How mindset affects performance and three tools for better results

How mindset affects performance and three tools for better results

I’m inspired to write this post today based on a karate tournament I entered yesterday. My results vs the physical preparation I put in and how my own head space stopped me from utilising the sparring tools I have been working so hard to develop.

This is a great reminder to myself and I’m so glad this happened now so I can have myself in a better place for World Cup later this year (small tournaments are for making all your mistakes so you have none left for the big tournament, right?)

The events that took place (for background only -not essential to read)

In a brief summary of the day – it was long. We’d been there since 8:30am, I’d spent the day watching students from my team and my Mums class compete. A new format was being trialled and the day was running overtime. By the time I put a gi on and got to warm up for my kata it was already dark outside and I was “over it” I brought myself into gear with my kata warm up, and felt confident to enter the ring. – Was very happy with all three of my kata and came away with third – Happy Helena.

Then I had expected to have at least 20mins to get myself ready for sparring (purely based on how divisions had been running all day) But we were called straight over for marshalling, even though the group that did kata before us, that had already been warming up and were ready to go, now had to wait until after we were done.

I actually felt angry. I hadn’t thrown a single punch towards a target to get my distance in, hadn’t thrown a kick higher than my knee yet and was still 100% in “kata mode” physically.  I was called into the ring for the first round and did a whole lot of nothing at all. I had been working on several drills that I wanted to test out in this tournament, didn’t use any of them. I had been working a lot on my evasion and feel like I’ve been getting really good. Didn’t use it once.

As you can expect I did not win the bout, but this does not discount the ability of my opponent. She had a killer reverse hand pick off, her timing was perfect, she moved fast and stayed low. I am not disappointed at all in my loss of the bout. I am only disappointed in my performance.

How to manage your mindset

These are techniques I used in the last world cup that worked so well for me and that I (clearly) need to re-implement. This section is a whole serving of eat your own advice, Helena and hopefully it can help you out too.

  1. Cut the crap

The section above where I talked about the long day, the new format, running overtime and then a quick situation change I wasn’t ready for = Crap.

Who the heck am I kidding? Everyone had the same situation – yes, I would likely have performed better at 10:00am with a big crowd and plenty of good fuel in my system but so would everybody else. Fake justification  – JustiFAKEation if you like? Cut it. If you find yourself complaining (internally or externally) – tell yourself to cut it. You’re better than your excuses.

All of that needs to be cleared from your mind and the best way to do that is to expect it to happen. Expect to be tired, hungry and over it. You would’ve trained a bunch of times feeling crappy, know it happens and expect it to. And if it goes more smoothly than that – yaaassss, killer!

Only listen to the self talk that helps you. No justiFAKEation of your own excuses.

2. Make a note of your experiences

You need to know yourself and be able to self analyse these things. What was my preparation? Was it good? Where was my head? Did I do what I planned to do? Did I even have a plan? What was the goal? Did I achieve it? Why? How?

Have somewhere you can note these things in a book, a word file, an audio  or video file, a blog 😉 – heck an instagram or facebook blurb about your performance can be enough. You can go back and look and it and use it as a reference of what to do/ not to do. But make notes while still being aware of what contributed to your successes or lessons.

3. Mindset Flash Cards (best thing ever)

This can be used for anything that you need to be ready/pumped up for/to perform with a clear mind – Job interview, public speaking, dance exam, business meeting, whatever.

In training I can be doing a kata but if the only thing I’m told to focus on is breathing, suddenly my smooth moves become smoother and my fast moves are more relaxed and therefor – faster. Amazing!

I may be told to focus on awareness, suddenly I know where every muscle in my body is and whether or not its where it should be, my core is strong and I’m balanced.

I could go on (and on) here’s a list of some of the words that I’ve had on palm cards for different events.

Breathing, awareness, posture, show-time, watch this, relax, sharp-sharp, eye-line, flow, confidence, grounded, low, never again, I score, distance…

The list goes on and of course for non karate use – it would have a different theme.

I list up to 6 words on a card that mean something to me for each kata or for sparring, (for rocking that job interview etc) and I train/ practice with them. I become so in-tuned with that list that if I was thrown into the situation feeling unprepared I can sight the flash card and I’m ready. Any one point can mean the same as 20 minutes of detailed self talk and visualisation. This is gold that was given to me by my State team Sensei and I don’t have a real excuse as to why I stopped using it after last WC – but I’m bringing  it back from today.

Happy to expand on this if it’s still unclear – believe it or not, I have tried to keep this short. If you have used these techniques before, are now ready to start or have any of your own techniques or mindset related experiences you’d like to share please share below in the comments or send me a message.

