Overcoming the Fear of Fighting

Aug 12, 2023MMA

Overcoming The Fear Of Fighting

The fear of fighting is incredibly common, even among trained fighters and martial artists. This innate fear serves an essential evolutionary purpose – to protect us from harm. However, it can also hold us back from taking the necessary risks to grow and test ourselves.

The root of anxiety and fear of fighting often lies in low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence stemming from childhood. Not receiving enough reassurance and encouragement from parents early on can ingrain self-doubt, insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. This makes complex tasks, challenges and barriers seem impossible to overcome.

Fearing embarrassment, rejection and disapproval from others also fuels anxiety around fighting and confrontation. We want validation from others, so failure and humiliation in front of people seem completely unbearable. Successful fighters and achievers in many fields are able to stay focused in the present moment. They take action and keep progressing despite potential failure or setbacks ahead, because they understand that real rewards and excitement in life require taking risks.

Accepting the Normal Physical Reactions

When faced with an intense confrontation or fight situation, your instinctual “fight or flight” response will kick in. Symptoms like tunnel vision, weak knees, nausea and dizziness are completely normal physical reactions wired into our brains. Recognizing these reactions as normal is key to staying calm and mentally focused.

Tell yourself internally, “I’m noticing tunnel vision and feeling weak and shaky, but this is a normal reaction, and everything is going to plan.” Having this rational thought process instead of panicking about the physical symptoms you feel prevents you from spiralling into fear.

With repeated practice and experience facing stressful confrontations, your mind and body get used to these fight-or-flight symptoms. The shock reaction reduces, allowing you to think clearly despite the rush of adrenaline. Exposing yourself progressively to similar pressure situations is key.

Staying Relaxed and Ready

When facing a heated confrontation or fight, flex your elbows and raise open palms in front of you in a non-threatening stance. This shows your aggressor you don’t want trouble but also prepares you to defend yourself if needed.

Take slow deep breaths through your stomach and consciously relax your facial muscles, especially around the eyes and jaw. If it helps, smile very slightly – this releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that aid calmness. But avoid smiling mockingly.

Closely monitor the aggressor’s hands and torso at all times. They’re likely in striking range if their chest or shoulders touch your outstretched palm. Be ready to take appropriate action first if you sense they are about to attack. Remaining mentally alert and physically prepared is vital for quick reaction.

Accessing the Right Aggressive State

Though necessary in confrontation, excessive anger can be counterproductive in fights. The optimal state is “cold aggression” – calm, calculated and fully under control.

Breathe deeply and say internally, “relax and stay cold”. Aggression isn’t about shouting or intimidating. It’s the ability to assert and defend yourself unflinchingly. Channel any anger into focus, not outward rage.

Tune out provocation. Insecure people want to pull you down to their level. Stay centred and avoid reckless reactions at any cost. You control whether their words affect you.

Curbing Ego and Anxiety

A big ego can severely hamper performance and learning. Focus on self-improvement rather than comparing yourself to others. Ego blocks listening, so you can’t benefit from coaching.

Similarly, anxiety distracts you from process goals. Remember, you are enough as you are. Dropping ego and anxiety liberates you to perform at your best.

Gaining True Confidence

True confidence comes from competence and skill earned through consistent training and experience. Past performances, efforts and how you handled challenges shape belief in your abilities far more than outward results and wins alone.

Focus on progressively improving through failures and losses rather than dwelling on them. Analyze rationally, learn lessons, develop your weaknesses and avoid repeating mistakes. This mastery mindset builds genuine confidence through time.

Seeing and hearing of other “ordinary” people very similar to yourself succeeding and achieving great things can also boost confidence. If someone like you can do it in many ways, you instinctively believe you can too. But beware of false confidence and ego inflation from blind or superficial comparison without deeper analysis.

Trusted mentors and coaches with great expertise can help build confidence in your abilities through targeted persuasion and encouragement. Respect their experience and deeply consider their belief in your potential. But eliminate blind loyalists and yes-men who tell you what you want to hear. You need objective guidance, not false hype.

Your energy levels, diet, sleep, stress management and actual enjoyment of training all significantly impact your confidence levels. Know your own mind and body’s needs and limitations intimately through consistent self-study. Meet these needs, train smartly within your limits, and confidence will flourish.

Confidence in Competition

On competition day, focus solely on executing your preparation and game plan. You’ve already put in the hard work – now it’s time to perform.

Block out comparisons with opponents and judgements of your performance. Stay fully present and focused on the actions, not the outcomes. You can’t control scores – only your efforts.

