Attaining success in Muay Thai depends heavily on a participant’s psychological makeup. This is no secret and certainly not a new idea in the world of the “Art of the Eight Limbs.”
That said, when we briefly consider a number of the other fundamental factors that are required of a Muay Thai practitioner dedicated to their craft, none are as nebulous as those that occur inside the mind. For example, we know that a fighter can improve his stamina with frequent runs and cardiovascular training. In order to perfect our kicking game, constant drills and technical practice will soon see improvement in our output.
However, when it comes to mental strength, there is no one tried and tested method we can use to combat our fears and anxieties as fighters. Put simply, no one mind thinks the same way.
While some argue that a fighter either “has it or doesn’t” when it comes to mental strength, this is far too simplistic to adopt as the truth. This principle goes against the foundation of mental strength which is never giving up or letting anyone tell you that can’t achieve something.
Below, we take a look at four fundamental ways to improve your mental strength in Muay Thai, today.
Build The Foundations Of A Strong Temple
Confidence is the foundation of mental strength. While some see it as a byproduct of trusting in one’s own ability inside the ropes, in reality, confidence is something that is earned throughout the process of walking that long, lonely road to a fight.
For those who understand the difference between entering a bout on the night feeling in-shape, fresh, conditioned, and well-trained vs. feeling out of shape, undercooked, and not 100%, the mind will not be as sharp.
In order for you to feel as though you are ready for each and every challenge that comes your way, your body – which is your mobility, equipment, and weaponry – must all be at their optimum levels. If you are in the shape of your life, you will feel more than capable of winning any bout. Even if a lack of confidence is a problem, it will certainly be nowhere near as amplified compared to when you are not feeling prepared.
The body is a temple and should be treated as such. It is only when you dedicate yourself 100% to Muay Thai and learn how to eat, train, rest, and prepare yourself for battle that the relationship between the mind and body can be at its best.
If the body is a temple, the mind is the altar. Neither can exist without the other.
Develop Your Inner Voice
The life of a fighter can be a lonely one. For those who have a natural propensity for social interactions and validation from peers, dedicating themselves to Muay Thai can see their psychology suffer as a result. Suddenly, excuses are made that make it easier to justify quitting.
Those who refuse to break in this manner often find an inner voice in the solitary hours spent running or doing bag work inside the gym. This voice becomes everything from a companion to an instructor, barking orders to go that extra round in sparring, or get up at the crack of dawn to run when they know their opponent is sleeping soundly in their beds.
That inner voice is the companion that keeps a fighter focused inside the ropes and who calms down their heartbeat, allowing them to breathe easily when adrenalin runs through their veins like an electric shock.
Developing that voice comes with a complete surrender to the craft of Muay Thai. It comes from the painstaking training sessions and extra work at the gym. It can be found guiding you away from making bad decisions and giving into laziness. Every time you make a conscious decision to test yourself as a human and as a warrior, it will be validated and fed until you get so used to its presence that it becomes the norm.
If you step inside the ring on fight night and hear the voice reminding you how hard you have worked and urging you to work through any difficulties you encounter, you’re doing it right.
Refuse to Stay in the Comfort Zone
One of the most common hazards for any practitioner is failing to understand the dangers that come with the comfort zone.
By nature, the comfort zone is when a fighter achieves a decent or even remarkable level of success and allows themselves to take their foot off the gas. It is only by seeking out new challenges and finding the hunger to evolve as fighters that we can avoid stagnating and being left behind by our peers and opponents.
Throughout the history of Muay Thai and other combat sports, we have seen fighters who have emerged like rabid dogs, going on to obliterate opponents and win numerous titles. Then, when their bank accounts start to grow and their names become notorious, those same fighters lose the appetite that made them who they were.
In order to improve and sustain mental strength, a fighter must identify new challenges in order to keep their blades sharp and ready for battle.
Learn to Confident When Not in Control
Confidence is one of those words that can often mean different things to different people. Arrogance, cockiness, braggadocio, and being a general pain in the ass might be misconstrued as confidence in this day and age, but it suddenly takes on a whole new meaning when you are faced with an opponent.
Human beings, much like animals, can smell fear and a lack of confidence a mile off. You might be able to fake confidence with some people, but others won’t buy it. This is because there are clues that will soon reveal an individual’s true self if tested. If you hit a fighter with a hard roundhouse or incisive elbow, how they react to the situation is usually very telling.
Confidence is built on a foundation of control, and to some extents, being comfortable with a lack of control. When inside the ropes, the aim of the game is to control your opponent by using the tools at your disposal. Whether it is a strong clinch game, a smart kicking game from long range, or working your way inside to dominate in short range, to win a fight, you must execute your gameplan better than the competitor standing opposite you.
However, before you can impose your will on that fighter, you have to work for it. Sometimes, it is your opponent that has the upper hand, which can be uncomfortable. Learning to be confident in this type of scenario is crucial and often comes with experience. Not panicking, refusing to quit, and trusting in yourself to find a solution to any problem is what will see you through.
Mental strength is a key ingredient in the makeup of a fighter.
A confident fighter that is sure of their talents and abilities to win in any circumstances is usually one that has overcome the most important battle – the one against their own mind. By ensuring you are prepared, confident, and dedicated to your craft will expose no vulnerabilities in the midst of battle, making you a tougher fighter as a result.
Mental strength is something that must be trained, much like any physical skill, if you are to achieve in the sport of Muay Thai.