I’d love to hear back from you!


8 Replies to “How mindset affects performance and three tools for better results”

  1. great read, your my internet sensei, its going to be really intresting to see how you do at the world cup especially how intune you are with your anti ego and how your able to full on admit when youve made a mistake. that quality in a person will take you as far in life as you want to go , 🙂 whats helped for my mindset is practising buddhism most specificly embracing your inner child and that happyness is a choice but i use modifide versions of those. If you try really hard you can remember who you were as a kid, inside she is still there but she has learned new lessons and has a bigger body. There are many different sides to you and every person. Maybe its your inner addict ( sugar, tv, drugs ect) maybe your inner failure side, your highest self or your happy self. Who knows what it is for you but what a good practice to do is too write down every type of stereo typicle traits you have as a person and write them into different categories and draw a description of what each one of those people would look like. Then what you do is go out and full on embrace the sides of you one after the other and remember to stay in the moment as that way you will full on feel the moment so eat a peice of cake and not feel guilty and once the physicle destraction like icieing in your mouth is gone eat your most favourite healthy food even if its not for the taste, do all of your sides the good and the bad as long as your not going on drug benders or anything to self destructive. Pay attention to the way your mind changes. Later practice doing something like say making or purchasing your most favourite un healthy food and staring at it while listening to a song that brings out your highest most motivated mindset and do everything you can to feed your motivated self while having your addict self being tempted but everytime you feel week ignore it by filling it with motivation but . Eventually youll be able to turn it on and off like a switch hence the buddhist practice choosing to be happy. Just dont start making up alter egos of people who you are not because that causes you too loose grasp of the reality of your surroundings and your self.

    I live in the highest city in canada so we have long winters, one of my favourite things to do is to run around in a tshirt untill my joints are so cold that they start to be able to not move properly ( right before frost bite lol ) but the key to it is practicing seperating your emotions from your mind plus then when i go in my house i get to take some mental healing by the fire 😀 Some people also do a more common practise called The Wheel Of Samskaras. Its basicly the same but you put all of your habbits on a spinning wheel like roulette and unless you learn to master those habbits the wheel is allways going to land on those. Happy training!

    You dont have to have a martial arts body to have a masters mind, but you need to have a masters mind to have a martial arts body.

    1. I almost stopped reading when I saw the first excuse, but once I read through “cut the crap” I really got into your writing. I was thinking “wait a minute true martial artist and or students of any discipline don’t make excuses”. None the less, your writing is very informative and the details of it can be visualized. That whole flash card thing is something that works for I’ve used it before competition, having “an anchor” to bring you back to your flow state/focus is a necessity. Being able to visualize doing every move, making that walk onto the mat or the ring is also very beneficial (you make the situation familiar for yourself). Would write more but I gotta do some things today, good luck with your endeavor.. Keep going as hard as possible.

  2. Great article. In tournaments things happen out of our control, they don’t run just how we want them. It’s how we deal with that. Letting go of the things we can’t control, refocusing our energy and attention on the things we can, our breathing,technique, movement etc. Have some “go to” techniques, even if its not what you planned to use, you know they work.
    Ssme can be applied to everyday scenarios, no day goes exactly as we want, but we deal with it.
    Remember, just competing in a tournament, puts you in an elite group of students.
    Look forward to reading more

  3. Thank you for verbalising these feelings.

    One point mentioned last year which I lost track of yesterday “enjoy every moment”.
    It’s incredible the power of these words.
    All too often (and I’m sure I’m not the only one) I tend to target my goals / performances to pleasing others. When we begin doing it solely for us, as selfish as this is, we enjoy the experience more, let our guard down and allow the physical preparations guide us.

  4. What a great piece!! So much resonated with me and from one who was able to watch your kumite event – wow!! Would never have realised, it was an awesome bout!!

    I would love to learn more about the palm cards though……..

    Looking forward to seeing more blogs xx

  5. Hello Helena. My name is Jheani and I’m from Brazil. I accompany you by instagram and now also by the blog. I really like your work. I am not fluent in English and it is difficult for me to translate some things. In this article I could not understand technique number 3. If I can talk about it again in another post. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jheani,
      I have had a few requests to expand on the flash cards, I will be doing a blog dedicated to explaining that further very soon which I hope will be helpful.

      Thank you:)

  6. U inspired me actually as i got injured a lot due to the fear of getting injured .. i broke my mindset into pieces to never do this again to myself and i’m better now when i focus on breathing .. Ur words made me feel that i’m on the right path 😊 Pray for me to reach my goal .. PS : i’m a taekwondo player & boxing amateur .. Thanks Helena