I remember many years ago entering a judo competition to get my third grade. It was along day of waiting around in front of very big crowds.
Eventually late in the afternoon my name was called and I found myself standing in front of my opponent a tall thin guy.
Now Judo was far from my strongest event but I liked it and I had been training with some top judo guys, plus I had previously done a lot of grappling, so I was reasonably confident.
In theory the first few grades at judo should have been passable.
However as I fought for my grip with my opponent I felt very weak, I had no strength and the guy beat me surprisingly easily.
As I walked of the Matt I saw my friend Glenn Smith who was a brilliant boxer, he was also doing a judo grading that day (Geoff Thompson who was our instructor encouraged us to do judo).
Glenn had a look of shock on his face and said to me, “what happened? I’ve never seen you like that before”.
I honestly didn’t know why I performed so badly. Was it that my food intake was wrong and that’s why I had no energy? Was I just very poor at Judo? (maybe).
It wasn’t until many years later and after doing a tremendous amount of research into fear and stress that I realised why my performance was so bad on that day.
Imagine a sprinter on the starting blocks of a big race, the starter says, “on your marks”.
The sprinters adrenalin flows to every muscle and fibre of his body, he is pumped up and ready to go but the gun never fires.
If the sprinter stays in the starting position for a long time, Eventually he will cramp up and feel exhausted even though he hasn’t even had to run.
His body is under tremendous stress his adrenalin is in full flow preparing him to run, but the stress hormones have no where to go.
If the starter then fired the gun (after a very long delay) it would be hard for the sprinter to do anything and he would certainly under perform.
This is what happened to me at the judo competition because I was nervous/scared my bodies stress response was in hyper drive and by the time I came to face my opponent I was physically and mentally exhausted.
I didn’t know how to control my fear which meant I was highly stressed.
I have seen trained people in scary situations get scared, get stressed and then panic and become totally useless, stress closes down the cognitive side of the brain.
Constant stress causes depression, it continuously triggers the bodies fight or fight response which is exhausting.
This fear-stress scenario plays out in all areas of our lives including; work, relationships, goal setting and even health and when fear and stress take hold they make the situation so many times worse.
Fear is our greatest enemy in this life. Control your fear and you control your stress.
Doctors now disagree about whether stress causes 80% of all illnesses or up to 95% of all illnesses but, either way it’s an undoubtedly incredibly high factor in our quality of life.
There are ways to control stress and I’m not talking about medication.
I realised that if I didn’t get a grip of my fear that losing a judo competition would be the least of my worries.