Monthly Archives: December 2010
If you enjoy this article and want to see more, please visit www.thewinningmindset.com to purchase the book
I ask every athlete and coach these two questions, and I am now going to ask you. First, “In competition, how much of an athlete’s success is attributed to their physical ability and how much is based on the mental aspects that an individual possesses and utilizes?” My question has been confirmed with a variety of statements, 50/50, 30% physical and 70% mental are the usual, yet all will admit that the mental component is critical to a the outcome. I have trained amateur and high-level Pro fighters for decades and I know the kind of ass-busting physical commitment that is required during a training camp to get in “fighting shape”. You work hard to be in peak condition, you work your standup and work your grappling game.
Now here’s my second question. “So, what do you do to train your Mind Game?” At this point most people just stare off searching for an answer. I have the answer! If you aren’t training the mental aspects needed to be the best in competition, you’re at most training at 50% of your potential.
As a teacher and coach of martial arts and martial athletics for over 30 years it is obvious to me that prior to, and during competition the mental aspects that are used by the performer are absolutely as crucial as are the physical qualities.
A Mental Toolbox
In this column I will give you some valuable keys utilized by many of the top athletes in the world and formulated by some of the leading coaches. Let’s start by building a Mental Toolbox, filled with the basic tools necessary to become the fighter or coach that you want to be. Here are the first five tools.
#1 A Belief in Yourself and Your Team– Your beliefs are based on the references you focus on, which in turn support that belief. These references (experiences) can be first hand (personal), second hand (you were told, you read, you saw), or imagined references and can substantiate your empowerment, giving you confidence or create the opposite effect, depending on your mindset. Our mind works by moving us in the direction of what we focus on. Focusing on our losses (what we don’t want) supports the belief that we will lose again and directs us toward all the possibilities surrounding our losses. In contrast, when we focus on our wins, we create a sense of strength through the possibility of continued victory. Our mind always leads us in the direction of our dominant thoughts.
“If you believe, then you have already taken the first step towards your achievement.”
#2 Visualize To Win– See it, then achieve it. Athletes have long used mental imagery prior to an event, just as warriors have before engaging in battle. Did you know that your subconscious mind can‘t really tell the difference between experiencing something vividly in your mind and actually doing it? In fact, the neuro-receptors in your brain respond almost identically. Your thoughts, self-talk and inner visions (visualizations) are electrochemical events that affect your performance on every level. Visualizing is a skill that needs to be honed, just like footwork, throws, positioning, locking and striking. When visualizing, focus on these four keys- Vividness, Frequency, Consistency, and Duration. When using the four strategies for visual success of vividness, frequency, consistency, and duration, you will see amazing results in your overall performance. This may just be the missing key that will unlock your potential and take you to a level you’ve never achieved. When you see yourself performing with intensity and emotion over and over, focused on the outcome you expect, your subconscious accepts that as real. It will be convincingly apparent by your outward confidence that you are completely committed toward your directive, and you will perform as though it were another victory. See it first in your mind’s eye and then achieve it in your LIFE.
#3 There Are Voices In My Head– Did you know that research has found that we talk to ourselves over 50,000 times a day, everyday? That’s nearly 375,000 times a week, 1,500,000 times a month, and 19,500,000 a year. In fact, you’re talking to yourself right now. You’re probably saying something like, “That’s amazing! I didn’t know that ” or “How’s that possible?” Just as you talk to yourself, so does everyone and this “self talk” is many times what directs you in your actions. And despite all the media stimulus shouting out at us constantly, conversations with our coaches, friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances, etc… Guess who we listen to the most attentively? Ourselves! Not only that but, most of what the majority of people say to themselves is negative in context. “This sucks, why’s this always gotta happen to me? God, I hope I don’t get injured before the fight. What’s this knucklehead’s problem? Why can’t I just once get a break?” Sound familiar? This internal dialog goes on both on a cognitive level, as well as subconsciously. So, pay particular attention to your internal voice. Always state things in the Positive, Personal and Present tense. Tell yourself exactly what you want…never what you don’t want! Example: I don’t want to blow this fight. Better Example: I always do the very best I can. I got this one in the bag. I’m in the best shape. I’ve beat this guy!
#4 Never, Never, Ever Give Up– There is a defined procedure to developing what we know as Mental Toughness. Here are four of many, of the mental qualities necessary to be the fighter you want to be. Each of the four qualities will support each other, strengthening your behavior and mindset synergistically.
