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Mentally Breaking

I think about sports psychology a lot, and I read a lot, watch videos, listen to podcasts and so on.

And you know what? I think most, as in 90% of what’s out there, is crap.

I’m not saying that mental game isn’t important. It’s really important. In fact, I think in our sport, when skill is broadly equal, mental game is 90% of a fight.

But the aspects of sports psychology that are out in the podcast and pop-psychology world- that’s what’s crap.

I’ve been in those make or break moments in fights and matches. The point at which exhaustion is coming for you both, and all of your training, or lack thereof, flashes before your eyes! It really does! You compress 6 weeks of training into a single thought lasting fractions of a second. The injury you’re carrying, the time you slacked in conditioning, the bad spar you had one Wednesday. It’s all there. That’s when your mental game kicks in.

It’s a fascinating moment, and one that everyone who has fought will know. Particularly, I think, in grappling sports, where you can physically feel your opponent wilt. “I’ve broken him” you think, “I’m going to win”. I’ve also felt the inverse- “I’m done, and I’m going to lose”. Think of the toughest stages in the Tour de France. All of those guys have done the hard training. They’re all capable physically. The margin comes down to who can suffer the most pain in their legs and lungs.

I was speaking with a friend recently who said he wouldn’t listen to anyone who spoke about that moment in the abstract. It’s just not something you can teach or hope to replicate in a classroom. You can talk about it until the cows come home and people have written scores of books about it, but unless you’ve felt it, particularly been on the negative side of it, you have no idea.

And it sounds so negative, but actually the times I’ve been on the end of it have been catalysts for growth and change. I know others feel the same.

The rest is comfort zone.

Okay, see you on the mat!


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