The mental aspect of fighting is one that everybody has personal experience with but few people actually have a good grasp of. In this article I will cover three simple things you can do to significantly improve your fighting by improving your mental game.
First: Take Control of your Destiny. I frequently hear people say something like this: "I don't know how that guy keeps killing me. He just keeps beating me." This is an enormous problem with a persons mental game. By making such a statement they are inherently accepting that their opponent is in control of the situation and that they are a helpless victim. If you have a victim mentality you will not win or improve. You have to take control of the situation by recognizing that all results stem from actions and choices you make rather than from those your opponent forces on to you. The proper mindset is one that reinforces the concept that winning is not only possible, but inevitable, you just have to analyze the situation, find your mistakes, and eliminate them from your actions. A good mantra would be "I did not win this time because I left my guard too high. I will keep my guard low, which will help me win next time." The formula for the mantra should be "Goal Statement", "Specific Reason For Not Achieving My Goal", "Specific Positive Action That Will Correct My mistake", "Positive Affirmation Of Goal." It sounds like a load of bullshit but it works like magic.
Second: Pickup Your Sword, Put Down Your Emotions. When you step out onto the field you have to focus on fighting exclusively. If you take your stress from work, your frustration with your significant other, or your anger at another fighter you dislike onto the field you will not perform to your full potential. Moreover, when you are already emotionally charged it is very unlikely that a competitive sport such as fighting will help you become less emotional. It is likely that you will become more unbalanced and frustrated rather than less. Some ritual related to preparing to fight should serve as a mental instruction to drop the emotions, become calm, and focus on fighting. For some people it could be picking up your sword. For me, it is putting on my gloves. When I put on my gloves I take off all of my emotional baggage and issues. You can build these mental and emotional triggers with active practice. Consciously think about being calm, collected, and focused when you perform your ritual. Turn your attention towards fighting and block out thoughts that are not pertinent. After time you will find that this becomes natural. Performing your ritual will automatically put you in the proper frame of mind for killing bitches with authority. If you find yourself losing focus or becoming emotional, take a break. Get some water, take a walk, whatever. Remove yourself from the situation and allow yourself time to regain focus. Continuing to fight while emotional will only exacerbate a bad situation.
Third: If You Can't Beat 'Em, Watch 'Em. Sometimes you run into a fighter who you just can't figure out. You know what mistakes you are making, you're looking at the situation rationally and calmly, but you just can't figure out what is going on. When this happens you need to stop fighting, take a step back, and watch that guy fight somebody else. Look at everything he is doing, how is opponent responds, and see if you can correlate the behavior to your own situation. Watch his feet, his body movement, and his guard position. Normally if you're getting confused by what your opponent is doing it is because he is utilizing some sort of misdirection. Watch your opponent fight other people and see if you can spot his misdirection as a 3rd party. When you find it, watch it again and see if you can spot 'tells' or signs that give away his intention before he starts. Then develop a plan about how to respond to those tells when you spot them in combat: "Lief always leans his shoulders right just before stepping left with his feet and throwing a low reverse wrap to the hip. When I see him lean I will tighten and lower my guard so I can block and riposte on his attack." Try it out and see if it works. If not, start the process over. Finally, never be afraid to ask your opponent what he or she is doing that is confusing you. Almost everybody worth fighting will be more than happy to explain it to you in detail and help you work on overcoming it. The improvement in skill in our opponents is what drives improvement in our own skill.
Take these mental game tricks to heart, practice them, make them part of your life, and you will see a definite improvement in your ability on the field.