• Preparing to Win

    Winning isn’t everything, some of the most powerful lessons are learnt in defeat.  If you are lucky you will have the opportunity to learn from those that have made mistakes before you follow the same path.  For me, to win against quality opposition is about attitude, not just that self belief, but the ability to listen, learn, develop and have that quiet determination to see it through.

    Winning is purely the end game and a very brief one at that, it is invariably all the hard work and effort that you will have put in beforehand that winning a podium place that will make the winning so sweet.  If you haven’t earned it, then is it truly worth it?

    For most of us being able to compete is a bit of a blessing, we do what we can to prepare and go out with the mindset of enjoying your time. We have to manage family, employment and social life to be able to train effectively and purposefully.  Therefore, to compete and be as good as we can does require an element of sacrifice, determination and  planning.  It still puzzles me why people do not prepare adequately for their chosen discipline?  This is not a moan as I used to train really hard at my chosen sport, but I’ve come to realise I wasn’t training smart!

    I’ve now had the privilege to work with some top athletes and coaches over the years as well as qualifying as a Fitness Instructor and Personal Trainer.  I have come to understand that some of the old dogmas about training were on the money and some where just pie in the sky.  If you want to win, you have to put the work in.  However, at some point the work will glean diminishing results and over training and injury become a real possibility.  Most Special Forces around the world test their recruits, it goes without saying that you will be taken to breaking point through your training.  This test is about determination and commitment to joining a very special group of individuals and not just fitness!  But at some point they have to throttle back this testing regime in order to provide a learning environment so that these soldiers can learn their trade.  Being an athlete is the same, we have to get to a point where you have proved you are good enough, but you have to learn certain skills that you can apply under pressure. The pressure will soon be reapplied, but the training doesn’t always have to be hard, it should also be smart!

    Simply doing the same old regimes over and over will not provide the skills you require. Even the 10,000 hrs rule of mastering a skill negates to explain how that skill is taught, practiced and implemented.  The human body is incredibly adaptable and the brain even more so. It goes without saying practice makes perfect, but what happens when your opponent is not allowing you to do perfect?  Those who can adapt quickest are the ones who tend to win.  I have seen plenty of good teams dispatched by lesser teams on paper because whilst being fitter, stronger or faster, they were not adaptable!

    If you listen to Sir Clive Woodward about how he prepared the England Rugby Team for the 2003 World Cup, he left little to chance. He looked all areas of a the game, his players, the opposition, referees, venues, no player wanted for anything, he removed the distractions and excuses. In his team you had everything needed to perform.  The World Cup win was not emphatic, but it was a win.  Had England learnt from their mistakes, absolutely. In the decade proceeding the 2003 World Cup England choked in quite a few Five/Six Nations with the exception of the lead in year to the competition. I refer back to my original statement, some of the most powerful lessons are learnt in defeat.

    In Martial Arts we use our basic techniques to underpin how we approach our fights.  We develop combinations to draw a guard and to open a scoring area to attack.  We use movement to faint an intent in order to create a scoring or striking opportunity.   We use drills to attack and defend, but if you use them too rigidly, you will become predictable and easy to defeat.  You have to use your intelligence and experience to adapt these techniques, skills and drills to win.

    This does not mean you don’t need to practice these skills, you have to be extremely competent with them in order to be able to move well. So you do need to put those hours in, but we need to practice every likely situation, think about how we react and adapt to that.  If we do that, then when the time comes we can automatically process the requirement and carry it out.  We teach ourselves to be adaptable.  If you look at the military methods of conducting operations, they build in an element of flex to how a given Operation is to be carried out. Soldiers will have practiced their drills and standard operating procedures over and over until they become second nature. That way they learn each other’s roles and jobs, so should something go wrong they can fill in automatically, adapt and win.  The good teams and Athletes do this, they have the ‘A GAME’, but I’ll guarantee they have a B, C, D…..game too!

    Some may use the adage train hard, fight easy.  It’s a nice wee saying, but you should also train smart, fight smart too! The question is can you adapt to win, because if you don’t train to adapt you won’t win against good opposition!

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