Whether it’s karate or any other sport, stress and anxiety can take their toll on your ‘game day’ performance. Here are a few handy words of advice.
1. Recognise that pre-performance jitters are normal, so accept the nervous energy rather than fight it;
2. Prepare both mentally and physically. Be at your ring well before the start time, stretch and take some deep breaths;
3. Allow a few minutes to practice visualisation. Mentally rehearse yourself doing everything right;
4. Use positive self talk;
5. And always remember to smile. There will be another tournament and another opportunity. Take away the positives of the experience and any feedback that’s offered.
Remember, even if you don’t win … you learn.
Listening to music always assisted in calming my nerves before competing. It helped me gain focus and ground me. The best thing to remember is to always be optimistic, as you don’t know what kind of day your fellow competitors are having. Don’t let who you are competing up against affect how you preform.
Before my event, I ensure to enjoy time warming up and talking with fellow peers to help keep my mind off the competition and the nerves arising as time passes. I feel that spending time with friends and my coaches before hand helps me focus on all the positive outcomes and avoid all the negatives, which later reflects back to the way I compete during my events. Always having positive thoughts!!
As a teenager I suffered incredible anxiety when competing. I have managed to quell that in a few different ways. The most important is to tell myself that on competition day, I will get in the ring and I will perform the best kata to my ability at that time and in that place. If I win, great, if I lose, I know I gave my all and can’t be disappointed. It’s served me very well thus far.
If I’m feeling particularly nervous before hand I like to distract myself with music, friends a basic warm up and mind settling techniques.
Nerves often come when we are stagnant and thinking. So I try to get “inside” my body. I jog up and down the area while visualising (to connect the body and mind).
I always have palm cards for kata and kumite, with 5 tips for myself. One of them is always “just love every second of the experience”. I read these while warming up and also between rounds to ground myself again.
I warm up to music that calms, yet motivates me.
I make sure I warm up my mind (visualising), my body (obviously) and also my spirit. I feel many don’t prepare their spirit prior to competing.
Warming up the spirit means that if I make a mistake in kata, or feel fatigue in my legs, or am down on the scoreboard in kumite, that I react the right way. If my legs are burning, my spirit tells me to stay down in stance. If I make a mistake in kata, my spirit tells me not to give up and focus on being “awesome” from now on.
If I get a punch in the nose my spirit tells me to stay up and focus on winning the next point (rather than focusing on a sore nose). If a referee makes a bad decision (it happens, we’re all human) my spirit refuses to feel down, it tells me to stay focused and to fight on.
For kumite I warm up my strategy. Some people just practice attacks when they warm up, but then get in the ring and try to pick off or counter strike. I warm up whatever techniques I will use in the ring.
I remind myself that the preparation for the event (training hard and improving) is the real gold medal and anything else is a bonus.
Shihan Anthony Ryan