Between rounds/matches, avoid analyzing mistakes or worrying about losing. Refocus immediately on your coach’s tactical advice and your next job. Stay calm and take it moment by moment.

Winning depends on showcasing your skills, not proving your worth. Focus on your preparation and game plan. Let perfect technique and execution take care of results.

Handling Setbacks

Setbacks test resilience and character. Let the emotions flow, then refocus on the process. Dwelling on failure breeds more failure.

Win or lose, remember your value is unchanged. Meditate on what you can control – your effort, attitude and learning. Outcomes are secondary.

Each experience makes you wiser. Failure provides incredible growth opportunities if embraced correctly. Focus on self-improvement, not results.

Why Some Fighters Cheat

Studies show that the use of performance-enhancing drugs like steroids leads to marked increases in confidence, aggression, recovery rate, strength and endurance. But each person responds very differently to various drugs, doses and cycles, so their exact impacts are extremely hard to predict.

The most apparent benefit to fighters is feeling physically superior and almost “superhuman”. This chemical high provides a level of confidence and mental edge seemingly unattainable through natural training alone. As winners get used to this artificial confidence boost, dependency and addiction often follow.

Some fighters justify cheating and doping because they believe “everyone else is doing it too”. Their inner circle and coaches convince them that taking drugs is essential to winning at the top level. A warped “win at all costs” mindset instilled from childhood also promotes a willingness to use performance enhancers.

However, quitting steroids and cycling off drugs reverses these performance benefits quickly. Low natural testosterone after a drugs cycle tanks confidence. Performance crashes below pre-drug levels. The higher the artificial confidence peak, the harder and more desperate the ensuing valley. Depression, anxiety and desperation commonly follow this performance cliff edge.

Pressure to Conform

Beware of pressure from teammates to conform by doping. Speak out and remove yourself from toxic environments. Your health and values matter most.

Instead, find ethical role models who encourage winning the right way through pure graft. Shut out any external pressure and stay true to your principles.

Enjoy the process of clean training. Appreciate small wins in the gym, not just big-stage results. Fulfilment comes from within, not external glory.

Physical and Mental Preparation

Thoroughly visualizing future success embeds the belief that you can and should win your next fight. Vividly picture yourself crossing the finish line first or having your hand raised. Break the big goal down into small, manageable performance goals and visualize achieving each one successfully. This builds your confidence and momentum over time.

If unable to train hands-on for reality-based fighting, diligently study fighting techniques and strategies online through instructional videos, books and courses. Learn optimal strike points, effective defense combinations and reliable takedowns. Mentally rehearse executing these moves smoothly, quickly and effectively in response to different fight scenarios.

Controlled, thoughtful sparring sessions with experienced training partners develop your reflexes, distancing, timing and overall fighting feel. The relatively safe practice prepares you for real fight confrontations and dramatically reduces fear and uncertainty. But avoid ego-driven macho sparring at all costs.

A smart, well-rounded physical conditioning program focused on strength, power, speed, endurance and mobility greatly boosts your confidence in your abilities as well as actual competence. Combine heavy strength training, explosive cardio sessions like sprints, metabolic circuits and lengthy fight-specific drills like hitting pads, bags and shadow boxing. This builds the fitness required to maintain technique and effectiveness throughout pro longed fights.

Drilling reflex and hand-eye coordination improve your ability to block effectively, parry and counter strikes in competition. Do regular reaction exercises like speedball drills, slip rope and tennis ball catching. Physical excellence paired with mental preparation is the formula to erase self-doubt and build bulletproof confidence.

Optimizing Recovery

Full recovery between sessions maximizes gains. Prioritize sleep quality and sufficient calories. Also use SMR, massage, active rest and mental relaxation.

Listen to your body. Adjust training intensity and volume based on energy and niggle levels. Prehab helps prevent overtraining injuries.

Recovery allows techniques to embed in neuromuscular pathways. Don’t default to non-stop grinding. Embrace rest to consolidate gains fully.

Mastering the Psychology of Fighting

Mastering fighting psychology requires conquering fear, building legitimate confidence and sculpting an optimal mindset through visualization, self-talk and effective goal setting. Integrate this mental training with intelligent physical preparation to step into the ring or cage with absolute self-belief.

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Team Apex MMA Martial Arts Coach
Apex MMA is a specialist mixed martial arts gym focusing on Muay Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Led by an experienced team of instructors, Apex MMA offers comprehensive training programs for students of all ages and skill levels. With Apex MMA's systematic teaching methods, passion for martial arts, and strong community relationships, you will gain the tools to succeed in the gym and beyond.
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