Fighting. You can’t just want it.
Wanting to fight and being ready to fight are separate entities. An ignorant mind can often take us further than we can respectively handle, this is often the case when a fighter does not have the proper training, coaching, and most importantly, guidance.
An ignorant mind can make the impossible happen [by eliminating fear and doubt], but it may also be our downfall; a false sense of security and reality of where we stand in the world. As all is perspective within our mind [whether we are ready or not] should be left to the decision of professionals who have battle tested a number of competitors.
It should be left to those who know what proficient technique, distance control, physical attributes, conditioning and mental state a man or women needs to attain before entering the ring or cage.
But. . . Win or Lose, isn’t it about gaining experience?
Going into the ring to have “an experience”, is not an excuse to not to be ready to win. Not everyone who trains is pissed off for greatness, there are future athletes who don’t believe in themselves, who don’t realize their true potential just yet. Winning creates confidence in those who have never felt it.
The first few fights do not define a fighter, however, they may ultimately define their career, especially those who are yet to develop mental fortitude. I have witnessed talented fighters, with limitless potential lose and completely break, learning to lose from then on.
There are three things that must be assessed before making the decision to get inside the ring for the first time. If all three main attributes check out, the chances are that the rest will be handled as a part of the process; the process of medicals, the weight cut, sacrifices and everything else that comes with becoming a combat athlete [click the link to read more about this topic].
The Fighter’s Body and Technical Skill
There are several aspects that need to be addressed before a fighter is ready to step in the ring. First and foremost, a fighter needs to present authoritative defense, distance control and footwork. If you look at the legend Namsaknoi after 300 fights and a six-year Lumpinee Stadium reign, you wouldn’t be able to tell that he has put his body through this volume of violence. The reason being is his philosophy on training and fighting:
“You must first learn how to defend, to attack is easy. Everyone knows how to get angry and to attack, but not everyone can defend themselves. When I trained, I would work on my defense during pad work, when training with those at a lower level, and most importantly, when I shadowboxed. When you can hurt your opponent with your defense, imagine what you can do when you choose to attack.”
Distance control and footwork is something you can easily see between two experienced fighters. It is the ability to stay over your hips when moving in whichever direction you choose, the ability to keep the opponent at the end of your punches and kicks when moving backwards, and the ability to reset your hips after each single shot or combination.
Good footwork [although impressive] is not the ability to do the Ali shuffle. An example of poor distance control and foot positioning would be falling forward into the clinch over and over again [different from transitioning], being caught with counters after overextending your strikes past your hips [a common occurrence in amateur combat sports], punching around the back of the opponents head, or losing balance due to improper positioning.
Although this is a boxing video, Vasyl is a perfect study when it comes to distance control and footwork. He never jams his punches short, and if the pressure is coming, he pats the mitts to feel exactly where his body should be in proximity to his opponent:
The Fighter’s Mind
This is essentially the main topic of this piece. We all know the animal and technical savage in the gym that falls apart under the bright lights. You cannot replicate fight night in its truest form, however, testing your mind within the gym can give you a good idea of reaction to pressure and resistance.
This is tested by your coaching staff, keeping track of your consistency, focus, and taking note of how you instinctively deal with adversity.
Take every opportunity to replicate the fight, showing your coach that your mind is in the right place, that it is focused and rarely distracted. From the minute you come to the gym, begin to visualize. When jumping rope, create an image of the locker room, setting down your bag, seeing the staff around you, meeting with the officials. As you wrap your hands, sit down, picture yourself in the chair across from your trainer, hear that music. When you stand up to shadowbox, the fight begins.
At that moment, remember you have been here before. . .
This is @mao_kapow before her amateur debut in the states (One bout in Thailand). Marry is a perfect example of how a fighter should look before heading into a fight, this isn’t only based on technique, but on poise and awareness. Defensive awareness, awareness of distance.
Poise is something that is rarely taught. Study the video above as the fighter explodes with intensity, immediately balancing this intensity with relaxed posture and body language. This sends a particular message to the opponent;
“I am relaxed, in control of my emotion, adrenaline, and ultimately the fight, but when I choose to strike, you have to watch your Ps and Qs.”
What is the message that you are sending your opponent?
When you hit the pads, look your coach in his eyes, dig your chin, and keep your poker face strong. Practicing a strong poker face tremendously improves your chances of not losing face in the fight when tired. If ignored, it is a dangerous place to be, it’s a slight sign of weakness; an experienced fighter will take advantage, this gives him or her hope.
Now is there a guarantee that this translates into the fight? No, but with the coaching staff at high level gyms such as Combat Sports Academy it is almost a promise. Whilst inexperienced gyms rush their fighters to turn pro or to fight as an amateur [to get any sort of recognition for their name; a very short sighted approach], these guys are a prime example of showing what it takes to truly be ready.
To the Coach: It is about preserving the fighter’s mind, fueling confidence through training and small wins, shattering doubt, and making sure the fighter’s focus is unbreakable.
The Fighter’s Heart
This can only come out in the deep waters of an actual fight, which makes the fighter’s heart a hard thing to measure before being tested in competition. However, a good measurement before hand is to pay attention to your habits and your everyday decisions. If you are someone who has sacrificed their time, who has little to no excuses when it comes to showing up, who has an open mind to learning, is someone considered to be “coachable”.
I have witnessed fighters taking a simple piece of advice, arriving to the gym a half hour early and staying a half hour late at the conclusion of class, testing how valuable this advice was to its full potential. When a fighter sacrifices, when he or she is this focused. . . you can safely gamble on them pouring their heart into the fight.
Winning early on in the journey, but more importantly being prepared to win can make a fighter realize how capable he or she is of being successful. The second I dropped Jason Van Oijen at Madison Square Garden was the second I stopped fearing all competition [clip from this event is at the beginning of this tutorial]. I was the underdog, I wasn’t supposed to touch him. . . I was supposed to get picked apart, but my early wins against lower tier competition made me believe that I had a shot at this, against anyone.
Fighters are in a constant rush to have their first fight . This is often enabled by their coaches as well, but what you have to realize is that you can’t chuck it up to an excuse of “he/she was less experienced”, if the fighter loses. It becomes the coach’s responsibility.
Unless the fighter has a unique mindset that very few posses, it demoralizes the fighter. Their first experience in the ring could make or break the fighter. Be ready, be prepared. Make the training hard, and the fight easy.
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Paul Banasiak is a Muay Thai fighter/addict, 9x champion, trainer, and fitness professional currently living, training, and fighting in Thailand. After leaving medical school without looking back, he decided to fully follow his passion of helping others become the best version of themselves, creating MuayThaiAthlete.com. A website for those who are already passionate individuals that want to take their life,mindset&training to the next level.
Today we begin forging our bodies and
strengthening our limitless minds.
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