Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Friday, 11 February 2011

Sparring a Fighter in Hypnosis

As I type this there is a lump growing and reddening on my eye socket. I like to test my work at every stage, and this lump is giving me great satisfaction as to the success of my morning’s work!

As a Sports Performance Expert I work with many athletes. Due to my sporting heritage many are other fighters. I work with them with Personal Training, Mentoring, Coaching, and Hypnotherapy. The elements tend to blend together, yet until this morning I hadn’t combined full hypnosis with sparring at the same time!

One of my good friends and training partners has a kickboxing fight in a couple of week’s time. This morning I had him in my home gym and we had a fantastic experimental session, mixing hypnosis with fighting. And it was a success in every way, from my learning, through to his developmental improvements.

We entered the two hour session fully knowing it was experimental. I wanted to experiment with a fighter in hypnosis during sparring, just to see what I could learn from the process and to see the results that could be achieved. I didn’t even know if we could maintain the focus of hypnosis under the pressure of fighting, let alone how effective my approaches would be.

This blog post is a description of the session, so you can see how I worked, and an idea of the results that were achieved. This blog post will be of interest to other hypnotists, fighters, and just the general person who wonders what fighters and hypnotists get up to when they decide to play!

We started with a coffee and my client telling me which areas of his game he wanted to improve during the session. He told me he wanted to look ‘through’ his opponent’s punches, keep his head moving, and have the defences of Mayweather. He told me he wanted the footwork and the ability to counter-strike that a certain World Champion friend of ours has. “Anything else?” I asked whilst thinking “sh*t”…but hey, when experimenting, a failure’s acceptable if you learn from it!

So we set to work. Knowing my client, I know he can enter hypnosis easily yet has difficulty in producing certain phenomena. Each suggestion given needs to ‘fit’ his model of the world precisely. If it fits, it works spectacularly, if not, the suggestion feels flat. And production of hypnotic phenomena is what is required. (I am constantly amazed by the number of ‘hypnotherapists that just read from a script, not interacting with clients let alone knowing if they are in hypnosis. For me, each stage of the work needs testing, and if you can’t produce phenomena, then you probably aren’t hypnotising!)

Hypnosis is a tool and everyone needs that tool applied differently. So I had given myself a bit of added pressure, as I would have to ramp up the phenomena carefully to get the results I wanted. This is different to the way a stage hypnotist usually works. They can get to choose the best subjects and send the harder subjects back to their seats. I had to get it right first time with the person directly in front of me.

My approach was to ramp up the phenomena, and to get him to enter hypnosis on command. I started with some waking hypnosis, commencing with a card stick (for the hypnotists, an adapted approach to James Tripp’s Hypnosis Without Trance), where he can’t drop a card in his hands through the effect of my suggestions. He struggled, and then dropped it. Some hypnotists would take this as a failure but I’m lucky – I have some good peers who have trained me well, and I know how to handle it when things don’t go to plan. This failure just gave me all the information I needed.

Using this information I stuck his hand to the table just using suggestion, so that no matter how hard he pulled he couldn’t lift his hand. Perfect. Now I knew the approach I needed to get him to produce physical phenomena.

My client loves to test himself, and he really struggles when challenged. So I switched approaches and did a ‘magnetic fingers’ induction (fingers move together outside of conscious control). He struggled with this before the fingers eventually came together, really testing himself and I knew then I had a little adjustment to make. I got him to open his eyes, and did a ‘magnetic hands’ induction (arms straight and hands come together outside of conscious control). Perfect.

A quick instant induction and I quickly worked to stabilise the state. I continued the hypnotic phenomena and got his unconscious mind to lift his arm slowly upwards to his forehead with the suggestion that he would find it funnier and funnier the higher it got until it stuck on his forehead where he would find it the funniest thing ever. (Thanks Anthony Jacquin!) He achieved this nicely, and I had transitioned nicely from physical phenomena through to emotional.

I anchored entering hypnosis to the command ‘sleep!’, and did around 4 or 5 different instant inductions taking him up and down each time, so that I was sure that I could just command sleep and he would drop. I wanted to make sure he had the skills to enter the same state each time at my command.

From this state I moved to produce more ‘mental’ phenomena and gave him name amnesia and he quite nicely forgot his name. Now he was in the realms of creating the phenomena I wanted him to do. During the amnesia ‘skit’ I thought I noted an element that my client needed to be able to achieve these phenomena. To test, I left this element out as I moved for number amnesia. The number amnesia nearly worked and then failed. Perfect, a failure yet it was the feedback I needed. Now I knew exactly what I needed to do.

We gloved up for sparring, and I dropped him with the ‘sleep!’ command. I was looking for my client to carry out ‘deep trance identification’, where he actually would ‘become’ another person. Think of a stage show, where a hypnotists gets someone to be Elvis or similar. I know how procedural and episodic memories (movements like riding a bike, and memories of events) are laid down in the neurology and how ‘habits’ are formed. I know how they can be used to form habits in sport. By getting my client to act like another fighter the skills should be transferable, applying my determinist knowledge to a stage hypnosis procedure.

