What is the best way to stay physically & mentally relaxed during fight? Especially as it relates to grappling and groundfighting.
There's no real simple answer to your question without first laying a foundation of knowledge. So permit me a couple of explanations and hopefully they'll help.
Relaxation is often directly linked to FEAR. But not the biology of fear – the 'psychology' of fear (how you think about fear and the thoughts it pollutes your mind with). You need to define what you fear. Then you need to address those fears. This process will lead to what I refer to as 'relative relaxation'.
Royce Gracie, is a master at this. No matter what he felt or thought, no matter if he was dehydrated, exhausted or bruised, he maintained a focused warrior's demeanor. For the purpose of this discussion, he stayed relaxed. And that is what allowed him to dominate his UFC matches. He trusted himself and his system.
How does this relate to fear? In a controlled match, when you know what the other guy can do and if you are prepared for that, then you can relax and play chess. (The fight game is like chess with muscles at 100 mph.) This preparation provides you with a level of assurance & comfort that equals confidence. On the physical level, when you know the assets and liabilities of the opposition and you intelligently work on the counters, jams, Murphy plugs, then you can relax.
"The difference between the professional and the amateur is defense"
-- Old boxing maximRemember, anyone can go on the offensive; it takes will & skill to be able to protect yourself and fight back.
But to truly excel, you need to move past the physical. So when someone is teaching you physical stuff or you're practicing a new or improved approach, remember this slogan: JUST SAY KNOW. Often we practice through imitation, but much more can be learned and used faster when you really understand, really KNOW what and why you're doing something.
So 'relaxation' is an interesting concept, because it deals with three distinct realms that influence or impact one another. To further complicate things, these arsenals are not well defined by most martial practitioners and are therefore often misunderstood.
For example: you ask about relaxation as it pertains to the groundfight…. are you referring to physical tension (i.e. you exhaust yourself too quickly) or mental tension (you can't think clearly or remember what you've practiced). Tiring physically is about endurance and stamina, hyperventilating has to do more with your aerobic/anaerobic system and drawing a blank is of course related to your mental arsenal. Perhaps the most important question is, "Is this a grappling match or a groundfight? " I'm not sure anyone could (or should) relax in a real groundfight (with the threat of concrete, concealed weapons, improvised weapons, multiple assailants, etc., you'd want to get up ASAP and check your back.)
Analyzing and including these principles in your training sessions and de-briefs following a great workout with help you train with more direction. The more you understand…the more confidence you have, which in turn affects your self-control. This all leads to relative relaxation, which is the best we can hope for.
Excerpt from the manual BE YOUR OWN BODYGUARD
Most people undervalue and underestimate the psychological realm of combat and therefore undermine their potential. In a true behaviorally based system, there must be an appreciation for the three fundamental arsenals. These arsenals are: Emotional, Psychological and Physical. Each arsenal requires your attention at different times in training as well as in the fight (ring or street).
Emotional: how we feel
Psychological: how we think
Physical: how we move
Breaking this down in such a simple manner can help us to see how powerful the 'cerebral' side of combat is. How we 'feel' affects how we 'think', which affects how we 'move'. In a fight, match, training session, our objective is to perform – effectively. This puts emotional pressure on the performance, it brings our ego into the picture, and it possibly makes us think negative or grandiose thoughts, where, in reality, we should have been 'zen-ing' it: no past, no future, just now. Suddenly, we've lost our spontaneity and our ability to improvise, because we are emotionally and psychological stressed. This is where true fatigue starts. Your body is a survival machine, but we often interfere with it's smooth running; we detract from it's efficiency with the way we think.
"When faced with just one opponent, and we doubt ourselves, we are outnumbered"
-- Dan Millman