matter how much training he receives… No matter how efficient
and deadly his weapons are, on the battlefield a soldier’s
very best weapon is his head.
as one battle-hardened sergeant aptly put it: “If you stop
thinking, you’re dead!”
what exactly does that mean and how does it apply in wrestling?
Clearly, it does not mean you should ponder every move carefully
and take no action without carefully deliberating. That kind of
thinking will get you killed. It’s more like saying “keep
your wits about you.” Have a clear picture in your mind
every moment about what’s going on and what your situation
is. You look for cover. You look for ambushes. You look for ways
to gain the upper hand. You tune your mind so well into what’s
going on that at any moment, no matter what happens, you have
an out, a move that will keep you alive and bring the fight to
the segue from the battlefield to the mat? That’s because
every wrestling match is like a win-or-lose battle in a war. And
the wrestler who stops thinking is almost bound to lose.
slows right down
I know it seems like I’m asking you to do a lot of thinking
during a match, but believe me: When your head is really into
a match, time seems to slow right down – the way it does
for race drivers who can flash by the stands at 250 km/h and still
pick out an individual waving at them.
used to train with Donovan Young. Every day we went through what
we called the 20-20-20: 20 High Crotch moves, 20 Single-Leg Takedowns,
20 Double-Leg Takedowns. But we didn’t just practice each
move as though we were machines. For each move there are counter
moves and defenses against those counter moves. In fact, from
almost any position you have at least three moves. Which one you
choose depends on what your opponent is doing and what his tendencies
made my technique automatic. But by treating my practice sessions
as though I was in a real match, I developed a fluid, relentless
style. And I learned to keep my eyes – and my options –
open. I learned how to use misdirection – a step, an arm
move or a head fake – to gain an edge on someone who was
stronger or faster.
through a match, I’d be probing, testing, trying to find
out what made my opponent uncomfortable. Was he awkward when I
led with my left leg instead of my right? Did circling clockwise
make it harder for him to follow me?
of the comfort zone
I found that suddenly upping the tempo was all I needed to take
a man right out of his comfort zone. If you remember Mike Tyson
early in his career, you’ll know what I mean. Against bigger,
more experienced men, he just raged into them from the first bell.
He was a maniac, with a flurry of punches that kept them from
ever settling into the kind of match they wanted to fight.
Mike could change tactics, too, always finding a way to win. That’s
because during his fights, Mike (the early Mike Tyson) never stopped
neither should you.
How to think more
effectively in a match
You’ll be amazed at the capacity of your mind to absorb
and process information – but it’s not automatic,
you have to train it:
1. Practice your technique until it’s
automatic, so you don’t have to think about it.
2. Mentally rehearse what happens in a match.
Imagine your opponent’s moves and countermoves, and
your responses to them.
3. Physically rehearse by training under
tournament-like conditions – in full gear, with noise
and crowds. Football teams sometimes practice with crowd
noises on loudspeakers to prepare for playing in a noisy
4. Develop a heightened awareness of your surroundings.
This is takes time, and it starts by thinking consciously.
Try to become more aware of time passing
by, for example, turning off your TV when the ads start
and, without using a clock, turning it back on 3 minutes
later, after the ads have finished. Find other areas in
your life where you can practice tracking time. In a match,
you need to know how much time is left, without looking
at the clock.
Practice noticing and remembering your surroundings.
Experienced police and security people do this all the time.
If you walk down a block with one, you’ll be amazed
at how much more they noticed than you have. You need this
awareness so you know how many points you have vs. your
opponent; how many passives have been called; where you
are on the mat so you don’t go out of bounds.
5. Work on consciously developing the above skills and they
will quickly become automatic for you.
Nick Ugoalah was a 2X Canadian Olympic Team member, 3X Canadian
senior champion and is a Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist in Freestyle
Wrestling . Although he is now retired, he remains close to the
sport he loves, donating time and skills to coaching. He is also
a much sought-after public speaker, a personal trainer and an
achievement coach, noted for his inspirational style. Nick has
recently begun training students in the exciting new area of combat
wrestling. He has just completed Bring it On! – a book on
how the lessons he learned in wrestling transformed his life –
and can transform yours. He has also begun work on an illustrated
guide to combat wrestling, due out in the Summer of 2006. You
can reach nick at at www.ugohp.com.
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Training > Using Your Head
was a 2X Canadian Olympic Team member, 3X Canadian senior
champion and is a Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist in Freestyle
Wrestling . He has just completed Bring it On! a book on how
the lessons he learned in wrestling transformed his life and
can transform yours. He has also begun work on an illustrated
guide to combat wrestling, due out in the Summer of 2006.Visit
his web site for more at www.ugohp.com.