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My Muay Thai Training: Training The Mental Game

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Welcome back to my online diary documenting my very amateur experience training in Muay Thai. If you missed the previous entries on Bloody Elbow, read them here.

In all combat sports, I am a firm believer in the vital importance of the mental game. Especially at the highest levels, fights are often won or lost less on the physical skills of the fighters than on their relative mental toughness. Fighters who lack that mental game may never fully realize their potential, while those who use their mind to the fullest may achieve more than their skillset otherwise would allow.

Why bring this up? Because at last night's training, my mind was not there. Due to various other commitments, I have been a bit sporadic in my training over the past two weeks, and when I came in last night, I was thinking about things from the day, what I would have for dinner, if I would stay for Jiu Jitsu afterwards... lots of different things. Sure, Muay Thai was one of them, but it wasn't the only one, and it needs to be.

The end result of this lack of focus? An all around bad session that saw me throwing terrible left kicks and gassing while sparring. Today, I'm paying the price with bruised up forearms (not holding the pads well) and a very sore right foot (landing my kicks with the foot and not the shin). To be honest, I'm lucky that's it.

The thing is, this is not something I normally struggle with. I don't think I'll ever be one of the best physically in shape guys on my team, but I always am able to focus and push myself harder. I realized early in my training that getting through a tough training session is all about willing yourself to do it - say yes I can do these sit-ups and you'll do them. Last night, I lost that yes I can voice.

So for me, this is a wake up call. I've been training for nearly two years now. I know the guys on my team, I know the routine, I've become comfortable. And I've become complacent. In the past, I had a routine I did at the start of every class to help me focus, yet I've been letting that slip lately, and I saw the results of that clearly. To avoid injury and to be my best, it's time to shake off that complacency and come in strong next time. If not? Then I could end up nursing much more than a bruised foot and a bruised ego.

Question of the week: How much do you specifically train your mental game? Do you use any rituals to get yourself focused?

Video of the week (in the full article): Still keeping my focus on defense, so here is a nice counter to a body kick. We've worked the catch lately, so that's a technique I'm getting more comfortable with, but I like the extra turn he adds at the end to off-balance your opponent. In sparring, need to be careful not to hurt your partner's knee though.

I train under Andre Madiz at Conviction Martial Arts, 4430 N. Western Ave., Chicago, IL. If you are in the Chicago area, come join us, and be sure to say hello.