The Mental Predator
Over the last number of years, my training has focused on a number of different areas. As I continue to grow as a trainer, the art form of the training that I deliver evolves.
In the beginning, I was solely concerned with the strength and speed of my MMA athletes. When my athletes reached the upper boundaries of these areas, I began to attack nutrition. After the fighters had their nutrition cleaned up, I started to explore the area of strategy development. Once all of my fighters were prepared in strategic analysis, I was led to mental training.
When I talk about the mental aspect of training, I am not talking about intelligence, but a combination of drive, desire, confidence, toughness, will power, focus and fear. What I am talking about is what I sum up as being a Mental Predator both in training and in the ring. At first, I thought that being a mental predator was just the will to win or the ability to endure more pain than another athlete.
Now, after years of studying my athletes of all ages, I know see how sophomoric those original definitions were. Each year I gain more clarity when training my athletes. I am beginning to hone in on who will make it and who will not at an early stage in all of my athletes training. Yes, there are physical characteristics that help me to predict an athlete’s level of success, but I consider the mental toughness of the athlete far more important.
A mental predator has the ability to control himself under any situation. Without the knowledge that you as an athlete control all of your emotions, or the ability to exert that control, you will be limited in higher levels of performance. I believe that mental predators are both nature and nurture. What I mean by this is that an athlete may have better gifts of self control in extreme situations, but all athletes have the ability to improve this area to increase performance.
I feel that MMA requires an incredible amount of mental predation at the higher levels of the sport. As I have walked out with my fighters at Pride in
Both the shark and the lion are famed predators. When they attack, motivation in instinct, not something that they are forced to create. The desire to finish their opponent is pure, and there is no emotion or remorse. There is no anxiety or stress leading up to the event for the shark and the lion, it is simply part of their daily routine.
There is, of course, risk of injury, but they do not allow fear to interfere. Their lack of abstract thought and the ability to question themselves is an advantage. With questioning comes indecision, with indecision comes anxiety, with anxiety comes mistakes, and with mistakes comes defeat.
The shark and the lion have practiced and mastered many of their methods of attack. There is no fear that they are underprepared. There is no concern for what could have been done or what might be missing. This unconscious confidence is a huge edge, and predicts that the way things have been practiced are the way things are going to be performed. The shark and the lion are master predators.
That is what they do for a living. Don’t get me wrong, they are not wild beasts with absolutely no plan. There are distinct strategies that they are using, so thinking does occur. This thinking is solely directed toward execution, not indecision. This proves, that with great predators, thinking does not hold them back.
I have interestingly found with many of my athletes that this predatory zone is sometimes inversely related to actual experience and knowledge of the sport. Sometimes when there is less knowledge or skill present, and athlete will actually enter a battle with more confidence and abandon of a predator than a seasoned athlete that now questions himself.
Many athletes go into such detail that their thinking becomes paralysis by analysis. The mental predator must remember to keep things simple and in perspective. No attack by the shark or the lion is ever bigger in their mind than any other. We as athletes often make the mistake that an event is too important. This self increased pressure on an event again adds to indecision, stress and opens the door for an opportunity for defeat.
The shark and the lion’s motive for victory is a simple one: survival. The knowledge of the true meaning behind what you do is critical to not only high level performance, but also fulfillment. As an mental predator, it is essential that you know exactly why you are competing. There is no reason that is any more important than any other, you just need to know it. It is the core of who you are and what you do in sport. Without this knowledge, preparation will surely suffer, and eventually the quest will be all too easy to give up when the road suddenly gets rough.
I have heard other athletes call what I am talking about here as “being in the zone”. This predatory zone can be seen as letting the subconscious take over and lead you to supernatural performance. This zone is for real, and the ability to get there can be learned. The first step on the trip to the zone is the removal of doubts and fears while letting performance happen.
The shark and the lion are both going to age. As this occurs with the mental predator, he must be ready to adapt and overcome. With age, certain physical attributes are going to disappear. Great predators will figure out a way to maximize their current gifts and continue to be successful.
There are many top MMA athletes out there today that are what I would consider pure predators. Somewhere deep in their minds they know that victory is critical to the survival as who they are. Their confidence has allowed them to remove fear. In this state, they are relaxed and prepared to dominate their prey. Beware of this athlete as an opponent. Unless you are equally relaxed and prepared to engage in a war, he may be currently at a different mental level.
Here is my quick list of 10 ways to increase your chances of becoming a mental predator:
1. Monitor your daily self talk. Make sure that your comments to yourself are keep positive and supportive.
2. Surround yourself only with positive people that believe in you.
3. Develop defined goals and the reasons that you want to achieve them.
4. Develop the precise strategy for attaining your goals and follow it precisely.
5. Do not overemphasize the importance of any single event.
6. Stay busy. Do not linger over upcoming events.
7. Do not forget that nothing replaces practice and hard work.
8. Monitor your breathing. Make sure that you slow and control your breathing under times of stress.
9. Visualize success. Use mental imagery as a tool. Picture yourself at the event and everything that is going to happen. Be positive.
10. Research everything about your opponent and train under the exact conditions you expect for the fight.