All of us have been through it at least once in our life. A bad call, a misfortune, a mistake, or a vicious attack that left us baffled at how we could possibly end up “here”.
Sometimes we get caught up with ourselves, ruminating in the possibilities of answering our insatiable desire to understand “why”. But, that is the most futile of all exercises. A satisfactory answer never presents itself and even if it ever appears to it’s more than likely just a road sign leading us down a different path. A path away from our original goals. What then is the most important thing to remember before we engage in a fight that could lead us to victory?
It is to remind ourselves of “who we are”. If you’re here, reading this, you are a fighter. Wether in practice or in spirit, the energy that drives us is all the same. You want to do more than survive. You want to thrive!
So, as fighters, how do we recover from a devesting blow? How does a fighter turn a loss into victory?
This won’t be a long, intellectual and introspective deep dive into the psychology of a fighter. For the vast majority of us, our energy is better spent focusing on our goals rather than exploring the most obscure facets of our identities. So how do we turn it all around?
We’ll break it down into three simple steps. And believe us when we tell you that keeping it simple brings you far closer to success than you may have ever imagined possible.
1. Channel Your Emotions
Taking the first step in any process is often the most difficult and the same is true here. Before your next move, before you get up, before you walk into the arena you must remember that your mind is where the first battle begins and it is absolutely where you must develop efficient tactics for avoiding mental traps like those influenced by emotion. It’s almost impossible that any loss, pain or suffering won’t produce some emotion. We may become sad, we may become scared, we may even become enraged. However, unlike the Incredible Hulk, these emotions don’t immediately translate into a path of mindless destruction. And while many of us have been taught that anger is something to be avoided, controlled or even suppressed. For a fighter, ignoring the energy that makes us what we are will only allow the fire that burns inside of us to turn into a towering inferno of rage. When anger becomes rage, applied externally or internally, the damage caused can be catastrophic. So when you’re angry don’t ignore it, channel it. Focus that energy into the actions that drive you towards victory. Anger can provide you with adrenaline and mental drive but it is extremely important that you focus that energy into a productive direction. One that leads to your goals. Anger may be raw raw, basic and a direct product of emotion but it is definitely more of a constructive tool than we give it credit for. Don’t be afraid to tap into your anger when you are fighting. Better to do it when angry then when enraged. An enraged fighter is uncontrollable and unpredictable (even to themselves) and when enraged it’s impossible to be completely aware of your surroundings.
A fighter can channel their emotional energy by taking their “ego” out of the situation. In a fight we make sacrifices, take hits, fall down and get back up. Never concern yourself with what others are thinking and never allow emotion drive you. As fighter you are a conduit for energy, a machine that takes momentum and leverages it to maximize impact. Emotions are unpredictable in both opponents, audiences and yourself. Thus the most effective tactic is to practice distancing your ego from the fight. Emotions like excitement from a crowd cheering you on can seem invigorating but distancing yourself from all emotions will allow you to remain equally as effective in an environment where the crowd decries your every action. Do not let yourself be confused by concepts of good and bad energy, positive and negative emotion. All emotion produces a physiological response, all of it induces some form of energy. A true fighter will be aware and able to direct the energy from those emotions back at their opponent.
The most successful predators in nature are those without remorse, regret or fear. They depend on instinct, skill and power to survive. And their success at hunting over generations has created similar and complementary instincts in their pray. While most animals appear to be bound to their instincts and limited in their ability to adapt, human beings have proven to be surprising resilient and this is because we can separate the cognitive awareness of our environment from our ego and even the instinctual predilections we are predisposed to from birth.
Remember this step is one that requires mental discipline. Practice, training, experience will perfect your craft. Yet, if you do feel something during a fight, remember to channel that emotion outward from yourself. Distance yourself from it when ever possible and proceed with the next steps.
2. Constantly Re-Focus Yourself, Become Aware of Your Surroundings
If you’ve lost a fight or felt like you’ve lost yourself as a result of a past misfortune then your vision is likely impaired. This may not be so much a literal loss of vision as it is an inability to dispassionately perceive your surroundings. You may be clouded by doubt, distracted by remorse or simply unwilling to truly open your eyes to see what surrounds you. However, heed this warning. Do not look at “yourself” for answers. The odd paradox about refocusing one’s self is not that you must actually change or address something internally but rather begin to focus on what is around you! Everyone is capable of fighting, those who survive and thrive are those who are extremely aware of what is outside rather than concerning themselves with what lies is inside.
When you apply focus to your surroundings, doubt becomes irrelevant, you, your ego does not matter, you are a machine. A machine needs fuel and maintenance but even the most basic elements of that maintenance are sought externally. And since we cannot feast on ourselves we must look outside for nourishment. While scanning your environment take note of obstacles. See the forces being propelled towards you.
