After months of taking kickboxing classes and with the highly anticipated UFC 196 fight this evening, I’ve found myself reflecting on what it means to be a fighter. I’ve realized it’s not simply taping up your hands and beginning to look for any opponent. There is some internal metamorphosis that occurs. The heart of a fighter is able to overcome not only the physical battle but also the battle of the unseen.
A fighter’s ultimate enemy is not their opponent’s stature. It’s not the reach disadvantage. It’s not the fight rankings. Instead, the fighter’s enemy is their own mind.
A loss occurs when self doubt and fear creep into one’s mind. When allowed to linger, negative thoughts break down otherwise strong fighters. “I can’t do this,” the mind will say. Sometimes it gets summed up into one word – “can’t.”
It doesn’t only occur when your profession becomes a fighter. It carries over into everyday life. There are times in my kickboxing routine where hearing “twenty more seconds,” sounds like, “twenty more minutes.” “I can’t,” my mind tells me. “Yes you can,” my heart corrects.
The heart of a fighter is able to overcome the negative thoughts. By replacing negativity with encouragement, a fighter’s heart provides hope and the will to continue. It is the foundation of the underdog story. It is how a little boy is able to slay a giant. You can continue to fight if you believe you can, and developing this kind of heart takes persistent practice.
Just like a muscle, developing the heart of a fighter requires two things: training and good nutrition. You have to train yourself to replace “I can’t” with “I can.” Mistakes and errors are inevitable, but you can take those opportunities to train how you will respond.
The health of what you give your mind is equally important. Like the food we consume, our thoughts and feelings impact our actions. And take caution because thoughts are fleeting and often speak lies. Examine your thoughts – are they encouraging or toxic?
During a boxing session, I begin energetically. “I got this,” I tell myself through sets of burpees. “Already halfway done with bag work? Fantastic!” One more set of drills and fatigue begins to overwhelm me. “Maybe I don’t got this…” My kicks are beginning to lower. My punches have evolved into flailing wet noodles. In these times, I hear the instructor say, “Remember why you’re here! Give it your all!” My heart echoes with the words, “Just keep moving.”
It is when the heart and mind connect that a fighter can continue on. But what if I can’t go on? This is when you take the time to regroup, refocus, and recharge. That’s the reason there are rounds in a fight.
When a fighter loses, it is a humbling experience. Sometimes you can do everything right and it can still end in a loss, as is often true in split-decision matches. It is in this moment where you can do one of two things: dwell on the past or embrace the future. Though current circumstances dictate defeat, the heart of a fighter chooses to persevere.
We are all fighting our own battles, yet our mind is our true opponent. But when we lose a match, it is the time to regroup, refocus, and recharge. With the practice of training our minds and nourishing ourselves with encouragement, we enable ourselves to overcome these obstacles. It relies on your heart’s decision to choose to fight. So do you have the heart of a fighter?
Till next post,