Emotional Flexibility- Going with what comes. This quality is the ability to make the very best out of every experience and outcome. Being flexible is remaining balanced and resourceful, accepting responsibility for your outcome, rather than being defensive, blaming and rigid. These latter behaviors are a sign of weakness, and are the result of fear-based emotions. Much of this pertains to how you process the experience, your internal dialog and your ability to manage your emotional state.
Emotional Strength- This is all about having a sound belief in yourself and what the outcome will be. To remain emotionally strong means doing so under extreme pressure, to continue to maintain your fighting spirit even under seemingly impossible odds. To harness your greatest strength when the emotional pressure is the utmost, and resist and exert to your full potential in spite of it. Emotional Strength is, in essence, expecting more out of yourself than anyone possibly could.
Emotional Responsiveness- This is the ability to remain engaged and connected with the moment and respond without hesitation. All habits are built through repetition. Your emotional responsiveness will be a product of your habits. Visualizing a successful outcome repeatedly in your mind substantiates your desired result and this familiarizes your subconscious with what you want to achieve over and over. Hesitation often comes from internal conflict in beliefs, emotions and personal values.
Emotional Resiliency- Resiliency is not giving up, bouncing back, staying on track, using that very moment when your actions didn’t give you the results necessary to get the long-term results you desire. Resiliency is the ability to tap into your emotional power, not allowing it to tap you out of your objective. Remember, the key is to not just see your goals, but to feel the emotions connected to achieving your goals and never, never ever give up on your key goal.
“Years ago we hardly had anything to eat. Now I earn more money and I see every opponent as a man that tries to put me back to that poorer period. That man has to be eliminated.”
#5 Take A Personal Inventory– What exactly makes a person perform better? It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why one person excels far beyond his or her competitive peers. What winning combination do these “Top Achievers” possess that sets them apart? Why is the margin sometimes so pronounced? Why did Michael Jordan standout? What allowed Gretzsky to dominate on the ice? Why is the name Rickson associated with greatness? What were the qualities that made Ali the seemingly unstoppable champ?
Let’s not stop at sports, there must be one distinct feature that sets the top achievers in every field in a category of excellence that is exponentially unique! I’ve heard some say, it’s genetics. But, is it?
Over 40 years ago, the world famous Martial Arts Master, Bruce Lee studied this same query. Lee was totally obsessed with the question of what made the superior athlete, technician, or warrior. I began reading about Bruce Lee and studying with his protégé Dan Inosanto, over 25 years ago. This is where I first learned about Mixed Martial Arts (Lee was one of the pioneers) and the concept of how to concentrate on improving the defining “Qualities or Attributes” that made someone a top achiever or champion. Really, it is these attributes that create the combination that is superior.
So, what are attributes? Attributes are strengths that attribute to or help make up who you are, sort of like personal assets. In order for us to have a clear distinction of our capability, aptitude and our potential, we need to consider what our areas of strengths and weaknesses may be. So far, I have identified some of our necessary skills in the areas of mental imagery and internal communication. We have also confirmed that our beliefs are in part relevant to our own perception of our strengths and deficiencies. These are some of the elements that contribute to the make up of our identity, of who we are. But, it goes much deeper than that. Our attributes can be both psychological and physical in nature and can be naturally adopted skills and traits, or specifically learned and cultivated. I believe that all attributes can be improved to some degree. It also appears that there are certain attributes that are absolutely crucial, if not critical, for any marked success in given field. When we have that critical combination of attributes, necessary to succeed in our chosen endeavor developed to a level outstanding to that of our competition, we increase our chances for success beyond what we would have ever believed possible!
A study at Harvard University concluded that in every career endeavor there is a set of 5-6 specific skill sets known as Critical Success Factors, that are crucial to the high level success of that challenge. It goes on to say that if one of these CSFs is inefficient, it will bring down the level of the remaining factors. These Critical Success Factors (CSF) are important to recognize in yourself and others, and may hold the key to your personal development potential and a better understanding of your opponent.
So let’s take inventory. First you must identify what qualities the most outstanding people in your chosen field possess that make them outstanding. Now, write these qualities/attributes on a sheet of paper. Identify and write which of these qualities you believe are Critical Success Factors. Next, on a separate sheet draw two columns. At the top of the two columns write Psychological Attributes (focus, perseverance, courage, integrity, clarity, flexibility, confidence, etc.) On one side of the column write Strong, on the other Needs Improvement. Half way down the paper write Physical Attributes (balance, endurance, flow, strength, speed, timing, coordination, etc.) as your second category, with the words Strong and Needs Improvement on either side of the column.
