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April 15, 2024

Mental Prep + Fortitude: How To Win Mentally At Your Next Competition

Marika Dasbach

Mental Prep + Fortitude: How To Win Mentally At Your Next Competition

Martial arts competitions aren’t just physical battles; they’re also mental challenges. In order to win, you need to be mentally prepared, focused, and resilient.

Here are some tips to help you get into the right mindset for your next martial arts competition!

Visualize Success

Spend time visualizing yourself performing well in the competition. Imagine executing your techniques with precision, reacting quickly to your opponent’s moves and ultimately emerging victorious.

Think about it before you go to bed at night, when you’re driving to work and walking the dog. This mental rehearsal, putting yourself in a timeline in which you’ve already won, can help build confidence and reduce anxiety.

Easton Open Spring 2024. Image: Matthew Barton

Set Clear Goals

Set specific, achievable goals for the competition. Is there a transition or submission you’ve been working on in class and want to test in battle? Do you want to win five matches this season?

Whether it’s executing a key technique flawlessly or winning a certain number of matches, having clear goals gives you something to strive for and helps keep you focused during the competition. Pick something and stick with it until you achieve it!

Develop a Pre-Competition Routine

Establishing a pre-competition routine can help you tune in and get into the right mindset. This routine might include things like listening to music, doing a light warm-up, or practicing mindfulness or meditation to calm your nerves and focus your mind.

Create a playlist that helps you visualize a win and listen to it on repeat before your matches. Noise canceling headphones are a great way to really hone your focus and tune the rest of the world out, allowing you to stay fully present in your moments.

Control Your Breathing

Deep, controlled breathing can help calm your nerves and increase your focus. Other types of breathing, like box breathing, belly breathing and nasal breathing all have their own unique benefits.  Practice breathing exercises before and during the competition to help you stay relaxed and centered. 

Stay Positive 

Maintain a positive attitude leading up to and during the competition. Focus on your strengths and past successes rather than dwelling on any fears or doubts you may have. Positive self-talk can play a huge factor in helping boost your confidence and mental resilience.

Easton Open Spring 2024. Image: Matthew Barton.

Stay Present

During the competition, try to stay present and focused on the task at hand.  Avoid getting caught up in thoughts about past mistakes or future outcomes. Stay in the moment, and trust in your training and preparation. If you have trouble keeping your mind steady and staying present, try some breathwork!

[The Competition Ambition]

Manage Your Emotion

It’s natural to feel nervous or anxious before a competition, but it’s important to manage these emotions effectively. Acknowledge your feelings, but then refocus your attention on the task at hand. Techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, where you tense and release certain muscle groups in a systematic manner, or mindfulness can help calm your nerves.

Easton Open Spring 2024. Image: Matthew Barton.

Learn from Every Experience

Regardless of the outcome, view every competition as a learning opportunity. Reflect on what went well and what you can improve upon for next time. This mindset will help you grow and improve as a martial artist without self-imposed limitations.

The mental component and preparation are just as important as physical training when it comes competing. By drawing on visualization techniques, goal setting, post-competition reflection and breathing techniques, you can enhance your mental toughness to help you be more successful on the competition floor!

Advice for Your First Competition


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