Thursday, 4 October 2012

"90% of the fight game is half mental" or something

I think it was Tim Sylvia who said that particular quote, and it's almost kind of accurate.  The mental side of fighting is a HUGE part of it and there are many different aspects of the mental side of fighting.   

One of my team mates and I had a discussion the other day about the mental side of competing and ways to improve our competition results (aside from the obvious, drill more, roll more, lift more type things).   Mental Preparation is often over looked and can make a huge difference! 

 I'm no sport psychologist, but I've taken and completed the NCCP program all the way up to Level 3.  I'm not technically level 3 certified, because I never got around to doing the practical side of Level 2.  But I have passed everything for level 3. so whatever.   This blog isn't about my NCCP progress.   In these courses we talked and dealt a lot with the mental side of sports, and combat sports specifically, since I took the Judo sport specific side of the course.  I would day 99% of the content, aside from the technical stuff,  directly relates to Jiu Jitsu.   I have applied a lot of the things I learned over the years in taking these, and other courses/seminars directly to my self and had pretty solid results.

So what exactly is involved in the mental side of the game?  Some key parts are:
  1. Goal Settings
  2. Visualization
  3. Positive Self Talk
  4. Developing and Using your competition day strategy and mindset.
  5. Game Planning

Goal Setting
This goes way beyond making your new years resolutions.   But to give it some perspective, every year, we make new years resolution, and we are mega motivated to meet them, at first, then we get bored, or we've made them to lofty, or forget, or whatever.  But, think about how amazing it would be to harness that early motivation, and apply it to your training, and competition! 

There are really 2 main types of goals, short term goals, and long term goals.  You need both to be successful in the fight game, and in everything.   Your short term goals are goals, and milestones along the way to your long term goals,  and/or things that will make your long term goals possible.

Short Term goals should be based on a a time span of a week to a month, of course they can be shorter, or longer, but that's a pretty safe range.  So examples of short terms goals, for jiu jitsu are:
  • Drill 200 arm bars from 2 different positions
  • Use a specific technique in live rolling successfully X amount of times
  • roll 5 rounds in a row without taking a row
As you can see, these are generally easily attainable things, that are steps towards medium, and long term goals.  Some examples of long term goals:
  • Win a medal at a tournament 
  • Earn a trip to Abu Dhabi
  • win a match by submission
  • not gassing at a tournament

These goals are clear, consise, and measurable.   Goals like "have better cardio" arn't good goals, how much better? how do you determine what is better?   Same with "Do better in competition",  what is better? Is it winning more? is it not getting subbed? is it not being sloppy?  it's to broad!

So what do we do to use this information?
At the begining of the year, or season, or what have you,  You need to sit down, with a pen and paper (or computer i suppose).  and figure out what your long term goal(s) is.  Don't make to many, 2 or 3 is good.   Then, come up with the short term goals you need to reach that long term goal.   Once you have those written down,  make your schedule of when you want/need to obtain those short term goals by, in order to reach your long term goal.   Finally,  make notes on HOW you are going to achieve those goals.     Going back to my examples for short term goals:

For drill 200 arm bars:  the notes would be something like "Get to class early 3x a week with a partner, and do 2 sets of 20 each.  Also take 1 round of rolling during open mat to drill as many as possible".   For rolling 5 rounds without a break... "roll every other round the first week.  Roll 2 in a row with one off the 2nd week. Roll three in a row the third week, and so on.  Also, do this and that specific cardio at the gym 3x a week"  Got the picture?  It's basically making a road map for yourself.

I've made a little document you can use to set this up: Goal Document

It's important that your Long Term, and Short Term goals are reasonable, make them attainable, but not to easy.   It's also important to keep yourself accountable to these goals.   Update your goal document as the dates for them come around.  Make new short term goals as you accomplish them, and always keep your eye on the prize, which is your long term goal.

It can be helpful to share your goals with your coach, or a team mate or two.   Having them aware, and on board will help you be attain your goals by having them help you be accountable, and by supporting you on your journey!

 So, that's a basic introduction to Goal Setting!   It's a great tool to help you get where you want to be and a huge part of the mental side of the sport.   You can even have goals about the mental side of the sport, but since we've only covered goal setting so far, I'd stick to the more traditional goals ;)   

I'll write about the other 3 parts in subsequent blog posts over the next few days/weeks as time permits!   In the mean time,  set your goals, make a plan, and feel free to share them with me!   


  1. Nice post Patricia! This can apply to so many things, it's good to have a reminder :)

  2. I'll do this for the Toronto Grappling fights next weekend. The mental game is my biggest problem with tournaments, I get myself so worked up I can't fight well.

  3. Hey Greg, Not a lot of time for toronto grappling goals, but definitely set something and use the next week and a half to work towards it. I'd recomend picking one technique that you want to use in the tournament, and using some of the drilling/open mat time to really work on it.

    Some of the next posts on the mental side of the game i think will help you even more then this one :)

  4. Great article Patricia - coincidently, I just finished writing an article on Mental Toughness for Grapplers Planet as well! I, too, feel that the mental aspects of sport are overlooked in favour of development of physical attributes or one's knowledge base.

    Looking forward to reading the rest of yours as they're released!


  5. Thanks Sen! I'll keep my eyes open for your post on GP!