Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Can You Get In The Right STATE For Fighting?

This is the third of a series of articles originally published by the now defunct online magazine MMA Unlimited (so don't click on the MMA Unlimited link - it won't work!). Its part of a series of articles, and while my knowledge has now moved on, it hopefully makes interesting reading.

Would you like to be in the optimum physical and mental state for every fight? Do you want to achieve consistency? Fed up with sometimes just ‘not being on form’? Then this article will tell you not just how to have your mind and body in the best state for fighting, but how to achieve it every single time you get up to fight. Just imagine, right now, getting your fight state right every time.

A state can be defined as being made up of your internal representation (your state of mind) and your physiology (your state of body). If you change your internal representation, or your physiology, you will change your overall state. The state we are in determines our external behaviour, and our external behaviour produces the results that we get in life.

The knowledge of states is the key to change work, as with change work it is usually the external behaviour, and therefore the results that the client will achieve. So we work on the mind to change the body and therefore the behaviour, and with this we change the results.

You are in charge of your state of mind. And that’s all of the time. If you are in a bad mood, well, sorry, that’s down to you and no-one else. Only you are responsible for the way that you feel about anything. So lets say it again for clarity – you are in charge of your internal state. Realise this, and realise this now – you are the boss, you are in control, and as such you don’t need to be influenced by internal factors. And now you understand this, you know that there are no reasons why you can’t be in the optimum mental state for fighting.

In this same way you are in charge of your body. Your brain controls every function within you. It is not the fact that you are hot that makes you sweat. The brain receives stimulus from the five senses that you are getting hot, and therefore it makes some adjustments, and you sweat to cool down, amongst many other physiological actions. But the body only reacts because the brain tells it too. If it didn’t, your cooling system wouldn’t kick in. Under hypnosis, where it is often easier to communicate with this part of the brain, it is easy to induce sweating, control blood flow, control heart beat – any psycho-physiological action in the body.

You can experience this psycho-physiological now. Close your eyes and imagine holding a big, juicy lemon. See the colour and feel the texture it in your hands. Hold this lemon to your nose and breathe in. Smell the lemon. Now take a knife and cut the lemon in half. Smell it again, as you lightly squeeze the lemon, and imagine the juiciness inside. Imagine what it would be like to bite into this lemon and the bitter sharp taste in your mouth. Did you smell the lemon? Did you taste the lemon? Did your mouth start to salivate? If you did, congratulations, you’ve just had a positive hallucination in the waking state. And you’ve also realised how easy it is for a hypnotist to help you experience things. Most importantly you’ve just experienced that the mind controls the reactions in the body.

In fact, the control of blood and the health of the body is an area of my field I am studying like mad. And that is made even more poignant with my links to the military. With hypnosis it is possible to take a severe trauma victim and control blood through a wound, control body functions and basically adjust the body’s ‘life support’ system. Imagine how much more effective medics would be with this knowledge?

But let’s get back to our type of fighting. So to recap we are in charge of our state of mind, and in the same way we are in charge of our state of body. So what would be the optimum for each?

For the state of mind I would say that sensory awareness and focus on task would be of optimum importance. The increased sensory awareness will provide the stimulus for your mind, and therefore your body, to react to. You need to be alert in all respects, concentrating only on the opponent and your corner’s instructions, sharp and clear, sticking to the strategy, and yet have flexibility in response. In change work we have a saying that the greatest success comes to those with the greatest flexibility in approach. In fighting we need the ability to adapt to every eventuality during the fight.

The body obviously needs to be warmed, mobilised, and ready for action. At the same time it needs to be relaxed, like a coiled spring, the energy stored, ready to instantly react as required during the fight. It needs to be able to work efficiently, precisely, explosively. This is where you want the effects of the limbic system to come into play, but under your control. The very physiological reactions that nerves and anxiety produce in your body to get it ready for the freeze, flight and fight responses are what we need to induce in order to produce the perfect fighting state for your body.

I call this state in my hypnosis sessions the ‘perfect fighting machine’, because that is what you are aiming to be. Have you noticed that in the two paragraphs above I have only focused on the positives? The mind needs to be efficient, and focus on what to do, and no ‘what not’ to do. For example I said to ‘concentrate on your opponent’ and not ‘be free from distractions’. For you to think about being free from distractions, first you need to think about what the distractions! That’s taking ‘processing power’ away from your mind. So concentrate on what you want – now is not the time to start thinking about what you don’t.

Try this – don’t think of a blue tree. You have to think of a blue tree to not think of a blue tree! Get the point? I’ll leave that one for you, and the discussion as to whether the unconscious part of your awareness hears negatives or not can go on between psychologists who have the time to think of it. I just concentrate on what works.

So, how do we get into the perfect fighting state – every time? The key to achieving this is to set an ‘anchor’. An anchor is a trigger to bring about a specific response, and this anchor can be set in any of the five senses. Ever heard a song, or smelt something and it takes you instantly straight back to a memory that’s so real you are almost there? These are examples of anchors, and our lives are littered with them. In sports have a think about all the little rituals sportspersons have; they are all forms of anchors. One great example that springs to mind is the Johnny Wilkinson spot kick. The whole set up is a series of anchors, all to achieve a set effect. In terms of fighting the most appropriate senses for an anchor to be set would be a touch or a word either said internally through self talk or in a specific way by your corner.

