“Confidence is an unconditional state in which you simply possess an unwavering state of mind that needs no reference point. There is no room for doubt; even the question of doubt does not occur . . . This unconditional confidence contain gentleness, because the notion of fear does not arise; sturdiness, because in the state of confidence there is ever-present resourcefulness; and joy, because trusting in the heart brings a greater sense of humor. This confidence can manifest as majesty, elegance, and richness in a person’s life.”
– Venerable Chogyam Trungpa, Shambhala: The Sacred Path Of The Warrior

Above is one of the best descriptions of confidence I have ever read. Confidence in Mixed Martial Arts is very important; it can essentially make or break your ability to effectively continue your training, night in and night out.

Unfortunately too often it is not your fault that your confidence never reaches it’s full potential. I have seen coaches time and time again destroy their athlete’s confidence by not understanding how to build it and the fragility of this often-elusive quality. I myself have been a culprit of this in the past, simply because my own agenda, my own fears where more important than the individual training with me. Now that I am no longer a ‘young punk’ coach, I understand this!

Sparring is probably the main culprit for a loss of confidence in athletes. Many times the coach is not on top of what is going on when his students are sparring, often allowing it to get out of hand and to escalate way beyond the athletes comfort zones. Not realizing that each athlete will develop at different rates, students are allowed to spar without specific instructions to take it easy or without specific outcomes that are to be achieved. What this type of environment allows is an open playing field for the bullies. These people who often carry the most fear in their hearts see this as an opportunity to dominate other people with their physical will. This is simply an attempt to avoid confronting the real reason they are there, their fear, so instead in an attempt to prove to themselves and everyone else that they are not, they knock people out. Coaches themselves are huge culprits in this respect, especially when it may seem that one of their students may be getting the better of them. It is not uncommon for many coaches to literally beat their students up in order to keep them in their place and also ensuring that they know who the top dog is.

This day in and day out of uncontrolled sparring, unnecessary beatings and sparring with out direction destroys athlete’s confidence. What every student needs to know is that confidence and the increasing there of, are directly related to past performances. If your memory of past performances are sparring sessions that you felt you where totally unprepared to handle then your confidence will drop, you will begin to doubt your future in the sport and you will begin to find excuses to quit. This environment also makes it difficult to ask questions, to raise concerns, and if you do you are seen as a wimp by the rest!

Imagine if you could come into class every night and spar, never getting hurt intentionally, where every match is a learning experience and every sparring night has an end goal. Added to this your coach is on top of the pulse of the class, publicly reprimanding anyone who gets out of hand and reinforcing positive affirmations for good technique over using just attributes!

This is something I try to do in every session with my guys. I have learned from past experiences and I know that when I spared my students to knockout ‘just because’ or I allowed other students to do the same, we where all essentially afraid. Today I start every sparring session off with a reminder, “If after I have asked you to not hit hard, work good technique and have respect for the ability of the opponent you face, including lowering your level to his if need be – and you still find it necessary to hit hard or you want to hurt the person in front of you – then you are afraid, because only people who are afraid find it necessary to do that”