What is fear?

July 18, 2015 in Dragons Pulse

No matter how skillful or fit a fighter might be physically, this will count for nothing if the fighter is not prepared mentally. Many fighters underachieve because of the demons swimming around in their heads, from the weeks of buildup to sitting in the changing room waiting to get gloved up then the long walk to the ring.

But what causes these very uncomfortable feelings? And more importantly, how can we handle them and use them to our advantage and not let them drag us down feeling like cowards? Well first thing I must stress is that everyone, no matter who they are, gets the exact same feeling as you before a fight.

The difference between a champion and a coward is the champion can control his feelings, let’s look at the different causes of these feelings and what they mean.

Fight or flight syndrome

This is the most common feeling a fighter will experience leading up to a fight, it is the brain telling you to run away to survive or stay and fight. It would rather you not face the fear because survival is its main aim and there is a better chance of this if you don’t hang around. Adrenalin is released into the blood stream getting you ready for action (this makes you stronger), you will sometimes feel sick and need to go to the toilet, and you will get the shivers and sometimes stutter. Another name for this is FEAR.

Eustress

This is a type of stress that has a positive effect, the fighter will actually seek the stressful situations and thrive on the feelings associated with them, they will get fight or flight but they use it to their advantage.

Stress

Is seen as being the result of the performer perceiving an imbalance between what is being demanded of them, and whether they think they are capable of meeting that demand i.e. “am I good enough to be in the same ring as him?”

Anxiety

It’s seen as being a negative emotional state usually associated with feelings of apprehension and worry. This is caused by over arousal, to a person being stressed. Anxiety is usually therefore associated with feelings such as nervousness, worry and apprehension.

Arousal

It’s seen as a general internal state of physiological activity and alertness varying from deep sleep to intense excitement.

Now we have had a quick look at the different types of feeling a fighter may go through, let’s look at ways to overcome the negative aspects and become more confident.

Imagery

This is often used with relaxation techniques in order to reduce arousal. The fighter imagines the circumstances and feelings associated with being relaxed. Imagery can also be used to practice something; this is known as mental rehearsal. The fighter can ‘run through’ his performance in his mind, deciding how to cope with tactics. This type of training is thought to enhance performance to a great degree if used correctly. Ten minutes a day is good! Just lie in a dark room and imagine you’re at the fight, you feel scared, you can hear the crowd. Imagine you’re getting gloved up then walking to the ring and getting in, imagine yourself performing well and handling the fear. Try this before training, imagine sparring etc., it’s no good doing it on fight night. You need to practice, that’s the only way you get good at it. Did you know the brain struggles to tell the difference between reality and imagery (if done properly)?

Relaxation

You can use tapes and such to wind down after training, one widely used method is progressive muscular relaxation (PMR). This involves tensing and then relaxing groups of muscles in turn over the whole body. Boxers can devise their own techniques along these lines, and practice usually enables the athlete to relax effectively in a very short space of time. Other types of relaxation: Meditation, Hypnosis. You can listen to music, this is a great relaxation method used a lot, whatever feels good for you.

Goal setting

Goal setting can help the fighter focus away from the source of stress and on something achievable. It should focus on performance related goals rather than on outcome related goals. Fighters can be helped to focus on a particular, achievable, goal during performance which can switch attention from external factors which may create arousal and worry.

Self-motivation

One way to do this is to give yourself buzz words, or a quote of some sort you read every time you go training or to a fight. This type is effective because it releases self-confidence and give you that something extra in training/fighting. An example could be a note hand written on a piece of paper that you keep with your training gear and read when using it. It could say something like “today I will train like a champion, so tomorrow I may become one”

Self-talk

The ability to perceive arousal and to maintain a problem focused attitude before and during performance has a positive effect on performance. Self – talk helps the fighter to see arousal as positive. Self – talk can be used to change your perspective of the situation. You could tell yourself “I’ve trained so hard for this fight that no one can stop me”.

Conclusion

Fighting is a draining sport, both mentally and physically. Don’t underestimate the power of the mind, it is a powerful tool that can make or break you. If you use these suggestions I am certain you will see some improvement in your performance, but you don’t have to believe me. Try them out for a while and see how you get on, but not just in the ring, it has to become part of your mindset.

Quote of the Month:

Never give up, which is the lesson I learned from boxing. As soon as you learn to never give up, you have to learn the power and wisdom of unconditional surrender, and that one doesn’t cancel out the other; they just exist as contradictions. The wisdom of it comes as you get older.

Kris Kristofferson

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