Now investigate your personal qualities and areas of necessary improvement introspectively with absolute honesty. If you have difficulty seeing a clear picture of your list, ask your coach or training partner for input. You are on the way to making some of the most important distinctions for improving your future success and performance that you have ever made in your LIFE!
Now that you know what you possess, strengthen it. Now that you know what needs improvement, change it. The best way to improve something (or strengthen it) is to simply find the activities that most exemplify that skill and do them, as much as possible. Revise the level of intensity and difficulty when necessary as your specific skill evolves. This attribute specific cross training will do more to improve you than you would ever imagine. Don’t believe me! Believe yourself and try it.
Each issue I will help you add another facet to your Mental Toolbox and guide you to develop your Mind Game. I look forward to hearing your results and feedback.
“When it’s all said and done, there’s a lot more said than done!”
-Lou Holtz-World Class Coach
© Copyright 2009 all rights reserved, Kevin Seaman
Kevin Seaman has been involved in martial arts and martial athletics as a practitioner, competitor and trainer for over 35 years. He currently holds eight instructor rank certifications in seven martial arts systems, is a certified boxing coach and performance specialist, having trained thousands of athletes. Seaman currently assists the training of several Pro MMA fighters. He has contributed to several magazines and authored two books. www.thewinningmindset.com
Kevin MacDougall on his 1st stripe on his Blue belt
Chris Anderson on his 2nd stripe on his Blue Belt
These two guys are so dedicated and are here multiple times a week. They show the true spirit of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Kevin has tremendous speed and look out for Chris’ Spider Guard. Give these two guys a congrats next time you see them.
This is the belt of momentum and combinations. This is the belt level where the amount of energy you expend to accomplish a specific task should be considerably lower than it was when you were a white belt. Your game should have a certain amount of grace and finesse to it. Your game should not have rely on speed, power and explosiveness to get you into positions or out of positions. Your repertoire of techniques should be very high. However, you should begin to focus your training on your depth of knowledge. The white and blue belts are the belts where you accumulate techniques. The purple belt is the first belt where you must begin to refine your techniques. It is also the belt where you learn to put the basic techniques together into various two technique and three technique combinations, with the use of momentum.
Because you become more reliant upon combinations and momentum, the amount of speed and power required to effect your technique decreases. This is not something a white or blue belt can do just yet because of their limited amount of knowledge and experience.
As a purple belt, you must begin to focus your training on the use momentum. You must train your entire body to FEEL momentum. Up until this point in time, most everything was visual. You must develop a high level of sensitivity so that you can flow with your opponent instead of forcing techniques with speed and power, especially when you grappled people who are much bigger and stronger than you are. Pushing an opponent’s dead weight around is exhausting if you do not have a firm foundation in escapes and positioning. You will need to learn to use the momentum that your opponent gives to you, as well as create momentum when his body is not in motion. Momentum will help you to lower the amount of strength you use to perform your techniques.
Your training should also begin to use the basic techniques together into two, three and sometimes five technique combinations. Notice I said “basic” techniques. The purple belt mentality is very different from the white and blue belt mentality. White and blue belts think the answer to their problems is learning more techniques. The purple belt thinks to himself: “I need to refine the techniques I already know and then learn how to reflexively put the appropriate techniques together into flowing combinations.” For example, when I first learned the triangle, I thought it was just a matter of throwing my legs over their head and shoulder and squeezing my legs together. Then as I matured in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, I noticed that there were a specific set of components that made up the technique (20 to be exact!). Then, I noticed that these components could be broken down even further into sub-categories. Now (as a black belt), the triangle is no longer a simple technique with three or four movements. It is now a myriad of over twenty (20) different (and subtle) moving parts that must be put together in a specific order so they can all work together towards one common goal: apply pressure to the neck. Once I had mastered the triangle, I needed to put it together with other basic techniques like the arm lock, the hip bump, the sweep, the kimura, a knee lock, etc. Knowing how to combine the triangle with other basic techniques was very important to my development in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu! Once I could combine techniques together and use them in conjunction with momentum, I now felt ready to take on the world. I’ve noticed the same in many students, both in seminars, at my school and other schools.
The purple belt’s mind set should be on the refinement of his current knowledge and the use of momentum and combinations. The purple belt is able to do this because he already has a wide base of knowledge in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I know that white and blue belts want to learn how to do this, but they simply aren’t ready for it just yet.
