The Power of Neuro Associations in MMA

Luca Senatore kickboxingIn this article we will share the power of Neuro Associations. This mind-coaching tip alone can help you create and get into the most ideal mind state in training, before and during a fight.The Power of Neuro Associations in MMA

A few years ago, I agreed to take a pro kickboxing fight on very short notice. Even though my coach would not have been able to be with me due to family commitments, I felt confident and positive. I was well trained, in good shape, and made the required cut in weight.

I weighed at 77kg (170 pounds), my opponent failed and weighed at 81kg (178.5 pounds). Technically, he did not make the weight and I could pocket the win and the cash without having to fight. That was not my style though, so I have decided to fight anyway.

When my turn to fight arrived, my entrance song was a dance song called “Don’t Hold Back,” which was played at full volume as I was walking toward the ring. I get onto the ring and when the face of my opponent was visible clearly, one of the guys walking with me (which I had never met before) said, “Oh, I have seen that guy fight before. He’s good, but he will come out doing nothing for the first three rounds and then will start swinging at the end of the third. I have seen you warming up; you will take him easy!”

The bell rang; ding! I got particularly disturbed when my opponent came out swinging from the very first second! I have always been a respected martial artist, I was better than most I competed against, but this time I got whooped from the very first moment of the first round. It did not matter where the guy hit, it always hurt. Even when he hit my gloves, it hurt. He hit my arms; it hurt. My elbows; it hurt. It hurt anywhere he hit.

Somehow I survived the first round and when I went back to the corner the corner man told me that I was doing well. (Not sure what fight he was watching?!)

The second round started and the same story carried on for a couple of minutes before the referee stopped the fight to give me a standing count. It was over. I didn’t make it. And although I was still very proud of myself, that was a pretty significant emotional event for me. The type you remember for a long time. In fact, every time I hear that song, “Don’t Hold Back,” I still remember that match with the images, sounds, and the feelings. This is a Neuro Association, later referred to as NA.

The science

What comes into your mind when I say the phrase “Just do it”? That’s right, Nike! What about “I’m loving it”? McDonalds, right? These are ordinary associations which in marketing are used, sometimes more cleverly than others, to promote a specific brand or product.

NAs (Neuro Associations) are based on the same principle, but they are way more powerful for a large number of reasons. The most important ones are: 1. They have an effect on our entire system including our psychology, physiology, and behavior; and 2. They can be “installed” very rapidly and outside of our conscious awareness. This means that one single event could be enough to make a new powerful NA (Neuro Association). Whether that is a positive NA or a negative one, our mind makes no distinctions.

In therapy, I use NAs to associate positive states to specific words, faces, colors, pressure points, etcetera, and these really work like magic buttons that, whenever you push, turn that desired state on. You can use this amazing technique to change the way you feel about anything, literally. Follow the steps below and, if you do it well, you will find this simply amazing.

  1. Choose what NA you want to make/change – Examples:
“I want to feel energetic and on fire every time I hear my corner say ‘Champ’” or “When I hear my song before I start walking towards the cage, I want to feel fired up, like FIGHTER XXX during his fight against XXX.”
  2. Choose the trigger that will turn that state ‘on’. This could be seeing something, clicking your fingers, pressing on a specific part of your hand or body, imagining a “power circle” on the floor in which you can step. Use your imagination and be creative.
  3. Either recall (remember) or imagine an event where you were in the state that you want to associate. First imagine seeing yourself in that state as if you are looking at a third person, a “new you.” Notice all the details including how good you look, the way you move, the way you would carry that state, and your body language. Make it a small movie in your head. Then imagine entering the body of that “New You,” the ‘you’ in the state that you want to associate with. Imagine that you see through the eyes of that New You, imagine hearing the things that you would be hearing as you are in that state. Next imagine feeling all the feelings that you would feel in that state. That’s right, amplify them now and feel the same way that you feel in that state.
  4. Now “turn on” that state. Click those fingers, jump into that circle, or say that word or whatever your ritual/trigger is.
  5. Repeat it until it becomes a NA – that is until every time you fire that trigger, automatically you feel that state. This could take a few minutes or a few days. In fact, it really does not matter even if it takes you more than just a few minutes because the rewards are truly amazing. This is a technique that can literally neutralize some negative associations, which are both dangerous and limiting.

The “Technique”

  1. Recall a specific event, an experience where you felt like you want to feel. If there is nothing in your memory, simply imagine a version of you that feels that way.
  2. Imagine that you “enter the body” of that “New You” and see everything through the eyes of that “New You,” imagine hearing what that “New You” would hear and imagine feeling the feelings in that state.
  3. At this point, apply a specific stimulus at the peak of that “New You” state and hold it for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat at least 5 times.
  5. Test the NA: Put yourself in a normal mind state and then “fire that trigger” and see if your mind state changes. If not, simply repeat the process until it does.

How can you use NAs to make positive change and help you win your fights

The answer is simple: the situations where NA can be useful are countless, including:

  1. You can use this technique to first create in your mind the ideal mental state you want to be in and then “switch it on” when you need it
  2. Nerves: If you felt that fight nerves could bother you, you could create in your mind (through recall or imagine information) a version of you who is calm and focused. Then you could this technique to get in that state when you feel the nerves.
  3. Fighting behavior: Say that in the gym you have been drilling how to escape from uncomfortable positions that may come up during a fight. Well, you can use this technique to remind yourself of the drills and actually use the techniques learnt when you need to.

You can really use NA is many situations, even in everyday life. It is easy and, if you commit to learning the process, it is very effective. Remember, your mind is exactly the same as your arms, legs, and the rest of your body; it needs to be trained and if things don’t come out perfect the first time round, practice. Only practice makes perfect!

Good luck!

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