There is a fighting proverb that goes, “When they are getting ready, We are already done.”
I have see many methods over the years used by fighters to prepare for a fight. Whether it is to be a tournament, a duel, or some other sort of public display, there seems to be a never ending parade of methods to get oneself “Into” the fight.
As a new martial artist, and being quite young, I took my instructors words to heart when I was told to exhaust myself when training. That way, they said, I would not think about what I was doing and simply react. What usually happened is when I stopped thinking, I reacted in pain from being struck.
Other methods I have seen used are mental tapes by famous athletes, practice tournaments that are used to get fighters used to being under pressure, and as always a lot of well meaning but ultimately ineffective advice from a person who has been successful. All of these can have merit and even be somewhat useful but I very rarely see or hear the truth about how a fighter can best prepare for that defining moment.
The answer is both very simple and actually the hardest. The way to prepare for that defining moment is the training you do every day! Now before I get all kinds of hate mail about these other methods, let me explain why they are a crutch and there is really no way to the other side but through.
When you train, a martial artist must push themselves to places they never thought possible, not just mentally but physically as well. Many people are excited to attend a fighter or sparring practice a couple times a week and feel the are training, but they are not. These individuals would not be so keen to stand at that same practice and just use their defense. Meaning, no striking back just using footwork and their defense to survive or be struck, and then do it with the other hand!
Many will throw several blows and use the premiss that more is better. They may even have some success with it. But the same fighter would not enjoy limiting themselves to one blow per bout, win or loose.
Placing oneself into these very difficult places is what gives us mastery offer our body. We literally train our brain and body to become a single instrument. But like a musician or a dancer, you can only do this by training the repetition and stress on yourself every session.
We should practice through this every session, including taking a moment to clear all thoughts and ready our body for what it needs to do. Achieving this over the years is what gives us that confidence in ourselves. So when we are placed in a stressful and public tourney, or caught by surprise in a street fight, we can let our nature as we have forged it take over.
This is not a new concept. Many cultures and time periods talk about the concept of “No Mind”, and the most successful athletes are those people that have put in the work to the point of confidence. Watch a down hill skier, a motorcycle racer ect. before the competition and you get a glimpse of them getting ready, usually with their eyes closed, moving this way and that. They are letting their body react to the scene in their mind. So when the real picture comes at them, they have their body in tune for what it should do.
Go socialize later. Talk about life and politics another time. If you are not a little nervous before a training session, then perhaps you are not placing yourself into the right mind or training.
Train hard, and be Knightly.