Sports psychology science has confirmed how mental readiness, especially in the world of combat sports, is huge. It is estimated that only 10% is physical the remaining 90% is all mental, The mind controls the body and in order to be well rounded in any combat sport, mental preparation is a hugely important factor sometimes overlooked.
We often hear the term mental toughness thrown around within combat sports, what that refers to is a mental fortitude that is unbreakable even in the most stressful situations. Misconceptions regarding mental toughness are the ideas that you must dislike your opponent, express no emotion, not be nervous. Essentially born mentally tough, and although some people are mentally tougher than other, mental toughness is something that can be trained allowing athletes to become mentally disciplined in such a way that even under the most pressure they are able to remain calm and relaxed allowing the mind to think and respond effectively.
The most important mental skills for combat athletes should include in their training are self-confidence training, negative energy control, attention control, visualization and mental imagery control. Motivation, positive energy, and attitude control are also must haves. If we look at some of the best in the world, you see these characteristics clearly. Look at Conor Mcgregor for example, He has mastered the art of mental toughness and it has propelled him into becoming the top combat sports athlete on the planet today.
If you are a serious athlete looking to succeed don’t ever underestimate the value of mental training, become comfortable with the uncomfortable visualize victory, again and again, express this verbally, and train victory into your mind before a competition, mark my words you will be surprised by the results. Here are a few tools to help you get amazing results.
Auto-Suggestion/Mantra’s – Autosuggestion was originally created by Emile Coue and was originally known as the “Coue method”. It has an interesting history in the medical field that you can read more about but, in a nutshell, it was used to help heal sick patients. The original autosuggestion that is still widely used today is “Every day, in every way, I’m getting better and better”. I have first introduced to this concept at a Tony Robbins seminar over a decade ago and I used this technique to help push through my claustrophobia. When I found myself stuck underneath a tough guy, I would say “I’ve been here before many times, it was okay then and it’s okay now. I will survive”. I would use this phrase to calm down enough so, I could think about my Jiu Jitsu again instead of being overwhelmed with the position itself. Sometimes, I wouldn’t escape and I’d get tapped but, at the end of the day, I WAS OKAY and I DID SURVIVE!! Autosuggestion can be used in preparation for upcoming events or to change the way you view something. This is an extremely powerful technique if used consistently. I ask some of my top guys to repeat an autosuggestion I’ve given them 10 times in the morning and 10 times before they go to bed at night to help with their mental toughness. The idea is to say it enough so that the mind believes it and forces it into reality.
Visualization– Many Olympic athletes use this technique leading up to major events. They will visualize themselves finishing first and see themselves receiving the Gold. The idea is to see it and believe it… feel it. What the mind can see it can believe and it will make so. I know many teams that use this technique to increase their athlete’s mental toughness. It can be done in many ways but one of my favorites is to walk around the ring, mat or cage with your hands up imagining what it feels like to have won. The best example I have of this from my personal experience was in 2009 when I won Pan’s as a purple belt. I visualized my hand being raised and the way the Gold would look and feel around my neck. I focused and focused until I could actually close my eyes and see it. Then it became a reality!!
Meditation/Focused Breathing – This works well in conjunction with the 2 mental toughness techniques listed above. If you are attempting to use autosuggestion and visualization for the first time, it’s easy to get distracted. One way to get centered and clear your mind is through focused breathing. A technique I do is to count 40 deep breathes. I count up to 20 and then from 20 down to 1. Each breath needs to be deep and your stomach must expand. Avoid taking breathe only to your chest. It must go deeper. After taking 40 deep breathes, it’s a great time to say your autosuggestion. Be sure to focus on what the autosuggestion is. Saying it 10 times and clicking your heels together won’t take you to Kansas if you know what I’m saying. focus it on what you want to think. Thoughts are powerful things. If you think about Mental Toughness enough you will eventually have it.
PMA – A positive mental attitude is indispensable in the development and maintenance of Mental Toughness. Above all, it’s important to keep things in perspective. Remember, that whatever sport you are doing on whatever competitive level you’re doing it at, it began with a love for the sport itself. Training for a competition can be grueling and it should be. Winners don’t win by Mental Toughness alone. It takes work…. HARD WORK!! Sometimes in the midst of it, it’s easy to get frustrated with your progression or to forget why you started in the first place and get into a funk. At times like these, it’s important to stop and fall in love with what you do again. Be grateful that you are able to do what you do. Think about all the people that can’t. If after taking a moment to think about things, you still find yourself in a funk, pull out a pen and paper and write down all the things you’re grateful for. It’s impossible to be grateful and negative at the same time. A large part of mental toughness is perseverance. And, I believe attitude contributes to your ability to do so.
Heightened Testosterone – Elevated levels of testosterone have been medically proven to enhance self-confidence and reduce anxiety. Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone go take steroids to increase your mental toughness. There are natural ways to boost your testosterone levels. The easiest way is to lift weights. Studies have shown that testosterone levels increase by lifting 2 large muscle groups at a time. My personal experience says – SQUAT!!!
Hard Training – Nothing can replace hard training when it comes to the Perseverance necessary for Mental Toughness. Do you remember my Claustrophobia Mantra? Yeah, well I couldn’t have said that if I hadn’t been in the same bad position before. There’s a saying a friend of mine used to say – “Train hard, win easy”. Now, the truth is, winning isn’t easy but, it can be easier if you push yourself beyond your breaking point over and over again in training. If you take yourself to depths that no one else goes it’s easy to believe that it can be done…. CAUSE’ YOU’VE DONE IT!!! A large part of Mental Toughness is this belief that you can outlast your opponent. The psyche is a powerful thing and through some of the techniques I’ve list above, you can give yourself courage and confidence that wasn’t formally there. But, hard training is the only way to solidify this psychic Mental Toughness change. Train hard, my friends!!!