Posts tagged #confidence

Confidence is Key

The following is a post by our longtime friend, Nico Ball. There's a short
bio after the article and you can also keep track of her on her own blog.

For fighters, confidence can mean the difference between an expertly-timed parry or a too-slow slip that leads to a devastatingly landed blow. Feeling confident is often the difference, ultimately, between raising your hand in victory or hanging your head in defeat. As fighters, we all aspire to a heightened state where each movement is infused with the deadly calm that can only come when self-doubt is shed. While you can’t be taught heart, you can most certainly develop confidence.

photo by Dan Behring

photo by Dan Behring

Step 1: Use Positive Affirmation
 Do you realize: your mind does not make distinctions between imagination and reality? Thus, your imagination can be a powerful tool for developing confidence (or breeding self-doubt).

Muhammad Ali came to be known for his swaggering presence and his self-proclaimed greatness. While some people may think that he came off as highly conceited, it’s important to consider that the psychological aspects of training and fighting are just as important as the physical. This is why your trainer gives you an aggressive pep talk before you step to ring center. Positive affirmation is a powerful way to build confidence and allay doubt.

Fighters should always approach training and competing with a positive attitude and a strong mental state. Failing to do this, will set the fighter at a disadvantage before even entering the ring. A strong deep-seated conviction about the outcome of any action will inevitably impact the results of said action. That’s why sports psychologists advocate for the use of positive self-affirmations and visualization techniques to help athletes bolster their mental swagger. 

So the next time you find yourself facing a difficult endeavor, like a big fight, use your mind to practice what you need to do to succeed. By putting your mind to work in this way you’re taking a big first step towards fighting confidently.

Step 2: Practice Repetition, Practice Repetition
Confidence leaves room for the audacity of original thought. Therefore, a fighter should train until confidence in the face of adversity becomes reflexive. The act of repetitively drilling a single movement or technique until it becomes embedded into your very being frees your mind to focus on the more dynamic, technical aspects of fighting and makes it easier for you to feel confident.

Various acts, like punching, blocking, and parrying, should become as natural as breathing to a fighter. The basic mechanics of fighting should not be bogging down a fighter’s mental process. Through repetitive drills the fighter will eventually become more at ease. Controlled movements, relaxed posture, and calm in the thick of battle are all elements of a confident fighter that can make an enormous difference in the judging of a bout.

Repetition in training does not mean just going through the motions in a rote mechanical fashion. Being mentally present during training and pushing one’s self to the limits day in and day out is essential to improvement. If you never push your threshold and rarely perform outside of your comfort zone, then you will always be fighting reactively and limiting your ability to grow confident. 

It is important to set goals, mark progress, and ultimately, test yourself. It is the process more than any outcome that will shape the athlete and grow confidence. 

Step 3: Confidence in Competition
Okay, so not every athlete who puts on a pair of boxing gloves does so with the expectation of entering the ring, but whether it’s sparring or an actual contest, competition not only allows athletes to check progress and modify training routines in order to maximize gains, it tells them a lot about who they are as people. By testing one’s self outside of the usual comfort zones, a fighter is able to shed false pretenses while simultaneously gaining self-knowledge and a better understanding of her true abilities.

An athlete must be able to overcome a fear of failing, whether that means stepping into the ring or just stepping onto a scale. It is only by confronting this fear time and again that one can develop the habit of facing challenges and the fear of failure with a sense of confidence. 

Competition should not be confused with comparison. It’s not about comparing progress with others; the idea is to confront individual fears and limitations. By constantly confronting and testing limitations in competition both inside and outside of the ring, athletes are able to embrace new challenges with confidence whether the result is satisfactory or devastatingly contrary to the desired outcome. 

In the end, confidence boils down to a fighter’s faith in her ability. Not just to win, but to learn and evolve as an athlete. A fighter’s willingness to work continuously, not just in order to achieve the desired results, but also to learn from the process itself, is essential in building confidence. 


Dan Behring

Dan Behring

Nico Ball recently left her life as a teacher to train mixed martial arts full-time in Brazil. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended George Mason University in Virginia and received her Masters degree studying the impact of martial arts-based social projects. She’s now living the fighter’s life and pursuing her dream to become a pro mixed martial artist.

Additionally, Nico has found a way to continue her interest in creating social change by helping organize The Tererê Kids Project, a nonprofit for the children living in poverty in the favela of Morro do Contagalo. You can keep up with Nico through her blog as she trains and competes in MMA, Muay Thai, and Boxing alongside one of the world's fastest growing female fight teams, Parana Vale Tudo (PRVT).

Posted on August 13, 2015 .

Battle Psyche

For a sport that has been often maligned as being for meatheads with extra thick skullbones, boxing, along with her sister disciplines, can actually be quite challenging, mentally. Oh sure, some fighting is pure animal brutality, but in a good match there is subtle strategy, a need for mental toughness, and a good bit of psychology. It’s chess with punches instead of pawns.

