This is a huge part of learning — developing those instincts through struggle. Training against real resistance is essential to learning about the intensity and pace of a real fight. You need to develop a feel for what a fight is like, the intensity of the moves, how desperation fuels the struggle. - Sam Sheridan, The Fighter’s Mind : Inside the Mental Game
Someone needs to light a fire behind my butt. I’ve been sparring on a regular basis now (two to three times a week), but noticed I haven’t been moving around as much. Fear is the culprit. I’m too afraid to gas out after the first round, look exhausted, out of breath and out of condition. I’m starting to say to myself, I don’t want to look bad and let my trainer down. And so I conserve my energy and stay in the center of the ring. My opponent dances around the perimeter, picking her punches.
I’ve become a bit too cerebral in these last few sparring sessions, too self-conscious, too tentative and afraid to make the wrong move. Hesitate and your opponent will capitalize on your mistake. One solid right hook, and lights out. Then it doesn’t matter if you’ve gassed out, you’ve lost the fight before it even started. I’ve realized in order for me to learn anything and become a better fighter, I have to push beyond my comfort zone, I have to show that I do not back down, that I’m in it, toe to toe, fighting my heart out.
And so I’ve been looking deeper at my approach, my level of commitment. I’ve been trying to understand what I need to keep with me at all times in order to improve my performance in the ring. I’m trying to identify the best attitude to embody and single out a specific process in order to execute. I began to write words down, words like:
Look at your opponent, don’t blink!
All good to remember, but in the end, how could I keep track of all of them? Oh I didn’t keep my hands up! You forgot to breathe! Would I perhaps get stuck on these bits of minutia, hindering my ability to execute? I needed something else, something that would flow through me.
Author Jason Selk talks about a creating a personal performance statement “simple enough to free your mind and body from complications and distractions.” I needed something that filled me with great confidence and passion. I needed something that spoke to the very depths of my being in order to touch my heart, mind, body and soul — but fast. I needed something to make me fight with tenacity and intensity. I read and read, thought and thought, replayed this morning’s four rounds over and over again. And then I wrote this:
Fight your heart out; believe in your training.
Simple, direct and to the point. When the worry thoughts arise. When I feel that tinge of uncertainty, of second-guessing, when the negative judgments take over and find myself slipping into bad habits, I’ll repeat over and over again: This is what it takes for you to perform at your best: Fight your heart out and believe in your training.
I have to be open to the struggle of the fight. When you close that door to the struggle and allow fear to take over — whether it’s fear of failure, fear that your trainer will be disappointed, fear that you won’t sustain energy for four rounds — you’ve lost even before the first bell has rung.
You’ve stopped taking risks, you’ve stopped believing in all the work you have done to get here, you’ve stop believing in your ability to fight. All of a sudden you find yourself just tolerating instead of living in the moment, living for that first bell to ring, living to realize the fight in you. Yes, to realize you have a fight in you. Each second, each skill, one at a time, round by round — poquito a poquito — there is a fight in you, with fire and determination that demands for you to be here in this ring.
Slowly I’m beginning to get it. I’m learning to love the fight.
Current weight: 142lbs. Goal: 141lbs.
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