Meditation for Mixed Martial Arts
A mixed martial arts fight is decided before the octagon door closes. The fighter whose will to win is stronger will be the victor. Having a clear and focused mind is imperative in MMA, which is why many UFC fighters prepare with meditation.
It’s a cold Connecticut morning. Glover Teixeira pulls up to his gym in his black pick-up truck. Some of the guys from his fight team are already waiting for Glover to unlock the doors. His demeanor is gentle and warm, a sharp contrast to his tough exterior.
The respect that the Teixeira MMA fight team has for Glover is apparent right away. He runs an hour practice with the team consisting of his brand of Hawaiian Kenpo that blends kenpo, karate, judo, jiu-jitsu, boxing and wrestling. A martial art that he learned from John Hackleman at his gym, The Pit, in California.
He locks up after the team leaves and sits down with a smile on his face. I ask him about his preparation to get in the cage and how he uses meditation within martial arts. Throughout Glover Teixeira’s years training as a fighter, he tried to be a sponge and pick up good habits of the UFC legends he surrounded himself with. Teixeira was first introduced to meditation by Lyoto Machida.
“It started with Lyoto telling me to do it, then I started researching meditation and saw that successful people were practicing it. It’s good for you. It’s good for your body. I wanted to be in that environment of healthy, happy, positive energy.”
Teixeira has used meditation within his training since then. He says it helps with balancing your mind, cutting weight, and giving you a sense of control. On top of that, meditation can help you maintain perspective in what can be a mentally exhausting sport.
“MMA can give me the highest of highs walking out of the octagon with a victory. It feels like you can do anything. It can also give you the lowest of lows, the most upsetting moment of your life. You just walk out of there devastated. Meditating helps deal with the loss, deal with the winning. Keeping a level head and grounding yourself.”
Teixeira is not the only mixed martial artist who has discovered the benefits of this practice. UFC fighter, Michelle Waterson, spoke about how she uses meditation inside the octagon.
“I was raised Buddhist. The meditation part of Buddhism teaches you how to be in the present moment and block everything else out. In fighting, it's important to do that, because the minute you start thinking about what happened two seconds ago, or what might happen a minute from now, that's when you pull yourself out of the moment. That's when it's dangerous, that's when you can get hurt and that's when you lose.”
Although meditation has been linked with religion and spiritual practices in the past, there are many ways you can practice. Traditionally people think of meditation as sitting still in the crossed leg position, for an extended period of time to quiet the mind. Legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee, practiced meditation through movement instead of stillness. His way of meditating and connecting to himself included using natural movement such as running, practicing punching, on his exercise bike, or just walking around his backyard in quiet contemplation.
Some of the scientifically proven benefits of meditation that can help athletes include stress reduction, control over anxiety, enhancement of self-awareness, improved attention span, reduction of age-related memory loss, improved sleep and pain reduction and decreased blood pressure.
There is a method of meditation and mindfulness for everyone. Using these practices can enhance mental well being inside and out of the cage. Glover Teixeira recommends wading into the process by starting with a few minutes every day. He now finds himself craving more time spent meditating as he’s practiced over the years. Trying out a style of mediation suited to your goals is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes to do it each day.
Game Change was founded in 2011 to serve and enhance the athlete development needs of major professional and elite sport organizations and athletes. Game Change specializes in customized research and assessment services, the development of applied interventions and resources designed to provide long-term positive outcomes for organizations and individual athletes. Game Change believes strongly in sport as a catalyst for societal change and adheres to the philosophy of ‘changing the world one athlete at a time’.