If you want to see anchors within fighting search ‘Youtube’ for my fights against Tank Abbott and Julius Francis. In my fight against Tank I won the hard way! As soon as the referee said “fight” I had this crazy self talk flash through my mind, something like “what’s it like to fight Tank Abbott when he’s fresh?” and I charged straight in and you can see the result! Instead of following the strategy of running around and waiting until he got tired, I had the ‘pleasure’ of seeing what he can do when he is fresh. It still hurts just thinking about it!

Now, I didn’t want this to happen again so before I fought Julius I worked with a hypnotherapist friend of mine, and my coaching team, and we installed a series of anchors to keep me on the strategy that we had decided upon, and to remain in the state of ‘perfect fighting machine’. If you watch that fight I didn’t put a foot wrong. I could have finished the fight much earlier, but we wanted a risk-free win, so I stuck 100% to strategy. As a side note, we set many anchors all for different reactions, and one was that if he had hit me we’d used being hit by him as an anchor, so I would instantly react with the right shot from my experience of techniques, whilst doubling in awareness and strength at the same time. Scan through my Youtube videos and you’ll find an early video of one of my clients sparring for the first time with this post hypnotic anchor installed to great effect.

So how do you set an anchor? Well, the first thing is to get into the state, and there’s two ways of doing this. The best way is to be ‘in the moment’ for the strongest anchors to be set. So when you are sparring, and you are just ‘buzzing’ everything going so well, and your reactions are so fast, and your ability is just incredible – anchor it.

If, and you should have, read my previous articles you know that the mind cannot distinguish between vividly imagined and reality. So, close your eyes, and remember a time that you were fighting at your best. See what you see, hear what you hear and really feel the feelings that you feel in this great fighting state. Notice where the feelings are in your body, and notice the movement. Imagine the movement intensifying, and start to spin the feelings more and more and notice how they intensify. Build it and build it. And as you do so, imagine yourself performing not just to the best that you have performed in reality, but suspend belief a little, and take it even further. Move quicker than your opponent. Move sharper. Have more explosivity and have better techniques. Experience what it is like to be better than you have ever been before. Change your physiology, sit or stand upright, allow your breathing to quicken, feel your pulse race, relax your muscles and let them become relaxed but like coiled springs ready to explode, really allow yourself to feel what it is like to be in the best ever possible perfect fighting machine state. And that’s when you anchor.

I find that hypnosis makes this mental process of setting anchors so much easier. The guided process of hypnosis can really allow you to ‘experience’ the state far better, shortening the process and making it even more effective. I’ll be releasing hypnosis MP3’s and CD’s particularly for fighters later in the year, of which one will be purely for the setting of anchors for ‘the perfect fighting state’. Keep tabs on my website, and of course on for announcements in this respect.

To set an anchor you first need to decide on what would make a good anchor, or trigger, to set that state around. Anchors I have used successfully in the field of fighting are rubbing the glove against the nose, a specific single word from the corner said in a command tone, a squeeze on the shoulder from a corner man, and tapping the gloves together. But find the right one for you. Now, I’m bound by client confidentiality, but maybe you can watch out for a few professional fighters I’ve worked with over the last year, and spot the glove tapping before the fight. See how they build their state as the glove tapping increases, their mind and their physiology reacting to the anchor. The anchor needs to be specific and unique.

So when you get yourself into this state of the perfect fighting machine, just before the peak fire the anchor for a period of 5-15 seconds. Make sure you fire the anchor in exactly the same way, the same pressure, the same direction, the same word, or the same voice tonality. Fire the anchor in the specific and unique way. Make sure you release before the peak of the intensity, you don’t want to anchor a decline!

Once you’ve set an anchor, carry out a ‘break state’. Dance like a chicken or something stupid. OK, you don’t have to do that, but you do need to do something different to change states. I like using humour, because, well, its fun!

Once your state has changed test fire the anchor. If you have the intensity right during the setting of the anchor, and are firing the anchor with exactly the same unique stimulus, the feelings and state will start to come flooding back. It may come back only lightly at first, especially if you are not ‘installing’ using hypnosis, so keep repeating the process of setting the anchor, and it will get stronger and stronger each time. The anchor will eventually be as strong as you need it to be.

One word of caution is that you can ‘wear out’ an anchor. Fire the anchor when you need it or to ‘top up’ the response from the anchor. If you use it too much, at inappropriate times, then you will weaken the anchor and it will fade. The mind learns incredibly quickly, so bear that in mind.

So my suggestion is for every fighter to build the appropriate anchors in, and then fire them just before you fight. You will then enter the ring/cage/mat for competition in the perfect fighting state, having the perfect fighting mindset, the perfect physiology, for the perfect fighting result. And this can be achieved consistently every time.

Now, as you’ve read my first two articles you know that this is a series of articles. As such I’m telling a story, I know where I’m going. We’ve started with the base information, stress and the limbic system. We’ve then applied this base to nerves and pre-fight anxiety, and shown how to bring these under control. And in this article we’ve discovered how to bring the limbic system into play to help us get into the perfect state for fighting. And if you read these articles several times, take note, there’s a lot more information to help you hidden away as well. We’re building towards the fight, and this happens in the next article, where I’ll be showing you how to build the optimum awareness, recognising everything that your opponent is doing. And then in later articles we’ll be using this awareness to apply the principles of the limbic system and start to influence your opponent, know what they are going to do before they do, and manipulate them, all to your great advantage. Because we want to win, don’t we?

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