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In this post, Philippine National Taekwondo Team member, DLSU Varsity/Student Athlete, Entrepreneur, Life Coach, and Rio 2016 Olympic hopeful Kris Uy, writes on becoming a champion.

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“I can’t show you how to become a champion, but I can show you what I did to get to where I am” – Dr. Jason Han of [The Juice Compound].

I remember hearing that when I was 12 years old and this post is pretty much the same. My advice below isn’t the only path, but it’s what’s worked for me.

99 Problems-……. and Worrying Never Solved Any of Them

I’d really like to thank my dad for passing the book “Thinking Body, Dancing Mind,” to me when I was 15. That book has taught me so much in terms of becoming a champion and mastering my craft. One of the biggest lessons I learned from it was to not worry about things you do not control. That means the ref’s, your opponents, your brackets, your coaches, your teammates – everything that you do not directly control.

Note though, there is a difference between worrying, and studying relevant information.

Worrying is hoping and praying that you’re not against the top seeds in your first fight or heat

Studying relevant information is looking up your competitor list and studying their film.

Worrying is hoping and praying that your refs favor you.

Studying relevant information is knowing refs are being strict about rules that day.

Worrying is thinking about things that may or may not come to pass that you do not control, like what if the Eskimos in Antarctica forget to brush their teeth this morning?

Studying relevant information means taking facts and using them towards your strategy.

Don’t waste time with small thoughts like “I hope I get a good draw,” “I hope I get good refs,” or “I hope my opponents are not in good shape.” None of that is in your control and therefore you shouldn’t concern yourself with it. The standard I hold myself to is: “Even if all the refs are against me, my skill should be enough to trump all of it.” Just focus on what you can do – there are many factors under your control.

A few of these are:

What you eat, how often and how much you push yourself training, how often you rest, who you pick as a mentor, what you say to yourself, and the people you hang out with.

All of these are within your control, and all of these contribute to your victory…or demise. When people look at champions, they focus on their hustle (training routine). This is key. But other factors surrounding your grind determine how effective you are, especially when on the grindstone.

What you eat determines the quality of your training and if you’re able to properly recover during your rest. How much you push yourself in training determines the pace of your improvement. As Ray Lewis says in his motivational speeches: “Effort is between you and you, no one can judge effort.” Your mentors determine your direction, and how efficiently you grow.

“Be very careful what you say to yourself. You are listening.” Your body will do as your mind says. Close your eyes and say “I’m weak, I’m unskilled, I’m tired, I’m no good.” How do you feel, physically? If you tell yourself “I’m a winner, I am a champion, I always accomplish my goals” How does that feel? Or what about: “I am more than I appear to be, all the world’s strength and power rests within me (source: The Monk Who Sold his Ferrari).” How do you feel now? Your mindset affects your training.

You are ultimately the average of the 5 people you hang out with. If you’re hanging out with people who are just trying to “get by”, who have no goals or would rather scroll on Facebook than do what they’re supposed to be doing – how long till you are just trying to get by, with no goals, spending time scrolling through Facebook? As the saying goes “If you hang with 9 broke friends, guess who’s going to be the 10th?” Conversely, if you were stuck in a house with Lance Armstrong, Michael Phelps, Manny “PacMan” Pacquiao, Dwayne Johnson and Breena Martinez *cough* personal fantasy *cough* –  and they ask you each time they train if you want to come along it, how long would you turn them down? I’d give you about a week and a half…tops.


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2. The Amount You Train is Your Money

Many people are taught to sacrifice everything for the fight, for the event, for the race.

I don’t do that. I sacrifice everything for the training.

I fully believe that if you can outdo someone’s training regimen, you’ll outdo them on the day it counts.

As the U.S. Navy SEALS say “People do not rise to the occasion, they fall back on their training, which is why we train so hard.” People don’t gain super powers on the day of the event. Hoping that your game just “comes out” during the tournament is silly. Counting on this means you’re under prepared, and you’re hoping things get easier.

Never wish for things to be easier, wish you were better.

I learned the habit of preparation watching my father play chess. In all those years – I’ve never seen him lose – right through multiple NCAA championships.

During games, when I asked him what he was doing, he’d say stuff like: “Oh, I’m preparing to do this,” or “I’m going to take his queen in 6 turns.” From where I sat, he was still messing around with pawns!

I eventually learned that winning means setting yourself up for victory – creating situations where it’s inevitable.

Like Sun Tzu’s saying: “Prepare for the difficult while it is easy, prepare for the big while it is small,” or from a soldier’s training manual: “Sweat more, bleed less.”

One of the best analogies I’ve heard is from a coach. He said: “Training is like getting money for shoes, and the shoes are the championship. If you walk into Nike and you want shoes that cost $200, you better bring the $200, you can’t say ‘well I got $150, can I get em anyway?’ Nothing in life works like that, unless you play politics… but that’s a story for another day.”

I learned to always bring extra, because in California they don’t label the clothes with the sales tax.

Will Smith’s attitude on this is amazing. He says: “I think, in terms of talent, I’m pretty average. Where I excel in is a ridiculous, sickening work ethic, and an obsession to prepare.” I believe in making excuses to get ahead. Look at your circumstances and see how it will help you with your preparation. No racetrack? Find a hill nearby. Rained in? Great day to do an indoor workout. Injured and can’t use your arm? Train the other arm. Or legs. Always do legs.

And always, ALWAYS, look for excuses to train.

If you’re trying to be a champion, come event day, no one cares about the excuses, or the reasons, or the stories behind “I couldn’t.” Those don’t matter when they’re awarding the hardware. The only thing that matters is the count. So during training, if you find yourself wondering: “Is this enough?”

