"The way it works is, you do the thing you're scared shitless of, and you get the courage after, not before."-Archie Gates(Three Kings)
Going into my first fight I wondered if I would get nervous or not. What would it be like, I had no way of knowing. Would I freeze and even be able to perform, would I get so nervous beforehand that I puked? We try and envision how things will be but when going into the unknown we truly are left guessing as to how we will react. No matter how much training you do, no matter the years you put in, nothing can compare to what it's like to go 'live', to truly be encompassed in what it is you have been training all this time to do.
I have always been naturally an extremely calm person, only a handful of times throughout my life had I ever been in any real fights, although the ones I did manage to get in were of the epic variety( once against 12 people). No matter how many street fights or altercations you have been in nothing compares to what it's like getting in the ring. This is a reason I find it comical when I ask a beginner if they have any training and they say "naw but I be fighting in the streets sooooo...." Not only is that a sign that this person has no idea what they are doing but it also lets me know that they will probably be even more difficult to train then a person that has never fought because they have this preconceived notion that they actually know what they are doing. This is another topic all together so I'll save it for another time.....
Walking out to that first fight I was surprised to see just how calm I actually was. Looking back I did have a bit of tunnel vision and it was all a blur but I don't really remember having many nerves about it. As I had more and more fights I continued to notice that I never had any issues with nerves, and at the time assumed most other fighters were the same way. It wasn't until years later that I realized just how odd I was.
Coming up on my first time fighting in Thailand I thought once again to myself "is this the one that's going to make me nervous?" I mean if anything was going to do it this one would but again, coming out to that fight, I just had this overwhelming sense of peace. Maybe this comes from knowing that I'm living my dream, knowing what it took to get me there, knowing where I'd be if I never had turned my life around, or maybe I'm just a weirdo. The next huge fight after that would probably be fighting for the Kings Birthday in Thailand (12/7/07). Surely fighting love in front of 300,000 people on the biggest Muay Thai stage their is would surely do it. Walking out in front of that sea of humanity, so many that it almost looks like fields of grass instead of human beings, you can't even wrap your brain around it, surely the nerves would get to me then, but no, calmer than ever.
I had previously learned the perils of not having any nerves when it comes to fighting. Being nervous is a horrible feeling as anyone knows, especially when it comes to needing to be at your best. The flip side of that however is just as bad, it might be a little more comfortable but it is much more dangerous. Nerves keep,you sharp, keep you focused, get your adrenaline going and get you in the zone. When you are in a life and death situation the worst thing you can do is feel like it's another walk on the beach. One if my first amateur fights I went into with absolutely zero adrenaline. I remember continually having to tell myself "ok we're about to fight , time to get it together." Next thing I knew my opponent was headed straight at me and still nothing, luckily after a round or two I snapped out of it but those first few were some of the worst I have ever experienced. No nerves meant no adrenaline, which meant I felt every damn thing that happened in there. Let's just say it was not the most enjoyable experience. I vowed from then on to always amp myself up beforehand and make myself get going. Most people have the opposite problem however but I always tell people I would rather be too nervous than too calm.
As the years went by it always baffled me at the amount of fighters who got nervous, I'm talking really nervous, almost to the point of not being able to function. I cornered a friend once for a smoker in LA way back in the day, he kept telling me how nervous he was and I did my best to calm him down and let him know it was a good,natural emotion to have going into a fight. As the hours ticked by and this went on and on I found myself getting more and more annoyed to the point where I had to leave the event for a bit just to clear my head. I wanted to yell at him "You know you don't have to do this right? We can leave right now."
For the most part, no matter how nervous a fighter gets, once the bell rings it's game on, you don't have time to think about nerves when someone is trying to knock your head off. I have however once encountered a time when a fighter, who was actually doing extremely well and winning the fight, came back to the corner telling me how nervous they were and from that point on let the fight slip away. I've always found it interesting to see how nerves can either elevate or destroy us.
I think the reason most fighters don't talk about this is they see fear as weakness and weakness is bad. There is however a difference between being nervous and being afraid. We all deal with nerves at some level unless we truly could care less about the outcome and if that's the case then why are you doing this. I would never begin to tell someone how they feel going into a fight is wrong. Everyone deals with these same emotions it's just a matter of how we use them or let them affect us. It's not a question of being too nervous or too calm, it's a matter of using those emotions to get us into a ready state. A matter of not letting them overtake us but to bring us to a point of elevating our game that we couldn't have done without that "fear". Don't kid yourself, you are putting yourself into a situation where you can get seriously hurt,crippled or even killed, you should have some nerves about that,not to mention performance anxiety on top of all the other countless factors that go into fighting.
If it doesn't scare you then it isn't worth doing. Set your goals on things that seem out of reach, that's the only way to every truly achieve greatness in anything. Fear can be your friend but it is one that can turn on you in the blink of an eye if not used correctly and will make your worst nightmares a reality.
"Face your fears, live your dreams"-El Presidente'