I had my client visualise Mayweather fighting perfectly with all the head moving, looking through the punches, and all the defences that Mayweather uses. Once I was happy my client was experiencing this to the best of his ability I took him inside Mayweather, so he actually was this representation of Mayweather. I got him to ‘spark’ his muscles to fire the neurology exactly in accordance with what he was experiencing. Watching his muscles move and twitch I knew I was witnessing a completely different performance to that which my client would usually give. He was actually firing and moving as Mayweather. It was now time for a test.

With my client still as Mayweather in hypnosis we gloved up and started to spar. Straight away I was fighting a different client to usual. He was moving and ducking and evading and hitting on the move – just like Mayweather! It was a completely different fight style for my client and a completely different skillset. Every time I went for an entry to hit him I was hit myself and had to move clear – it was impossible to gain entry without being hit! So I used my fight experience and skills to test him, broke his pattern, and whilst I still didn’t hit him it appeared the ‘spell’ was starting to unravel. I called time in order to get the feedback.

My client was buzzing, knowing he was moving more, countering, and just reacting unconsciously rather than his usual self. He said he ‘just was’. However, when pressured, he said he felt himself slipping from that state. So, a promising start, but more work was needed. We needed the hypnosis and the state to be maintained under pressure – we needed it to stick.

I dropped him into hypnosis again and carried out the same process of deep trance identification, only this time with Mayweather responding under pressure and other minor changes. I then used a couple of techniques to then make this state stick as permanently as I would want. (For the hypnotists, one adapted from one of Anthony Jacquin’s teachings, the other adapted from an approach from Jeffery Stephens combined with my studies of symbology and metaphor.)

I got him to open his eyes still in hypnosis again, and off we went sparring. And I wish we hadn’t! Every time I moved into range, strikes were flying towards me. Fed up of staying on the end of these punches I absorbed a couple and moved in. I threw a couple of combinations of around 8 or 9 varied punches and I only probably hit him with 1 or 2. He was ducking and moving and instantly countering and it was all I could do in order to keep from being struck. Then it happened. I saw the movement and the punch coming. I went to evade, I moved off, my guard too far away to respond in time, nothing I could do, and the sharpest sweetest right cross sending me nearly off my feet – an achievement for someone 20kg lighter than me and against my experience too! I called time, satisfied that the approach was working.

I brought my client out of his state and looked for feedback. I must have been beaming a smile all over my face as I looked at an ecstatic client over-whelmed with his new ability, summarising with “no-one gets hit by me like that!”

I repeated the same process, this time with our World Champion friend’s slick footwork and ability to counter. I drew in the ability from Mayweather and stabilised the state as before, and we sparred again. The state stuck. I was fighting a 100% improved client.

Sitting my client down I then worked with him in hypnosis to amalgamate the learnings and ability once more, to integrate it all with his own natural ability, let it become ‘one’ with him in a way that was right for him. I wanted these skills to be a natural part of his ability. I wanted to really embed these new skills. There was lots of mental rehearsal, lots of direct suggestion, and a few extra direct suggestions as well.

At the end of the session my client summarised with a very congruent statement. “I feel like a different fighter.”

That’s right mate. That’s because you are. You now know you have that ability. And I’m proud of you.

As I’m typing away and musing over my morning’s experience and findings, I now have a new avenue to help my sports clients improve. I know I can induce hypnosis with what some hypnotists would say is a testing subject, produce what is perceived as a deep trance phenomenon (worth noting I don’t believe in the hypnotic concept of depth), and stabilise it so that it can withstand the ultimate testing – the pressures of fighting. My mind is buzzing from where this can take me now. And the results I can get with my clients.

Actually, as I’m finishing writing this I’m now starting to feel my cheekbone from one of my client’s punches too, adding to my eye socket. And what a satisfying feeling this is too!


  1. WOW! Thats intriguing mate.

    First question has to be, did you hit him while he was in trance?

    Second question is....who's the 'world champion footwork' your client was wanting to emulate? :)

    As a fighter, hypnotherapist and coach, I know what you mean about the unconscious thought process while fighting, and how fighters can respond without listening :)
    My thoughts are that one of the difficult things will be that the inherent 'fight or flight' response is a well-and-truely anchored state, so I find this fascinating.

    When I first started thaiboxing, I tried to model 'Ivan Hippolyte' as I found his composure, technique and clarity amazing :)

  2. Gary!
    Firstly, congratulations on this breakthough!

    Naturally I'm EXTREMELY excited to hear more about (lol ok LEARN) the working protocol!

    I've used New Behaviour Generators and Deep Trance Identification with reasonable success, and have actually recently been going the *other* way, that is, doing effectively DTI but in a merely Eyes Closed state. I've had noticeable results from this, noticeable, but not anything as good as you've acheived here!
    I was talking, ok ranting, only today to a bunch of hypnotherapists how we need to challenge not only new research and findings but extremely established and 'taken for granted' 'everyone knows that' type facts or models.

    Let's not forget that Mesmer also believed that Magnetic fluid poured from the Mesmerist to the patient, and that Pierre Janet thought that the act of disassociation was the sympton of a weak mind! And here we are using the bery same to help people with PTSD.

    So in short, So So happy for you buddy, you're going to take this to the tops, an it could totally change the way we work with athletes!
    Now give me that protocol dammit! ;-)

    P.S. Talk to you on the phone this week I hope.


  3. Great account! I can imagine how exciting it was for you to see your client manifest such results. I'd be interested in hearing how the affects lasted overall.