Scanning your environment in this way will open your mind to new possibilities. These possibilities may translate into opportunities to redirect the momentum forces being you begin thrown at you. Leveraging the energy of opposing forces in your opponent or your environment is both efficient and wise. It will translate every possible attack into a counter that could potentially end the fight in your favor. Also remember that the same can be done to you and hence you should constantly be aware of your environment. Be ready to adapt by being aware!
3. Always Stay in Motion (Keep Moving)
Sitting still for too long allows key organic elements in our bodies to metabolize and thus become unavailable for use. Sugars begin to transform into fat, for example, rather than being burned as fuel. Allowing that to happen increases the amount of effort required to move and as we all know it is more difficult to burn fat than it is to simply use the sugars available in our bloodstream during any physical activity. Surprisingly the mind is also rather elastic when in use but the more we do not exercise it the more rigid it becomes. Keeping ourselves moving changes our surroundings and the resulting changes in our perception of the same simple objects in our path cause our mind to become more elastic. Our mind adapts to the changes rather quickly and this is often where we develop muscle memory, as well as habits. Here is a little pearl of wisdom for you. No habit is a good one. As unlikely as it may seem, habits in any form mean a loss of conscious control over ourselves. When we become habitual our begins to body operates somewhat autonomously based on a subset of assumed postures, movements and perceptions. While it may seem like keeping your hands up to guard from a strike to the face may be a good “habit” the fact is if it is a habit then an opponent can easily feint you into raising your hands to cover your face while delivering a devastating blow to your body. We do want muscle memory but we must continuously exercise our mind to put our tendency to develop habits in check. By exercising under constantly changing circumstances we do not allow ourselves to form consistent and predictable habits and as such the part of our mind that assesses surroundings and creates simple solutions to common problems becomes more and more elastic in an effort to compensate for our ever changing environment.
The result may ultimately be a far, far more complex reaction rather than a simple one. For example, a long counter combination in response to your opponent’s initial attack. However, any experienced fighter will know that no combination can ever be fully executed without a need for a change in direction, level, power and even timing. With Step 1 in place (Being Aware of Your Surroundings) you can more easily adapt to the changes in movement of your opponent by applying variations to your combination. This effectively evolves simple muscle memory into complex counter attacks.
Now here is a very, very important piece of information to consider. While it may appear that moving in a straight line is keeping one’s self in motion and thus following the first rule. That is a fallacy. In truth all matter is constantly in motion. (Physics and Quantum Mechanics can better explain that for those who may be curious) however it is the relative motion that is important. Constant motion of relatively similar velocity in the same direction can become perspectively still to the mind. How can this be? Well our minds compensate for motion of objects around us to allow us to more easily perceive our environments. An object that moves more erratically is challenging for the mind to adapt to and thus our ability to perceive that object in space becomes more limited. For example changing the velocity of your punches and kicks while varying the trajectory will make it more difficult for your opponent to adapt to your approach and you will have a major advantage in any fight!
There is, however, one exception to this third step. When you’re baiting your opponent. If steps one and two have been successfully executed you may be acutely aware of your opponents movements and even begin to see a pattern or simple trajectory. With that in mind you can wait for them to come to you. Luring them into a set of circumstances that give you an advantage when striking or countering. BUT! But, you should not make this a habit and you should definitely limit the use of this tactic. A quick victory will come to those who can execute all three steps successfully without hesitation. When stationary there’s an implied hesitation and every moment you remain still your body and mind become more rigid. Don’t underestimate the impacts this can have on your performance in a fight. If there were to be a rule to follow when baiting an opponent it is to do so through fluid motion that is intentional. Intentionally staying stationary may imply a greater degree of control in a fight than you likely have but if your opponent is aware of this you will end up in a stale mate where each opponent awaits the others response. Making it apparent to your opponent that you can move and do so frequently will make the impact of baiting by remaining stationary much more effective hence increasing your chances of success.
Now you know how these steps apply in the ring, on the mat or in a cage, but what about in daily life? The fact i,s these very same steps can be adapted to almost all facets of survival. We can do more than just scrape by, we can become victorious in almost any scenario by ensuring our mind and body remains as fluid and adaptable as possible. The steps above will take you from a crippling situation where you may feel helpless or confused and give you some basic tools to create the movements necessary to turn life events in your favor. Remember this, challenges are not simply targets, they are part of our environment and we must learn to live with them. Nothing is impenetrable, even if it is immovable. By becoming fluid and adaptable we can seep through the cracks of even the most imposing roadblocks. To be a master of your own path, regardless the path you chose, will ensure victory is always within reach.