This mindset, along with some rapidly developing skills by the purple belts usually sets the stage for some highly charged matches, especially amongst new purple belts. Why? Because the some of the “veteran” blue belts want to make a purple belt tap. Plus, a number of students who get their purple belts go through a period which I call “testing their wares.” They want to see just how they compare to the older, more experienced purple belts, especially those who are about to be promoted to brown belt.
This is the belt of mastery of ALL the basics and something I call “at-will grappling.” This is also the belt where submissions play a big part in the training. When I decide that someone is about ready for their brown belt, I tell them in advance that they are about 9 months to a year away from their brown belt. I give them a schedule of tasks that I want them to work on.
First, they must master each and every escape. I want them to be able to escape every position with the use of their hands AND without the use of their hands (they must know how to push and pull, lift and lower with every portion of their anatomy.). I want them to be able to hold other students down with their hands and without their hands. I want to see them use all of the basic techniques in three and five technique combinations. I also want them to begin to refine their submissions. This is where I begin to use the “at-will grappling” training method. I will tell the student, “for the next thirty days, all I want you to do is apply straight arm locks when you grapple with the other students. No chokes or leg locks. Just arm locks.” Then, a month later, I will tell them, “for the next month, all I want you to do are leg locks. Then a month later, I will tell them to choke the other students. So, for each month, they have been given a specific task to master. Because they tell the other students, “All I am going to do is arm lock you today,” the student knows what the purple belt is going for. This forces the student to be creative in setting up the arm lock because his opponent knows that he will not try a different submission. Setting up an opponent is a difficult task, however, it is one that needs to be learned at this belt level. (I know the lower belt levels want to learn this stuff, but again, they are simply not ready for it.)
Once the student has gotten pretty good at arm locks, leg locks or choke, I will have him narrow the scope of his training. Now, he must focus on one specific limb. I will tell him, “for the next month, all I want you to do is arm lock your opponent’s left arm.” This really forces the student to develop a multiplicity of ways to enter into the straight arm lock on his opponent’s left arm. The student has the confidence to go for all of these submissions because he has a foundation in positional escapes and positional dominance. If he did not have this foundation, he would be timid to go for the submission because he would not want to end up on the bottom again. However, because he can easily escape from any position, and because he can readily hold down and control his opponent, he can repeatedly try for these submissions time and time again! This is why I do not place a lot of emphasis on submissions until the purple or brown belt levels. Position and control are the most important tools to develop at first.
Once a student has a firm grip on the mastery of his basics, I will promote him to brown belt. Once he has been promoted to brown belt, he must continue to refine his game. He must seek out his weak areas and focus on them. He must also find his strengths and focus on them for an extended period of time because these will define his character as a black belt. Most black belts have a specialty. Some are good at throws. Others are good at collar chokes. I happen to be good at leg locks. I want my brown belts to find their sweet spot and train it like crazy!
Here are some old school pics. I have more to come even older. These pics were all taken between 8 and 12 years ago. Tai Kai was doing MMA and BJJ while most local schools were still doing traditional martial arts. All local schools have jumped on the Bandwagon. Now everyone does BJJ and MMA. Tai Kai has a strong history and was the original BJJ/MMA school in Central New York.
Tai Kai’a Andy Curringa in his first MMA fight against Joe Lauzon back in 2001. No he did not win by choke but won a decision
This is the belt of paying your dues. This is the belt where you will spend most of your time on his back. You usually end up doing most of the tapping as well.
Your ability to grapple successfully will depend largely on three things:
1. your previous martial arts experience, (a grappling background helps a lot)
2. your current fitness level, (a higher level of fitness help tremendously)
3. your ability to learn visually (visual learners adapt and absorb information more quickly)
Students who come from a wrestling background seem to adapt very well to the slight change in grappling methods. Students who come from an athletic background also seem to adapt quite well.
Those who come from a striking background sometimes have a difficult time adapting. Many have become so accustomed to visually grabbing onto the vertical and horizontal lines of the walls, doorways and ropes to stabilize their equilibrium that they feel very uncomfortable with the diagonal world of grappling. They quickly learn that the ground has not been their friend, and, that they must take some time to acquaint themselves with this new perspective.
