Here's a quick preface to underscore the main takeaway.
When you're on the international stage. You're there to win. You're the best. You're supposed to win.
Anything less is a mistake.
There's certain things I suck at.
Remembering a persons name first time.
Waking up on the first alarm.
Working intensely at one thing for more than 20-30 minutes.
There's certain things I'm good at.
Driving cars extremely fast.
Being a nerd.
Making stupid noises to myself.
Reading into people's body language and verbiage to be able to determine what's truly going on in the mind of the individual in question. Plus, whether or not there's room for improvement which can translate into enhanced results.
Let's hit on that last one, in relation to European & World level martial arts competitions and mental approach.
Is this going to ruffle some feathers? Absolutely. Perhaps because in my pursuit to convey an important point about mental approaches, plus the verbiage you choose in relation to your competition performance.. I won't successfully cover the nuances and variables which could indeed justify it.
Let's press on nevertheless. I'm a big boy, I can take it.
Stuff I keep seeing/hearing people say. (You should stop.)
"Yeah I got a really tough draw."
"I lost against the silver medallist tho!"
"I have Russia/DPRK/Ukraine first round."
"I lost against the reigning Champ!"
What's the matter with it? Well... You're there to win. So none of that even matters.
When you're there to win. You wouldn't be saying these things. when you're there to win, you wouldn't care whether you lost to the middle of the pack girl, or the multiple European & World Champion girl.
You lost. Which is a problem. The only problem.
You wouldn't care whether or not you had the three strongest nations at the beginning of the rounds or at the end. You're there to take them all down, no? Besides.. It's an advantage to get the strongest nations first. Because then you have them when you're at your freshest and haven't been worn down by others. Ever looked at it that way?
Depends on what you think about yourself and your ability in relation to the task at hand. Based on being there to win, it shouldn't really matter if you got a tough draw or a good draw. You're going to face the tough guys either way.
Unless in your mind, you're looking to get as high as possible without facing the people - Which you've decided before hand - that you can't beat. You're hoping to get a bronze based on draws? That's not the mentality of a winner. Bottom line is ya lost. And that is the only thing you should be concerned about if your self belief, desire and targets are in the right place.
You shouldn't really be there otherwise. You're representing your Nation. So you need to bring your A game in every quadrant.
There's a subtle sense of resignation in these sentences. There's undertones of submissive obeisance to the competitors you're facing. Or in other words -
"Oh yeah I'm gonna lose to THEM. LOL."
If you think that, then you lost before you even got on the plane.
Listen. Everyone at European & World Championships are pretty serious. Everyone has hours upon hours of training preparation under their belts. Everyone is capitalising on the best training protocols, putting everything into make their weight cuts, putting 100% focus into every kick, punch and blindfolded triple back flip they do. Hell, even team warm ups are the best in the world.
The DPRK Ladies team warm up was better than most national team patterns! European & World level is just that. The best of the best.
So you must ensure that your mental approach is the best of the best too. At this level, every-single-drop of an advantage counts. If you're not working to hoover up every possible opportunity of gaining an advantage against your opponents... You're going to be left behind.
Your mental approach needs to be the best of the best, too.
Sebastian Vettel, when losing against a 5 time F1 World Champion, he doesn't say "Oh but he's a 5 time World Champ!" He's looking inward, and questioning why he didn't win. In Vettel's mind, it's a mistake, an unacceptable anomaly that he didn't win. Because he is the best driver in the world, period. It's just simply a case of going back to the drawing board, figuring out why, then coming back 10X harder.
He's simply hell bent.
Every single driver on the grid is thinking "I'm the best" and the only reason why they don't win is because of anything other than their ability to do so. Slow car? Misfortune? The wind blew? Anything other than whether or not they can become World Champion. The second they think otherwise is the second they should consider a new calling.
Every single competitor on European & World stages in any sport should have it firmly in their head that they're supposed to be the winner unless bad luck or exceptional circumstances arise. Why is this so important? Because you will always be a better performer if you're mentally hell bent on the idea that you're supposed to be the winner.
It's also important because if you're surrounded by people who think this way, and you don't? you're going to get creamed.
Ok so there are some exceptions. For example, someone who is jetting out to their first ever international competition. Ok sure, this makes sense. The first one you ever do is all about gathering experience. This can even extend into the second and maybe for the late bloomer, the third go.
But we needn't make the exception the rule.
Is it difficult to think differently? Hell yeah it is. Almost as difficult as starting a martial art, becoming a black belt, training to an international standard and flying out to compete..
How can I decide I'm supposed to be the winner?
It's actually as simple as deciding you are.. it's also as difficult as deciding you are...
So no, I do not have a magic bullet solution for you. But I can certainly guide you towards finding your optimal mindset. you'd need to truly, deeply understand why you think this way. Why you feel you're not capable of winning. Let's say it's because you don't think you could ever do what others do?
You'd need to understand why you don't think you could do what others do. Understanding why is a valuable piece of insight. Especially if the reasons transpire to be emotive. If it's emotive, then there's no physical barrier involved. It's just you.
Which is nearly always the case. Humans are post rationalisation beings. We act based on emotion, and we later justify it with logic. So this is where a lot of the answers lay for finding that new edge in competition. Unless you can turn around and say I have one leg, or I'm blind, or something significant which rules you out.. then you've probably got a much bigger shot than you think.
Than you think...
It really is the key. The answer lays in taking the time to deconstruct your thoughts, the why's behind all your thoughts. Once the question becomes indivisible, you have the raw, exposed truth which is mentally holding you back. Only then can you formulate a solution, a counter, to this initial idea.
I don't think I can do it simply because I'm just scared of failing after knowing I gave it my all. But, I have hands and feet just like my competitors, so really there's no true reason why I couldn't beat my opponent, other than my self saying otherwise.
Working on your belief systems and mindset is an extremely potent and valuable skill to hone. Because once you do, you realise the same approaches can transcend literally everything you do. I know because I've applied it across many domains in my own life. The return on investment over the course of 15 years has been utterly tremendous. I've applied it to training, my outlook on life, interpersonal skills, finance, grizzly bear wrestling... you name it.
I say 15 years because, it was around 15 years ago I had my first real epiphany. I recognised a problem in terms of social dynamics, my mindset blamed everyone else for it. But the shift came when I started blaming myself. Despite this, it still took what feels like the best part of 10 years before I started feeling like I'd really gotten somewhere.
My mindset for training and competition however, this shift happened around the age of 6 or 7. I was competing in Motor Cross at the time and I remember I used to crap my pants on the start line. Too scared to really send it into the first corner to nail that all important Hole Shot.
It was holding me back. I decided no more.
It doesn't happen overnight
I can report it's a long journey. Adjusting mindsets and belief systems takes a lot of work and a lot of time. So much so, you can begin to question if it's ever going to work.
Well, it does. And it starts with your dialogue.