Each time Filipino 8-division world boxing champion Manny Pacquiao announces his next bout, it’s always followed by news about the rigorous physical training he undergoes to prepare for the fight.
In everything that I’ve read about those training sessions, there was never any mention of the mental or psychological aspects. It gives the impression that all Pacquiao prepares for is his physical conditioning.
But I doubt this. Any world-class athlete of Pacquiao’s caliber can’t just limit his preparation for a fight to purely physical training and conditioning. For it has been proven, time and again in the Olympics, that a rigorous mental training is as important, if not more so, as physical training.
In the Olympics of the ’60s, at the height of the cold war, the Russians were winning more medals than the Americans. And this was not good for the American image. They wondered what the Russians were doing to train their athletes.
According to a story, the Americans sent observers to Russia to see how that Communist country was producing superior athletes. The Americans found that the Russians trained athletes differently.
If the training of American athletes consisted of 75 percent physical and only 25 percent mental, the Russians were doing the opposite. Russian athletes were undergoing 75 percent mental and only 25 percent physical training.
When the Americans proceeded to adopt the Russian model of training, the US began to win as much gold medals as the Russians in the Olympics.
That was a revelation. And it revolutionized the training of athletes worldwide. From then on, every country competing in the Olympics would have a psychologist or a hypnotherapist as a member of its athletic team.
It is widely known, for instance, that during the Karpov-Korchnoi World Championship chess game held in Baguio in 1978, Karpov’s team included a hypnotherapist/parapsychologist to which Korchnoi objected. Karpov won that controversial game.
The physical training of athletes do not differ substantially from one another, no matter what country they come from. They differ markedly, however, in their mental training.
It is said that world golf champion Tiger Woods obtained his physical training from his Green Beret father, and his mental training from his Buddhist mother. She taught him how to meditate and to focus within.
The combination paid off until Woods was thrown off-balanced by marital and other domestic problems.
The Los Angeles Lakers basketball team was at the bottom of the standings when it hired an unorthodox coach, Phil Jackson, who, aside from physical training, required his players to learn meditation, yoga and the proper way of breathing.
He also required them to learn Zen. The players resented the unusual training regimen until it proved to be successful. The Lakers went on to win five championship titles. The players attributed their turnaround success, to a large extent, to Jackson.
In an experiment held in an American university many years ago, a basketball team was divided into three groups, to find out if the players’ free throw scores would differ from each other, given different modes of training.
The first group, A, was asked to actually or physically play free throws every day for 30 days. Their score improved by 25 percent.
The second group, B, was asked to go to the gym—not to physically touch the ball but only to visualize or imagine themselves making their free throws with their mind alone. Their score improved by 20 percent.
The third group, C, which was asked not to play basketball nor even think of it for a month, scored less.
The difference between those who actually physically played basketball and those who merely imagined themselves making free throws was only 5 percent.
The experiment dramatically proved that mental training works, indeed.
So, why isn’t Pacquiao doing more mental than physical training? Or perhaps, he is already doing so, but nobody is talking about it.
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