Bad habits are tricky to break, largely because they’re just such darn comfortable traps into which to fall. In fighting, bad habits can expose gaping vulnerabilities. Let’s look at a few ways to plug up those holes and shut down our bad habits for good. . .
HOW TO BREAK BAD FIGHT HABITS FOR GOOD
Training is about repeating conditioning actions until they become automatic – until they become habitual.
Think about what used to take a lot of effort to do but now is second nature – is it throwing your arm out as you kick? Is it bringing your leg back after that kick? Is it to keep at least one hand up? Or maybe something more simple like remembering to breathe with each movement?
As your training progresses, and you are conditioned to do more and more with less effort, you become aware of conditioning as a double-edged sword. Of course, there is the good: i.e. being conditioned to do what you’re supposed to do. And then there’s the bad: having your bad habits baked into your arsenal. Maybe you’re not aware of these bad habits and keep repeating them. Or maybe you are aware, but you’re too lazy to remind yourself every time to fix them. Either way, bad habits can and will catch up to you, especially if you fight or plan on fighting.
Here are my thoughts on how to make the process of conditioning work for your training – to bring out and cement the good, and to banish the bad forever.
THE “TWO BAD HABITS” SYSTEM
The first step to making any sort of change is acknowledging that there’s something that needs to be changed. Now write it down. Get it on paper or screen right in front of you so it’s not just a fleeting thought.
These can be habits you noticed yourself, or things your teammates and coaches have repeatedly told you not to do. Only after you acknowledge them can you start taking action to make the changes. Pick two bad habits from the list and choose to be particularly aware of yourself doing them the next time you train.
Remember when you first started out and you had to constantly remind yourself to throw a jab a certain way? You kept telling yourself over days and weeks and months until the action became automatic. Do the same with these two habits. Make a mental note to not perform this habit. Instead, replace that habit with the proper action. You are more likely to self-correct if you associate your bad habits with the correct forms.
This is very important for when you are doing things without someone in front of you, such as hitting the bag. The bag certainly isn’t going to yell at you to keep your other hand up, so you will have to tell yourself to. Don’t be afraid to slow the pace to get it done correctly.
YOU ARE YOUR OWN BEST CRITIC
Something else you can do is to film yourself when you’re training, whether it’s a few rounds of sparring, bagwork, doing drills, or hitting pads.
Watching yourself is a great time to be a critic – in a good way! By watching and re-watching the rounds, you’ll see at what points you start engaging in the bad habit, as well as other holes in your game that you wouldn’t have thought of if it weren’t for the video.
Of course, filming yourself will also let you know what you are doing correctly so you can continue working on those strengths. Setting a schedule, such as once a week or once every two weeks, to film yourself for a few rounds is a smart way for you to see how you’re progressing and how often you’re still doing the bad habit(s).
LET OTHERS SHOW YOU THE WAY
In addition to being aware and attempting to self-correct, you can enlist some help from your coaches and teammates. Ask your coaches how often you are engaging in a “bad habit” and what you can do instead.
Some coaches and teammates have special ways to remember how to do something correctly, like shouting “show me your back!” so you turn your hips over when you kick or “punch through the hot plate” so you extend your punches out and bring your fists back to your face faster. When doing partner drills, ask your teammate to let you know when you are doing something incorrectly. Two heads are better than one.
Habits can be hard to break, but with some awareness and help from others, it’s a feat that becomes much easier to do with some effort. Don’t forget that Rome wasn’t built in a day – while it’s a good thing to be truthful and self-critical, do be patient and give yourself credit where it’s due.
- Plant-based fighter, foodie, and aspiring physical therapist. Angela is currently living in Bangkok and training full time.