Anyone who’s ever sparred before can surely attest to the amount of mental strength you need to get through a single round of sparring. It doesn’t matter if you’ve sparred that same person before, if you’re more experienced or athletic: as soon as you bump fists with your opponent, literally anything can happen in the next few minutes.
Because of this, a lot of martial artists are wary of sparring and sometimes even avoid it altogether. Fortunately, there are several tactics martial artists can use to get over their fear of sparring.
Today, Evolve Daily shares 5 Mental Tricks To Help You In Sparring:
1) Decide on your motive
Of all the mental tricks on our list, this is the most important. Often times, many martial artists forget why they train. They lose sight of what used to motivate them to become the fearless warriors they once were. Because of this, they start to doubt themselves the minute they decide to pit their skills against someone else. Unfortunately, this could lead to fear, which immediately gives their opponent the upper hand.
When a martial artist is able to decide on his/her motive, everything else falls into place. His/her focus shifts back to the present, giving him/her the opportunity to fully concentrate on beating his opponent.
Tip: Figure out what you want to achieve during your spar. Do you want to practice your strength and endurance or fix a technique you’ve been working on? Find your purpose and stick to it!
2) Accept that anything can happen
Whether you like it or not, anything can happen when you spar. No matter how highly ranked you might be, you will eventually lose to someone. Unfortunately, this is the reality of martial arts. It is a continuous learning process that encourages us to work on improving ourselves every day.
When you accept this, you can realign yourself and strategize against your opponent. Instead of constantly anticipating your loss, you can just face your fear and everything else will fall into place.
Tip: If you can’t accept that you might lose, imagine your next spar as part of a drilling session or an extension of a class. This way, you won’t feel so bad if you do lose.
3) Always be prepared
Never come to sparring class unprepared. You should always have a game plan or a set of particular techniques you want to work on. The more prepared you are, the more confident you’ll feel when you spar. There’s nothing else to worry about except doing what you came to do. Trust us, nothing gives you more confidence than the knowledge that you couldn’t be more prepared for class.
When you don’t come prepared, chances are, you’ll always have that doubtful, nagging voice at the back of your mind telling you that you should have trained more, started training earlier, etc. And you’ll know that it’s right because you know it’s your fault you didn’t prepare.
Tip: Align each sparring class with a purpose and prepare for it properly. If you’re there to work on techniques, write down a list of techniques to work on. If you’re there to test your skills, come with a game plan filled with the techniques you do best.
4) Recognize that everyone is different
Everyone experiences fear differently. Some people just laugh it off and some feel sick to their stomach. Some people claim that they don’t feel fear at all until afterwards. It’s different for everyone and it can also change from one spar to another.
Because of this, you have to find the perfect approach that works for the way you handle fear. If you’re one of those people who just spazzes out during sparring because you’re afraid to lose, then try to use technique instead of strength during your next spar. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone, no matter what anyone says.
Tip: To figure out what approach works best for you, analyze your last few spars. What were you doing wrong? What were you doing right? What can you do better? When you’ve figured it out, work backwards and see how best you can deal with your fear and try it during your next sparring session.
5) Study your fear
What every martial artist fails to remember is that his/her opponents are probably going through the same thing as well. All martial artists feel fear at some point, especially when they are under duress.
There are two particular kinds of fear: physiological and psychological. Physiological fear happens when your body gasses out or gives in because you’ve already given up mentally. Psychological fear includes fighting spirit and mindset – without these two, you could very easily succumb to your opponent.
Take note of which kind of fear your mind and body experiences when it goes through a particularly stressful event. This way, you can work on countering it when it does happen.
Tip: To deal with physiological fear, work on perfecting your techniques. The better you execute your techniques, the less energy and gas you’ll waste. This makes it easier for you because you now have the confidence to use your game plan against your opponent.
To deal with psychological fear, you need to work on the first 4 points that we’ve previously mentioned. When you have the right mindset, it doesn’t matter how much better, stronger or faster your opponent is – you’re there to spar and become a better martial artist. And nothing will stop you from getting there!
Remember, no matter how great of a martial artist you are, there will always be an underlying feeling of fear no matter what situation you’re in. All you can do is learn how to deal with it and become the best martial artist you can be through continuous self-improvement. Don’t worry if you still find your palms sweating before your next sparring session – dealing with fear takes a lot of work!
So tell us, which of these mental tricks will you use in your next sparring class?