The most frustrating part about being a white belt (especially if you have no experience on the ground) is the fact that most of the advanced students will make you tap, or at least positionally dominate you. (I remember feeling frustrated as a white belt.) This frustration usually leads to white belts asking questions like, “How do I get on top of these guys? How do I escape the side or full mount? How do I tap out the blue and purple belts?” Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do right now to immediately change the tables in your favor. Get used to the blue and purple belts tapping you out. Get used to having them positionally dominating you. Consider tapping as a “form of learning”, a way of “paying your dues.” I remember when I was a white belt. I remember feeling like a rag doll in the hands of the blue and purple belts. I wish there would have been something I could have done to prevent from feeling like that, but there wasn’t. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is just one of those “time in service” things. You simply have to put your time in. There are no short cuts!
The only encouragement that I can give to you is this, “Keep training! Your day is coming. The day will come when you will no longer be a white belt. The day is coming when you will be able to escape from any position with finesse and ease. Then, it will be your turn to watch the frustration of the new white belts that enter your school. Then, it will be your turn to encourage them as I have encouraged you!”
White belts are expected to rely on speed, power, strength and explosiveness. For that is all they know. However, once a person dons the “blue belt”, the world of Jiu Jitsu suddenly changes.
This is the belt of survival. It is the belt where the focus of your training must be on escaping from most of the inferior positions (the mount, the guard, the side mount, the wrestler’s cradle and headlocks). Having the ability to escape from most inferior positions is paramount to having the ability to get on top of a person, positionally dominate them and making them tap. I know that there are a number of submissions from inferior positions (not necessarily the guard), but these submissions require a high level of speed, power and explosiveness. The reason why these submissions require speed, power and explosiveness is because your body, when placed in an inferior position, can not effectively apply leverage. To compensate for the inability to apply leverage, you substitute it with speed, power and explosiveness to effect the lock. (Anyone who tells you any different is either purposely misleading you or very unknowledgeable with grappling! I know that some may argue this point, but I stand by this point.) Not only do you have an inability to apply leverage from an inferior position, you also do not have control of your opponent’s body! So now do you see why escapes are so important to building a firm foundation in grappling?
When you can easily escape the tightest pin (from just about anyone), you will find yourself on top more often. When you find yourself on top, you have more chances for submission. However, you should not jump right into submission just yet because you have not developed the skill to hold someone down with finesses and ease. I have seen too many blue belts begin their journey into submission too soon and often become frustrated because they just can’t finish their opponent. They get so close, but they often fail at finishing their opponent. This usually leads the blue belt to seeking out more and more submission techniques. He thinks that the “new” and “sneaky” techniques will make him more skilled at submissions. However, what he doesn’t realize is that his inability to finish his opponent is directly related to his inability to positionally dominate him. The blue belt feels good when he has escaped a hold down and has landed on top. However, he also feels like he has ONE SHOT at sinking in the submission. He knows if he fails, he will end up on his back and have to fight for the top position again. So, he usually stalls, waiting for his opponent to make a mistake so he can hopefully capitalize on it.
Once the blue belt has a firm grip on positional escapes, he should then move on to positional dominance: which is “the ability to control an opponent.” When the blue belt can readily escape from most of the bottom positions, he should focus his training on learning how to control his opponent with greater ease and finesse. Although anyone can control their opponent if they can use all of their strength for short periods of time. It will take some time before a person can effortlessly hold down their opponent.
Once the blue belt has a good grip on these two aspects, he should then begin to develop a few good submissions. Still, he should not be consumed with them because there are still a few more areas to train before a lengthy period of time should be spent on submissions. (Yes, yes, yes, I know that submissions are the more enjoyable part of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I am not saying that you should not train them at all. However, all I am saying is this, “Don’t focus on them quite yet. Wait until you are a high purple belt!”)
The blue belt should have a large repertoire of positional and submission techniques. However, his depth of knowledge of these techniques is very limited because of his experience level. And because of his limited experience, he will still require a good amount of speed, power and explosiveness to effect most of his techniques. This is to be expected.
Another interesting thing happens at the blue belt level: the bar of performance raises itself to highly competitive levels. I remember when I was a white belt, it felt OK to tap to everyone because hey, I was a white belt. However, once I was promoted to blue belt, many of the bigger, stronger and more talented white belts began to set their cross-hair on me. What once was a shared journey of joy and frustration suddenly became field of itchy trigger fingered snipers. Many of the white belts who were once fellow sojourners now wanted the privilege of being able to say, “I made a blue belt tap!” It seemed like overnight the game of Jiu Jitsu suddenly became very competitive.