Talei Aldiss: Practicing for perfection

Photo: Jarrod Woodfield Photography.

The beauty and pain of martial arts is that no matter how hard or how often you train, you will never be perfect.

Not only is there always a skill to better master, but there will also always be someone else who is better at something you’re not.

Perfectionism can be the detriment to successful fighting.

When I first started training, and even now, I’ll beat myself up for not having a fast enough jab, at not kicking with my hip turned over enough, not landing hard enough, not clinching with my elbows in the right position.

The fights I’ve lost have been wholly down to not believing in myself enough.

Fight mentality is a skill in itself.

Any fighter at every level can tell you they feel nerves before a fight, and to not feel nervous means something is wrong.

Nerves hit different when you focus on your training, your effort in the lead up, and not the “what if’s”.

There have been fighters I’ve witnessed vomit from nerves, then win unanimously, all because they’ve been focusing on the “what if my performance is not perfect”, “what if they have something I don’t know how to respond to”.

They’ve forgotten that they have been so switched on through the weeks leading into a match, that the gains in skill and fitness is what ended up winning those fights.

And even a loss doesn’t mean any of the skill and fitness gains are void. Sometimes a loss can represent your best performance or provide another opportunity to work on something that didn’t work at the time.

Years ago when I had the opportunity to train under Daniella Smith, she told me the fights she lost she gained the most from. It’s perspective.

We all have off days when something at training isn’t working or isn’t feeling right. The trick is to be able to leave that training session at the door and refresh your brain for the next one.

When I’m having a particularly “thinking” day because I want to get the technique perfect, they’re usually my worst trainings skill-wise.

The tactic I’m learning is to immediately focus on the part I know I’m good at, maybe I’m not angling my foot enough for the kick, but I know I can hit the Thai-pads with speed. When you feel good, you do better. 

Mike Tyson has famously said that he hated every minute of training. I’ve heard the same from some of my training partners in the past who have always enjoyed the fight better.

I never understood this as I always loved training but hated the confrontation of fighting. It’s only recently as I’ve started changing the way I think in the lead up to the fight that I understand this comment a bit better.

I love being at training, I love being pushed and I love hurting, but now I can also translate this to the ring, and actually enjoy the conflict and how it improves me.

My last fight was my first Muay Thai match, having made the switch a few months earlier after five years of boxing.

It was the first fight where I wasn’t focused on what my opponent might do.

I just assumed they did everything better than me, so I trained for it. In the back room ahead of my name being called, I trusted in my training so much that I knew that even if I got a knee to face, I could take it, and while I only had a few months of legs, I had years of hands.

It ended being one of the clearest, calm, and most fun fights I’d experienced.

Photo: Lioness Photography.

My next fight will present some challenges I’ve not come across in the ring before.

I’m excited.

While I’m expecting the next few weeks to be taxing as I increase my gains from 2021,

I’m going to focus on the benefits I’m getting out of each training session even if they don’t feel that great. And come the fight, well, win or lose there’s some prizes to be had.