Fighting hand to hand is timeless. It began, presumably, when primitive primates developed fists to fight and feelings to hurt. And when two individuals face off in battle, whether in spirited competition or bitter dispute, every sense gets heightened and the peripheral world starts to fade back. Your mind will sharpen its focus so you’ll have the clarity needed to perform optimally. But beware, you can easily lose this focus, like if you’re suddenly thinking about the pain from a punch, feeling frustration from a knockdown, or being utterly annoyed at shorts that keep riding up! And once you lose composure you will find it most difficult to regain.

the Phrenology of Fighting

the Phrenology of Fighting

Our friend, Rebecca Hoffman, owner of Western Avenue Gym in Oklahoma relayed a story where she was struggling with sparring early on in her career because she was thinking and worrying too much. Her (edited) story goes “... When I used to spar everything moved so fast, it was as if the world had sped up, I couldn't process everything that was happening and I felt like I was purely trying to survive rather than actually do or achieve anything. The advice I was constantly given was 'relax, just relax.' Well I just kept on getting in there, the world would get faster and I'd just try to survive. One day I got tired of being so fearful and stressing out so much, and, with a shrug of my shoulders and an air of giving up, I said to myself 'fine, I'm just going to relax, I give up.' So I did. I relaxed, and guess what… the whole world slowed down. Right there and then, mid spar. I started to see openings, I could see what was coming at me. I could breathe.”

So good battle psyche begins and ends with feeling comfortable in your situation. To get there you need to be motivated and focused on your task and confident in yourself. It’s not enough to be naturally confident. To fight confident you need to be prepared - physically and mentally. This means many hours of training in the gym and plenty of time spent in the sparring ring. You need to have faced adversity and been given opportunities to make mistakes, suffer setbacks, and ultimately to learn from those experiences. When you’re prepared you know it and you feel it, and this will feed your whole attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way towards feeling comfortable, motivated, focused, and confident in and out of the ring. 

Even for the vastly experienced and talented fighter, it may help to talk yourself into being confident before battle. Self-talk is a powerful way to tap into your subconscious mind to influence your attitude, so be sure to say positive things that reinforce how you want to feel. Self-talk is also a great way to reinforce strategies and techniques you want to use. If your trainer keeps on you in the gym to keep your guard up, use self-talk to build this up as part of your battle psyche. Just make yourself a playground chant to repeat, something like “I got this, strong jab, go to the body, guard up… I got this, strong jab, go to the body, guard up…” 

Your imagination is another great tool for preparing your psyche for battle. When you’re in the thick of action things can happen unexpectedly, after all, this is combat, not choreography. It can be very difficult to know how to handle certain critical situations, especially for rookies. While you await your turn to fight, you can create mental video of scenarios using your imagination to visualize how to respond ahead of time. In the military they call this Emergency Conditioning. It’s becoming familiar with potential trouble by “experiencing it” with your imagination. This way, when trouble arises, your recognition of the moment can automatically trigger the proper response that you’ve already worked out in your mind.

Finally, you never know when you might get clocked and wind up with your behind resting on the canvas. It’s humiliating and frustrating, and that means you better have solid mental fortitude to stay focused or you will find yourself down there again soon enough. In fighting, just as in life, bad things happen to good people. Deal with it, sister! Develop fortitude, but also accept that emotions and anxiety are part of the sport, just don’t let them interfere with your performance or hijack your aspirations. Every loss is a lesson and every setback deserves a comeback. Let this be your mantra if you don’t have a better one already.

Physical strength is not enough when it comes to fighting. You also need to be strong mentally. Like the Henry Ford saying goes, “whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right”. How you think things will be greatly influences how they’ll actually be. Since you can’t fool yourself towards greatness, you’ll just have to put in the time and work towards it. In the meantime keep your chin up… no, wait, keep your chin DOWN… you know what we mean!

Practice the Art of Taking a Punch

Being able to take a punch is not a study in being submissive, nor should it be a practice of absorbing shots with your face or body. It’s about developing defensive skills and physical fortitude to address the inevitability that, if you’re mixing it up with another fighter, you’re going to get hit. A worthy opponent is going to serve you a feast of punches, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat all those punches like you’re a hungry heavy bag.

First, let’s address your attitude in the ring. You must protect yourself always, but, at the same time, you absolutely need to avoid being scared stiff. We recently reposted an article about the need for calmness and the power that comes with being willing to be hit. Through practice, from sparring and competition experience, you will gain an understanding of what to do when a punch comes your way, which will ultimately give you the necessary confidence to be at ease.

Posted on December 2, 2014 .


Confidence - we all possess it, lose it and constantly search for how to keep it.

I would not know my confidence if I didn’t know my lack of it. Sometimes, I learn more about what I am made of and how I can evolve when I experience bouts of no confidence.

I label confidence as a skill. It has to be developed, nurtured and grown over and over again. In some situations I have confidence in myself, no matter the terrain, in other situations my confidence is as fleeting as the sun in the winter in Seattle. I am more confident in the presence of some and less when around others. Confidence is a skill to be refined and experienced in all its forms. It can get stronger like a muscle. It can lack flexibility or it can gain range.

Posted on November 17, 2014 .