Training
How to lead with your hea

Nick UgoalahNo 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.

Or, as one battle-hardened sergeant aptly put it: “If you stop thinking, you’re dead!”

But what exactly does that mean and how does it apply in wrestling?

Keep your wits
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 an end.

Notice 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.

Time 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.

I 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 are.

Fluid and relentless
Repetition 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.

All 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?

Out of the comfort zone
Often, 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.

But Mike could change tactics, too, always finding a way to win. That’s because during his fights, Mike (the early Mike Tyson) never stopped thinking.

And 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 stadium.

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.

Author: 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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About The Author
Nick Ugoalah 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.
 

 

 

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