I’ve been around the Scottish kickboxing scene for a very short 18 months. In that time I seen some cracking fights and some not so good. Kickboxing is alive and well in Scotland and this has been underlined by Natasha Baldwin’s Points and Continuous Wins at the WAKO World Championships in Dublin last month.
One of the interesting things that I like to watch at competitions is how everyone else warms up and prepares for their fights. If I rewind back to when I first started playing Senior Rugby (a long time ago), I would get extremely nervous. One of my captain’s coping strategies for me was to have me bouncing off the walls and smash the first contact as hard as possible. After many years of having this approach beaten out of me, my approach became somewhat relaxed. I might be turning inside-out internally, but I wouldn’t show it. I’ve kept this approach for Kickboxing as at my time of life it doesn’t pay to act like that. Also, I doubt very much that I’d get very far by charging out hard without thought!
However, for me the level of arousal/concentration/focus pre-fight needs to be high and I need to be dialled into the fight. I watched a good fighter go out in a girls’ category at the WAKO Bristol Open earlier this year, because she just didn’t click. She had sat about for nearly an hour waiting for her fight to be called. This clearly had an effect on her performance! So what, everyone else had the same or similar issues? Yes they did, but some chose to move about and stay ‘in zone’ while others preferred to sit, watch and wait. So my observation was that sitting about did not suit this particular fighter. This is not to say that it’s not right for others. The key is to find out what works for you, be warmed up, and stretched off, if you need to practice movement and flow, then do it. If you prefer to sit and watch fights, clear your head of the upcoming fight, then do that, just make sure it is the right choice for you. My old Club Captain had realised that if I was not bouncing and ready I would fade very quickly and be bullied out of the game, the first hit gave me that confidence to get up and repeat. He did this for me, now a few quiet words in my ear and a bit of movement before the fight keeps my mind clear and focused. I do need to visualise the fight, but not to the point of losing focus.
If you speak to most team professional sports coaches these days, they will talk about small differences, the tiny margins that make up more than the sum total! The British Cycling Team have spent thousands of hours preparing and understanding how each cyclist thinks and performs. They look at removing the distractions that are negative and reinforce the positive. Their equipment is shaved and improved by the smallest amount, but when you add all these small seemingly insignificant differences up, they can become significant.
Therefore, you need to be able to work through your pre-fight strategy and get it right. Where do you start? Think about when you have fought well at the club? What went right for you in terms of speed, decision making, technical ability, etc.…. Think about how you prepared for those sparring sessions? What did
you eat and drink? How rested were you? Think about the competitions that have worked for you? How was the warm-up? Was the fight early or late? Did you have to repeat the warm up routine for each fight or was it first fight all good, let us get into the next one?
Once you start to understand what works for you in terms of preparation, what works for you in the fights you’ve done well at, what went wrong when you didn’t do so well, you can start to put a sound fight preparation strategy together? How do you hide your vulnerabilities and improve upon them? Think, ask questions of others you respect and change things about until you hit the right note.
By thinking through the good, the bad and the ugly, you’re able to start to break down the small areas for improvement. Preparation for any fight starts in improving your technique, speed, overall fitness, strength (mental as well as physical) and diet.
Once at the competition, there is a fair amount to distract you. Meeting friends form the other clubs, registration and weigh-in, not to mention the clubs bolthole (RV) for the day. Then working out when your fight will be up, what area (usually changes later in the day) and so on. Therefore, being prepared for these distractions and changes is a definite requirement or you have to find a way of putting yourself in that bubble.
You now know when your fight is, when do you start to warm up, what sort of warm up do you like, require and need? I prefer to do some ballistic stretching and range of movement work for my torso, I’ll do some light pad work or shadow box to help get my heart rate up and start to dial in some accuracy. I’ve generally done ok at the first fight, but generally improved through the contest. Therefore, I should be thinking is my initial fight prep sufficient enough? What happens when the initial opponents are better, I won’t have the time to prepare through the fight and therefore, need to improve in this area.
The Beginning of the End
I can relate a lot of this to any number of sports, so while I’ve talked about my experience at Rugby and Kickboxing, the skills of preparation are transferable to many other sports. They do not have to be confrontational sports like these either. I’ve run several half and ultra-marathons and believe me, the prep for these events also needs to be right if you want to beat that PB or even finish! So have a think about what works for you, chat to your competitors and friends about what works for them, and try their techniques. By experimenting you will gain greater insight into how you work best, you will improve and hopefully bring back those PBs, medals and trophies……..Jason