice. Here are some tips and techniques you can try to hone your abilities.
Many martial arts teach not only physical skill but also discipline and mental control. Meditation forms a large part of the latter, helping you get in touch with your mind and emotions to help you calm down and stay in control during a fight no matter what the circumstances.
Meditation requires a great deal of persistence and concentration, starting with sitting down and focusing on your breath. You quickly find out how easily distracted and full of thought you are on the first attempt. You must learn to block out your thoughts and surroundings for extended periods which will greatly improve persistence and concentration.
To start with meditation, find a quiet place to sit every day. You should begin slowly by meditating for five minutes. Sit down, close your eyes, and focus on nothing but your breath. You will quickly notice how many thoughts go on in your head. Acknowledge these thoughts, let them go, and return to your breath. You will feel your mind clearing up as you continue this. You should eventually build up the duration to 10 minutes, then 15 minutes, and so on. Your persistence and concentration will greatly improve as you do this.
There is a wide variety of types of meditation, and you should find the right kind that suits your style and personality. Explore Zen, Qigong, Hindu, and other types and seek out what gives you the most control.
Psychological studies have shown the positive impact that optimism has not only on mental health but physical health as well. Being optimistic can strengthen the immune system, cardiovascular system, and the body’s ability to handle stress. Fighters need to believe they will win no matter what and become fearless physically and mentally.
Optimistic thinking isn’t just something you adopt before a fight or while training. Optimistic thinking is a way of life that you must have constantly. Make the choice to be happy and remove negative elements from your daily life, like toxic coworkers or stressful relationships. See the good in everything, and when thinking about negative things, consider them as problems to be solved rather than specters that hang over your head constantly.
In the context of fights, you must always believe in yourself, even if the odds appear to be against you. The first victory is in the mind – once you’ve won the match in your head, success in the real ring may very well follow. And even if you do lose, consider it an opportunity to learn more about fighting and about yourself. Accepting defeat does not mean giving up – it means being aware that what’s done is done, and allowing yourself to improve and prepare yourself for the next fight.
Cold Shower Therapy
Cold showers are uncomfortable, there’s no doubt about that. However, comfort has never been exactly the focus of training to be a better fighter or athlete. By allowing yourself to bathe in cold water and step outside your comfort zone, you build your mental tolerance in a small but palpable way.
Whenever you shower, start with warm water, and slowly mix in the cold water as time passes. You’ll get used to lower and lower temperatures as time passes, and soon you’ll be able to handle straight-up cold water. You constantly expose yourself to the discomfort of cold water, and you build up a resistance to it. This will hone your ability to maintain mental tolerance of stressful, uncomfortable things.
Set Micro-Goals and Stick to Them
When setting your progress goals, rather than working towards something distant and relatively unreachable, break your objectives up into bite-sized segments and set something that is achievable today. Being able to feel progress towards your goals is important to maintaining a positive outlook. It also prevents you from procrastinating or lacking urgency towards more nebulous personal goals.