When training for sparring competition, students must work on three skills to enhance their performance:
- Physical skills
- Sparring skills and strategies
- Psychological skills
The most important psychological skill is focus. Internal focus on negative thoughts, future thinking, or fear will create anxiety and lack of confidence will interfere with competition performance. External focus on perfecting skills with detachment from the outcome creates confidence and determination, and performance in the ring becomes automatic and focused on the present moment since the fighter is not focused on ego or self.
Being detached from the outcome and just going with the flow is called "being in the zone." To get into the zone and achieve flow, a task has to be challenging but the athlete needs the level of skill to meet the challenge. It does not matter the skill level of the athlete as long as the challenge and level of skill are in balance.
During flow, action and awareness merge so that the body and mind function as one. To achieve flow, the athlete needs clear goals, unambiguous feedback, concentration on the task at hand, and a sense of control over the event. The experience of flow involves the loss of self-consciousness and transformation of time. Flow is intrinsically rewarding in itself, and so fighters seek to achieve it since it brings them a good feeling.
To achieve flow in sparring competition, you should concentrate on:
- Unique person/situation experiences
- Mental skills training
- Confidence as a positive expectancy
- Development of physical skills.
- Transitions into and out of peak moments
- Experience of altered states
- Applying mental skills
- Experiencing confidence as power.
- Reflections on experience
- Assessing and improving mental skills
- Growth in confidence.
Martial artists tend to enjoy activities most relevant to improving their performance. The more relevant they find a task, the greater emphasis they placed on concentration. Mental skills used by martial artists during pre-competition to achieve peak performance and flow include visualization, raising emotion, warm-up routines, and focus. During the competition, the mental skills involve focus/concentration, relaxation, and a strong motivation to win. Post-competition involves an assessment of performance and mental skills growth.
Achieving flow is dynamic process that involves transitions in and out of flow as well as growth over time. In addition, confidence is an important aspect to the attainment of peak moments during competition.