Are You Beating Yourself in the Ring?
You work on your punches and combinations. Do you work on your head?
What kind of a head do you have on your shoulders? Are you fighting and competing at the level that you’re capable of? Or do you regularly perform better sparring or in practice bouts than at tournaments or bigger fights? Are there particular opponents who you consistently lose to who have no business beating you? Do fears and self-doubts paralyze you and prevent you from fighting to your potential? Are you the kind of athlete who regularly steals defeat from the jaws of victory?
If some of these questions bother you, then you probably already know how critically important the mental part of your sport is. If you want to take your performance to the next level, then you have to be willing to take your training far beyond where most boxers stop. Most serious athletes religiously work on the physical part of the sport. They’ll work on their strength, fitness, and quickness. They’ll work on their punches and combinations. Is this stuff important? You betcha! You can’t become successful without “paying your physical dues” in this way. Hard work is definitely one of the keys to your success in the ring. Without it, you’ll quickly lose.
Bouts are won and lost before the start!
Unfortunately, this is where most good boxers stop. When they go into their matches, they hope they’ll perform well; they hope that they’ll have their “A” game with them today; they hope that they’ll win. You would never leave your conditioning or fighting technique to chance. i.e. “I hope I’m in good shape today.” So why would you leave the most important part of your fighting – the mental side – to chance?
Think about this: Getting good as a boxer in practice is 95% physical and 5% mental. Translation: You have to work hard on your conditioning and “physical game” to make it happen. However, once you step into that ring for a bout, the percentages flip-flop. Being successful is 95% mental and 5% physical. You have the conditioning, technique, and fight strategy; now you have to make sure that you stay calm under pressure and keep maintaining your confidence throughout the fight.
The heart of your mental toughness as a fighter is determined by your focus of concentration both before and during your fight.
- You need to stay focused in the NOW, on one punch at a time.
- If you your mind jumps ahead to the future, (i.e. thinking about winning or losing) or slips back to the past (i.e. a previous mistake or bout), then you’ll end up getting yourself too uptight and distracted to perform to your potential.
- When you do lose your focus, you must quickly and consistently bring it back to the action!
- When negative thoughts pop up, allow them to pass through by focusing on what’s going on in the present moment.
You have to believe in yourself and have the self-confidence to fight your own fight – not your opponent’s – when you’re under pressure. You have to be able to handle last-minute negativity and self-doubts. You have to be able to master your fears.
With a little work, these mental skills – as well as a few important others – can be systematically trained to the point where you develop the reputation as a mentally tough fighter.
Dr. Alan Goldberg is an internationally-recognized expert in the field of performance enhancement. He holds a black belt in traditional Okinawan Karate, Shorin Ryu style. As a Sports Performance Consultant, Dr. G works with boxers, wrestlers, martial artists, and other athletes across all sports, helping them develop mental toughness, better handle competitive pressure, and perform to their potential. As a regular columnist for a number of national and international publications, Dr. G writes on the subjects of peak performance training and mental toughness. Check out his popular Mental Toughness Training Package.
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