As boxing trainer Kevin Rooney is quoted as saying in a recent post from The Loneliest Sport, all the physical training in the world is useless without a trained mind.
I think of those students who perform well in their own dojos, but nowhere else, as “hothouse flowers.” Can they survive out among the weeds?
How can we check this in Aikido, which has no competition?
Here are some ideas for serious students…
Seminars: I see students avoiding practice with advanced Aikidoka at seminars because they are strong and unfamiliar. Stay away from your dojo buddies if possible at these events! One Judo sensei told me years ago to seek out the people you are afraid of for practice.
Testing: Some students seem to fall apart in tests under the stresses of fatigue and stage fright. You can actually see this happen about five minutes into a test. Their centres rise and their ma’ai and timing disappear.
Freestyle: some students quickly lose their technique in freestyle with multiple attackers, even in their own dojos, as things become spontaneous, dynamic and even chaotic. The uke forgets about technique and just collapses, or else falls back on brute force instead of technique and timing.
Here’s the quote:
“‘You see a kid hit the heavy bag and he looks like a million dollars. This kid’s gonna be another Mike Tyson or Ray Leonard the way he looks on that bag. But when he’s hitting the bag, the bag don’t hit back. But when you take the same kid and put him in to spar with another kid who hits back, he’s terrible.
Or you take what’s known as a gym fighter. You put him in to spar in the gym where there’s no pressure, where there’s nobody looking at him, no paying public, no media men critering his performance, he beats the best fighters.
But when you put him in a real fight, in an arena with a crowd of five hundred or five thousand people, he folds up. His emotions overcome him. Instead of throwing that jab and moving the way he does in the gym, he doesn’t do nothing. He takes the shots. He gives up. He gets knocked out.
What it comes down to is knowing how to control your emotions. How to control your fear. How to perform in a disciplined way. To have a clear mind and go out and perform.
You hear good athletes in other sports say how they have tunnel vision when they get out there. You hear it from fighters like Mike Tyson and Ray Leonard. They’re saying that their mind is controlling their emotions. They’re concentrating. They know exactly what to do.’
– Kevin Rooney
Quoted in The Loneliest Sport