- Posted by Cody Maltias
- On January 23, 2016
- 0 Comments
Recently my friend Jeff wrote a great article over at his blog Dirty White Belt. It touches on a topic that is near and dear to my heart in discussing Competition Mentality. Jeff’s blog is an amazing wealth of knowledge and perspective on grappling, but I would differ with him significantly in my mental approach. What I will offer is a view from my perspective based on many of my experiences in the cage or on the mats.
What is your goal every time you step on the mats? In training, we need to cultivate a mindset that allows us to improve the most out of each session. In a fight, or competitive match, every fiber of your being must be focused on achieving the single greatest performance of your life.
In training you must seek out variance. There are times to go as close to 100% as possible, and times to relax so your brain can be more engaged in the learning process. Jeff mentions,
“My philosophy on sparring with people who outclass me is simple: I try to be as technical as possible, to try to do correct movements. I try not to use much strength or athleticism — partially because I don’t actually have those things, but mostly because this person is going to beat me anyway. I might as well be cerebral about my beating so I can learn from it, instead of risking hitting them in the nose and really taking a whooping.”
In doing so you give away one of the greatest training tools there is. Your superiors on the mats will expose holes in your game so go as hard as you can to reveal as much as you can in the safe place that is the training environment. Otherwise these gaps will be exposed on a much larger stage.
By going “light and technical” against upper belts you not only hurt yourself but you hurt their development as well. One of my greatest frustrations in the gym is when someone gives up before I truly have the submission. That moment of going for the kill is the most important: to finish or miss the chance to end the fight. Never neglect an opportunity to truly find out if you can finish or escape. Your enemy is your best teacher, and in the gym we all need to push each other to the limit. If you don’t push every member of your academy to be their best, then their losses are partially on your hands.
Optimizing Event Performance
“You play how you practice” This maxim is drilled into every athlete’s head from day 1. By making practice better you automatically produce a better result. In reality there are 3 results you can get from an event:
- Sub-optimal: this is choking. This is when you hear someone say, “I can’t believe I forgot that move” or “I didn’t do anything like I did in the gym”. The moment gets too big and arousal and focus are either to low or too high.
- Practice Level: Some athletes and coaches think this is the goal. To go out and be relaxed, to perform like it is a practice. This is a good level but it can never be your goal.
- Super Human/Personal Best: This is what we must all constantly strive for. Each and every competition is an opportunity to unlock potential we did not know we had. This is how you can truly have a moment when you are in the zone. In competition certain elements exist that can push us to an even higher level, it is up to us as competitors to learn to harness each of those elements.
If you want to be average you learn to calm yourself down. To feel mentally like you do when training at your home gym. If you want to reach another level the stress of competition is what is going to push you there. I use this example often but only because it is so apt. Mothers can lift vehicles off their children, this is an oft reported incident, and when they return to the scene they cannot even budge the vehicle. Our bodies are wired to perform incredible tasks when the need truly arises in a life or death situation.
“Once the match begins and we slap hands, I think I’m going to win. Always. No matter what. No matter who the other person is, no matter how badly the match is going. The other person could be a world-class black belt, and I just wouldn’t think about that during the flow of the match. My opponent could be up 25-0, and I’d believe that I was going to catch a neck or a foot and submit him.”
This allows Jeff to access that middle ground of rolling as well as he does in the gym, but denies reaching that higher level. The fear is what is necessary. In “The Dark Knight Rises” Batman cannot defeat Bane because he does not fear death. It is the last gasp to fight off our death that is wired into our DNA as humans that we can harness in high pressure situations to perform at a superhuman level.
Recently I had a match against Mackens Semerzier a black belt and UFC veteran in a grappling tournament. A friend of mine has casually mentioned earlier in the day how much Mackens liked to go after feet. Before the match I was amped up out of my mind and I was thinking crazy thoughts:
“What if he leg locks me and injures me”
“What if he is freaky strong and crushes through me”
“What if people question the legitimacy of my new black belt”
“What if this negatively affects the school I am opening”
I let these thought wash over me, I didn’t try to conceal them or sweep them under the rug. I let them get me more and more excited for the match. I reminded myself that these feelings reminded me I was in the right environment, with the right opponent to bring enough pressure. We entered the mat and shook hands. The match began and he immediately made grips, he felt strong, he hit a throw. At that moment my training took over and I was hooking the neck. He rolled to avoid the choke and I ended up in a mounted guillotine, it was tight but Mackens was tough and his head popped out. He pushed up against me and I dove on the armbar, as we rolled and grabbed the wrist and pushed my hips as hard as possible my earlier fear was enabling me to put in every bit of effort to finish this fight at this moment. Mackens tapped and I had won. The pressure, the stakes, the fear had all led to a heightened performance.
The first step of reaching this higher plane consistently is to give yourself permission to go there. Attack training like you are solely responsible for improving your partners and approach each competition as a chance to reach a whole new level of performance.