It’s not.

The question should be: “Is this too much?”

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3. Your Mental Preparation is what you bring to war.

This is where I see some of the biggest downfalls in sports. Many people spend so much time working out and training, yet they get in the ring and none of it shows. They play different. They seem off.  It’s like someone spun them around 10 times and hit them with a taser before they get in.

Often, this lack of performance is due to a lack of strategic mental preparation.

This is a huge topic to cover so I’m going to just put down the ones I see the most. 

(Note: To some people this may seem like a hodge-podge so feel free to scroll up and review, though I believe my mental preparation has been my single greatest strength in my sport.)

Physical preparation is akin to forging and practicing with your weapons inside base camp. You can hone, you can tweak, you can craft new things (Note: If you’re not diligent in the preparation of your weapons, you’re not going to have dependable weapons to go to war with, physical prep is important). Mental preparation however, determines how many of those weapons get utilized on the battlefield.

If you’re mentally prepared for your fight, that’s akin to having your armor on, deploying artillery correctly, positiong cavalry properly, knowing where your enemy is, and firing salvo after salvo til he’s done. It’s game day, and you’re going hunting. Not mentally preparing for your fight, is game day coming to you. It’s your opponent on the offensive. In essence, its like you coming back from the river after catching a fish for dinner – to find the enemy in your camp, tents ablaze, with your people screaming, running around in sheer terror and chaos. Pleasant. Why is this so? Because you didn’t have access to your weapons. Game day came to you.

So how do you prepare? First, you must realize that anything that happens in the world must happen twice, first within the mind, then in the physical world.

Things I see very commonly:

1. Extreme Nervousness – nervousness is normal. My father used to say: “It does not matter if there are butterflies in your stomach, so long as you make them fly in formation.” Recently, I learned that if you’re nervous, just tell yourself that that emotion is excitement and tell yourself “I’m excited.” To lower this nervousness, visualize. Imagine yourself on game day, from the time you wake up, through breakfast, the commute, the warm up in the holding area, then the ring. The more you replay this in your mind, the more you’ll be used to being in that environment, and it won’t shock you as much.

2. The Mood Swings (most commonly from: bad call by a ref and everything goes downhill, or one bad thing happens and the player doesn’t recover.) I thoroughly believe that to become victorious, you must have control over your emotions. You can’t let your emotions run you in an event, you must run your emotions. (That’s also why I love sports, because it teaches people to grow up). If this is a problem for you, realize that you control only yourself. You don’t control the ref, you don’t control their bad calls, hell, you don’t even control the score. Scores are only the by-product of you accomplishing a task a certain way. That is also out of your control, just focus on you and what you can do.

I use a technique called “the anchor.” I imagine myself in a very calm state, and relax my whole body, creating a circle between my middle finger and my thumb and I tell myself “When I make this gesture, I am relaxed, I am calm and I play at my best.” Later, after that anchor is in place, I can call upon a relaxed state with nothing more than an intake of breath and a thought. Then I stack it with another mental image. I imagine a really bad call, or a cramp – something super traumatic – and I make the same circle, but this time I say “I am a deep-rooted tree, centered, and free” (I’m Zen like that). For others, you can try using “I’m a rock jock. You can’t move me.” Feel and see yourself calming down and relaxing, and not letting what just transpired negatively affect your performance.

3. Not Playing Your Game: (ex. timing is off, techniques not used at their 100%, tentative) Unless this is tactical, the reason for this is because when you’re doing drills, you’re seeing your teammate, not the real match. When you’re doing application drills, you’re doing them with your teammate, and not as if you were in a tournament.

The correct way to practice application is to practice it for real. You need to “act” and “see” as if you were already there. The earlier you start doing this, the better. I’m not talking early as in “one month out.” I’m talking early as in 4-6 months out. The more real you make practice, the easier it translates into your event.

4. Cracking under pressure: (Blowing a lead, giving up after getting behind) This one has a lot of factors: I think the biggest and best thing to do to prep for this is to really imagine the worst case scenario in your mind in first person. Really see what it’s like to be behind by 11 points, or 5 points in soccer, or 20 points in basketball and see and feel how it feels. Then imagine yourself coming back. denying their attempts and slowly, strategically, surgically getting your points back and coming out with the win. If you have never imagined this scenario, it will be a shock the first time. However, if you’ve thought about it and how you’re going to do it a thousand times, thousand and first time, in real life, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Same applies if you’re in the lead. If you worry about it, imagine that situation, and instead of thinking about them making a comeback, think about you keeping them off you, playing your game, holding out till the win – with that lead intact.

The pathway to victory isn’t beautiful, its not paved with roses and gold. It’s paved the way everyone else has said it’s been paved, with blood sweat and tears. There are going to be times when you doubt, there are going to be times when you don’t want to go on anymore and there are going to be times when you don’t want to get up. But if you get through that, if you move forward, if you get up again, you will become stronger and you will begin to see that life is whatever you want it to be. If you’re willing to do the work, and pay the price, you can live as others only dream. If you choose to get up, and you choose to move forward, you will be a success.

I believe that focusing on the correct things and correct preparation are key to achieving victory in anything.

As someone once said “Failure to prepare is preparing to fail.” Another one of my favorites: “In a battle where both parties believe God is on their side, he’s usually on the side of the more prepared.”

Set yourself up, and prepare yourself for greatness.

So there it is, my three steps towards victory. Hope it helped you get closer to your personal success.

If you found it valuable please let me know by giving it a like and/or a share!

May Greatness be upon you!

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Note: This post was first published September 20, 2015, on the author’s blog. Read more of his works at: Follow him on Twitter: tangkad21, and IG: @kris_uy_


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