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Fight nerves

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Hello everyone,

I'm wondering if anyone here has experience dealing with pre-fight anxiety and what strategies you use to keep the nerves under control. I just had my 6th fight a week ago, it was a pretty important fight for me, I trained for it since the middle of August so a lot of work went into the preparation, I felt strong and even my coach told me that he is not worried about me and expects me to do well, I was not nervous at all even the week before the fight. Then, when I got to the venue and watched other fighters getting ready I just suddenly had this overwhelming feeling of anxiety and almost felt like crying from the stress of waiting around for my fight...I couldn't really pinpoint anything specific that I was afraid of, oddly enough I don't have a fear of getting hurt, probably because I already had so many bad injuries, so it wasn't that; it also wasn't the feeling that I wished I could have had more time to train because I already spent a lot of time preparing and felt good about the work I put in...I kept trying to convince myself that it's just a hard sparring session and that seemed to work to some extent as I felt better when I was getting into the ring and while sealing the ring, but as soon as the fight started, my opponent just charged at me with flury of attacks and my mind just went blank, I couldn't think straight at all...I lost the 1st round but started to come to my senses in the 2nd round but the fight was stopped by the referee because he thought that I was hurt which was a wrong call even in my coaches' opinion, but the point is that I lost that 1st round when I shouldn't have and I previously had similar issues in my previous fights....it is extremely frustrating to have to be dealing with this issue especially when I can't even understand what exactly sets off this nervous reaction and how to deal with it and why others seem to have no problem with that...I am thinking of reaching out to a sports psychologist but in the mean time I am curious to hear about any similar experience that you might have had and how you are dealing with this issue.

Thank you

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I think it's a clever plan to think of fights as the same as sparring, but you can't decide that when you're already at the venue getting ready to fight. You have to make that decision in training, when you're sparring you have to think of it as the same as a fight so that it's the same thought when you think "it's the same as sparring." You have to practice being comfortable with the "no pressure" approach to the fight, it's not a plan you decide on when you're already in an unfamiliar setting. You train it when it's familiar, you MAKE IT familiar by keeping it in mind often, when you're training and when you're just thinking about the fight at home.

You can also reverse the thought and think that training is like a fight, so you have to picture fight scenarios at all of your training sessions. Picture the unfamiliar venue when you're changing into your shorts. Picture your coach wrapping your hands when you're wrapping your own hands; ask someone else to put your gloves on for you just to practice. During sparring, ask your coach to give you a few points between rounds, or get a teammate to do it. Anything, all these small things that you don't normally do in training but are so much a part of fights, bring them to your training to make it more similar. You'd be astounded what a tiny thing that seems insignificant can do to your comfort. I hate being looked at, so I had to start mentally practicing being stared at before a fight to get myself less shaken up about it.

It really sucks to get a bad stoppage call from a referee. The fact is they don't know you and so they make calls based on whatever they think they're looking at. It just feels really shitty and I'm sorry you experienced it. I've been stopped for cuts that weren't a problem, but I never wanted it to happen again so I started training how to look like I wanted to keep fighting. The doctor's call is out of my control, but how well I can try to convince him is in my control, so I work on the part I can have control of. You can't change the referee's call, so if you want to focus on something work with your coach on how to look like you're gonna bust out of a flurry at any second. It's especially hard for us smaller fighters. Referees get really protective of small bodied women.

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Thanks Sylvie for the suggestion to start thinking of a training session as a fight, I haven't thought of trying that before but I think it will help. Trying to deal with this issue has certainly been an interesting process since I spent so much time working on the physical aspect of training and preparing for a fight thinking that this is where my weakness was, but I seemed to have completely overlooked the mental component of preparing for a fight, it certainly has proven to be the biggest challenge yet. I also just today came across an audio book called "Mental combat" by Phil Pierce, he has martial arts background himself so a lot of what he is talking about is geared towards martial artists and competition; I listened to it once already but will be going over it again, there are some good and fairly simple tips there so it will be interesting to try implementing those as well. I was planning on fighting in Thailand again in December and I really don't want this "falling apart under pressure" issue to become a consistent theme, so hopefully I can put those techniques to practice soon. One thing I realize now is that perhaps some of my issues might also be due to not getting enough rest; when I fought in Thailand in May I manged to win the fight and didn't have so much anxiety even though it was my first fight in Thailand and I originally attributed that to the fact that I was not watching the other fights before mine so I couldn't start over thinking my own performance, but for this last fight I also tried avoiding watching other fights and yet my anxiety was the worst it has ever been so thinking back about what the difference might be i wonder if the the amount of rest I got before my Thailand fight might have been the deciding factor as I've been training for almost 3 months for this last fight while working and dealing with other responsibilities so there were more than a few days when sleep was sacrificed for being able to take care of all the responsibilities... this last fight is certainly forcing me to rethink my fight prep in a different way so I guess ultimately it's a good thing even if this realization came as a result of a rather disappointing experience.

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I keep coming across this brilliant reminder that confidence isn't a feeling, it's an action. Just now I found this video and I think it's great, I'll be trying it out in the next days (and longer if I like it). I like to imitate my favorite fighter's swagger, so I'm kind of already doing this, but doing it mindfully is even better.

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