How to Quieten the Mind when Fighting

How to Quieten the Mind when Fighting

Combat Sports Psychology Tips: How to Quieten the Mind when Fighting

Can you talk yourself out of winning on occasions?

Typically, when we see an elite professional boxer or martial artist perform at the peak of the powers we marvel at their strength and skills that they display.  When interviewed after a fight, these fighters often reference that they were “in the zone” if they’re questioned about their focus or mindset.

So what does it mean to be “in the zone”?

In general, fighters who access the zone are on autopilot, not thinking about a great deal when they’re in the ring.  They’re simply concentrating on a single cue and are “present.”  

Now consider the opposite of the zone.  What happens when you’re struggling? 

Fighters often state that their mind is busy.  That they have lots of thoughts flying around their head.  Often they’re caught yo-yoing between the “past” and “future”.  Thinking about previous tough fights, mistakes that they’ve made or worrying and doubting themselves about what may happen in the next round or the one after that.  Simply put they are forming judgements of themselves and their opponents.

How can a fighter get back into the zone when this happens?

As I have alluded to, when a fighter is “in the zone” they are not thinking about anything, their mind and body are working in complete symmetry. 

Lets’ look at this in more detail……

‘The Two Selves’

Think about the brain being composed of two selves: Self 1 and Self 2.  You can think about Self 1 as your egotistical mind and Self 2 as your body (nerves, muscles, brain….).   When Self 1 is fighting you may have been struggling to land punches or kicks.  Your corner are in your ear, that you need to be faster, sharper and more aggressive.  They might worry that you’re leaving yourself open too and so you need to protect yourself.  If you take in all of these cues when you’re fighting, your mind is going to be cluttered and the likelihood is you may start to doubt yourself.  Self 1 (the egotistical mind) then kicks into gear forming judgements e.g. ‘This is a struggle, he’s so awkward”, “how am I going to land a strong punch” or “I’m on my last legs here I’m not sure how much I’ve got left in the tank.”   Then often what happens, these judgements mean a fighters’ rhythm and timing in the ring goes off, your legs and arms might feel heavier and you may find yourself fluctuating between angry and beaten.

Now on to Self 2 (the body).  

As you’re reading this blog your body is doing something special. Without any thought, your body is working in combination with your mind, your heart will be beating, your eyelashes blinking, you’ll be breathing, your eyes will likely be moving following the letters and words on the screen… all without thinking. 

Why should this be any different when you’re in the ring? 

Why can’t you simply trust your bodies to execute particular skills? 

Because Self 1, the ego, keeps casting judgements, which go on to prevent your body to do what you’d like it to do.  For instance, when fighting we can often see positive images in our heads and as a result we learn to trust our body.  You may see yourself, landing a right hook or an uppercut in the split seconds before you actually do.

Recently, a fighter approached me to support him whilst he prepared for a title fight, he advised me that he was very visual in the way he thought.  If you consider as a youngster, you unconsciously model your parent’s behaviours, the way they walk and carry themselves.  The way they smile or frown too!  Images in your mind are very powerful.

In one of our sessions at his gym, the client discussed his last fight where he’d been caught heavily and was cut.  His ego mind (Self 1) was making judgements “I’m struggling here”, “He’s got me on the ropes” and “He’s got a great right hand.”  

I then took him to the punch bag and said imagine for a second that you’ve just tapped the punch bag, imagine what it feels like.  Now consider what it looks and feels like to hit it as hard as you possibly can.  He mentioned that he saw an image of a tiger roaring as loud as it possibly could as he hit the bag.   He went on to rehearse this picture of the tiger in his mind and smashed the punch bag as hard as he could.  He repeated this another 5 times and felt like the quality of the images and the feelings were getting better and better.  He also talked about how his punches in turn were more powerful.    

We went on to talk about what was different, between the 1st punch and the last punch.  His answer was power, immense power and the fact his mind was quiet.  At first, he was instructing himself and then let go of that.  So what had happened was Self 1, his ego had been parked, it did not interfere in anyway with what he wanted his body to do.  He trusted 100% that his body would take over and that he could execute what he wanted to do.

This laid the foundations for our work, where in detail we looked at a variety of situations, focusing on how the fighters mind and body responded under pressure.

He then took this into training and sparring, letting go of any judgements and backing himself.  

If you’d like to know more about how visualisation works and how it can benefit you alongside our other Sports Psychology and Mental Toughness tools please do get in touch.

Please note that as a team we enjoy supporting Combat Fighters around the world, using ONLINE VIDEO TECHNOLOGY (ZOOM, SKYPE, FACEBOOK or WHATSAPP) on a 1-2-1 basis to help them improve their mental strength so that they can back themselves more, when it counts, under pressure.  

Also, if you found this article helpful, please share it with your friends, team-mates, parents or coaches.  You can also join our online community – THE SPORTS PSYCHOLOGY HUB – for regular Sports Psychology tips, podcasts, motivation and support.

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Sports Psychologist who supports Combat Sports Fighters around the world from San Diego to Abu Dhabi, to Johannesburg to Sydney, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence, Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast and Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub.  With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to achieve their goals, faster.  

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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