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Mental fitness


Mental fitness is as important as physical fitness in the martial arts. Practicing ways to improve your mental focus should be a part of your regular training.

Essential mental states

There are four essential mental states to strive for:
  • Concentration. Stay in the present.
  • Commitment. Maintain both drive and stamina.
  • Control. Not only maintain control of your techniques, but also your emotions and behavior.
  • Confidence. Be certain in the belief that you can deal with anything.

Achieving mental fitness

Forget about winning. Winning will come from better focus and getting the basics right. How can you get the basics right if you spend your time focusing on winning the point instead of focusing on striking the target with correct techniques? Do you best. If you do the best you can, you may or may not win; but, if you don’t do your best, you will probably lose.

Think of your concentration as having a limited supply. If you use up your concentration trying to win, getting a point, or dwelling on the previous point you lost or won, then you have less concentration available to use on strategy and tactics. This leads to you receiving more warnings and getting scored upon. When in the ring, beating your opponent is your primary focus; but in a corner of your mind, you are always aware of the referee.

Forget about what happened during the previous point and focus on your fight strategy. Relatively speaking, a sparring match is short; many fighters waste time dwelling on how they should have won that last point, what they did wrong, or how to win the next point instead of making the best use of the limited time available. All your concentration should be used evaluating your opponent’s fighting strategy, evading or blocking his or her attacks, and attacking or counterattacking in ways that neutralize his or her attacks and get through his or her defenses.

Focus on using the correct technique. By enjoying making the proper movements it takes to strike the target, and focusing on the enjoyment each strike brings, rather than focusing on just getting a point, you will find you are more relaxed and hit your target more often.

Change your mindset. Instead of trying to win the point, try thinking about how to make your attack sequence and each technique more effective. Instead of focusing on scoring one point, focus on a series of fundamentally correct techniques that follow the flow of your opponent’s actions. The more attacks, counterattacks, and combinations you use, the more opportunities you will have to score.

Don't think so much about hitting the target hard. Substitute an enjoyment of guiding the hand or foot to its desired location. When you guide the attack, your concentration stays focused on getting to the target, rather than striking the target. Your movements will become naturally smoother and more powerful. You'll find your stamina is increased as you get less tired because you are letting your technique do the work rather than using pure muscle strength.

Don't always try to go for the knockout. If the opportunity presents itself then take it, but do not force it. By looking for knockouts, you are taking away from your concentration supply, leaving less for focusing on the target and using the correct technique.

Believe in yourself. When you start losing, don't step back and start acting defeated. You will start to focus on how many points you have lost and how poorly you are fighting and you will only fight defensively. This will take away from your concentration supply and leave you unable to generate an attack. Know that you have done this before, that you can compete at this level, and you will not go down without putting up a valiant fight.

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