Mental Processes and States in Kickboxing

The increased interest to the development of kickboxing compels specialists in this direction to seek and develop new forms, methods and means of training for athletes of different qualification levels.  Until now, the bulk of the coaches apply methodological developments that are available in the box. Undoubtedly, it was justified in the initial stages of creating scientific and methodological foundations of kickboxing. However, currently, when sports skills of new generation of kickboxers have been improved, new features, which are characteristic precisely to kickboxing, are revealed. First of all, it refers to the mental processes and states of kickboxers.

Mental processes and states reflect the whole range of internal and external, subjective and objective conditions of life that are relevant to humans at any given time. The issue of mental processes and states is of great importance in kickboxing activities as it has a significant impact on their effectiveness.

Psychomotor Aspects and Mental Processes

  1. Sensations (the role of different types of sensitivity)

Sensations are mental processes that reflect the individual properties of objects and phenomena of the external world, which directly affect the body (Gifford 7). Also, sensations reflect the internal states of the organism resulting from direct effects of certain stimuli to the corresponding sensory of organs, i.e. the receptor apparatus of a sensory system.

Musculoskeletal (kinaesthetic) sensations, which arise from the work of the musculoskeletal system that includes a number of receptors, play a major role in kickboxing. Muscle and tendinous receptors give a sense of muscle tone during stimulation. Joint receptors give a sense of direction, shape and duration of motion during stimulation.

The sensitivity and modality (selectivity) of musculoskeletal system greatly increases among high-class kickboxing athletes as a result of systematic training and competition. This aspect allows kickboxers to subtly differentiate motor, vestibular, tactile and other sensations (Gifford 15).

In the course of many years of training, a fighter develops a subtle sense of kick, a sense of distance and a sense of enemy’s attack. Sensitivity of the whole body skin, which feels the change in air heat flow or thermal field, gradually develops. It is believed that sensitivity during many years of training is transformed into the energy sensitivity of the body, analyzers of which are biologically active points or acupuncture points.

The visual analyzer is of great importance in practical activity of a kickboxer. In case of experienced athletes, it helps to keep in focus the whole body of the opponent, noting the slightest change in the position of his body parts, which allows to anticipate this or that action of the opponent. A kickboxer must know the features of their opponent’s vision, namely the presence of dead zones in which the sensitivity of the visual analyzer is sharply reduced (Gifford 19).

The auditory analyzer also contributes significantly to the optimal conduct of the match. If a kickboxer can hear the breath of their opponent, they can use the very beginning of the inhale phase, when the energy capacity of the organism is lowered, and thus efficiently benefit from this moment.

  1. Specialized perceptions of a kickboxer

Perception is characterized by a process of reflection in human consciousness of objects and phenomena in the course of which the ordering and integration of individual experiences in holistic images of objects and events occurs. The process of training develops such an important characteristic of perception as constancy, which allows kickboxer to keep constant visual perception of the opponent during their position change on the ring (Gifford 23). The convergence initiates musculoskeletal sensations that provide information about movements of the opponent, who is the object of perception at the moment. The interaction of the motor analyzer with visual, auditory, vestibular, tactile and speech motor analyzer specifically determines the integrated perception of time and space in kickboxer (Gifford 25).

  1. Memory and ideomotorics

In the martial arts of the East, ideomotor training have been used since ancient times and is closely connected with the static and dynamic methods of meditation. Adepts of martial arts knew that before performing hard-coordinating motor actions, fighter must remember and reproduce mentally their visual-motor image. Thus, the basis of the ideomotor training is ideomotor act as a process, by which the picture of motion becomes the actual implementation of this movement (Billingham 129). Imagery representation of movements lies at the heart of an ideomotoric act. Ideomotoric training has been widely used in kickboxing. Inclusion of ideomotoric training in the training of high-class kickboxers can help improve their speed-strength and technical qualities (Wells 28).

  1. Anticipation

Anticipation has a universal value, but this quality is especially necessary in extreme activities, allowing operating with a space-time advance. In kickboxing, cognitive-regulatory mechanisms of anticipation may occur in unconscious reactions of reflexive control. Thus, the basis of anticipation lies in the reference program of reflexive control and adequate response to all actions of the opponent (Delp 195).

  1. Thinking

In the practice of kickboxing, thinking as a process of cognitive activity is essential and allows the athlete to comprehend their actions. Operative thinking plays a significant role in the process of competitive fight. It acts as a substructure of the practical intelligence of kickboxer, contributing to the adequacy and speed in resolution of practical situations (Delp 197). Intuitive thinking is characterized by even greater course speed of mental operations with minimum awareness, sometimes resulting in an entirely unexpected and original technique, a kind of motor insight (Delp 198).

  1. Attention

The value of attention as a direction and concentration of athlete’s activity at a given time on a certain subject in extreme activities, especially kickboxing, is difficult to underestimate. Selectivity and stability of attention during the match are shown in concentration on the main subject, i.e. the opponent. Concentration and attention are expressed in comprehended objects: the opponent, the space of the ring, the nearest area outside the ring and fighter’s internal state (Delp 206-207).

Typical Mental States of Kickboxers and Ways of Their Regulation

Mental states reflect the whole range of internal and external, subjective and objective conditions of vital activity that are relevant to humans at a given time. They are classified by factors reflecting their essential features: the prevalence in the structure, the basis of the attitude to a certain type of activity, the temporary attitude to activity, intensity of mental functions, direction of experiences, etc.

  1. Training mental states

The kickboxer can be in a wide variety of mental states during a training session, either desired ones such as concentration, attention, passion, excitement, inspiration, perseverance, resoluteness, ability to mobilize, etc. or unwanted mental states such as confusion, apathy, lack of confidence, aggressiveness (which sometimes helps, but more often interferes with the concentration), shyness, and so on.

Creating a favorable mental state, which provides a qualitative level of training, is a specific task of psychological preparation of kickboxer. The achieved actual mental condition may be temporary in nature. By stabilizing, the actual state has a tendency to turn into a dominant mental state, which, being kept for a long time, determines the properties of the individual, which constitute the essence of kickboxer’s character.

The condition of kickboxer can fluctuate over a very wide range of mental functions from optimal functioning to stress and frustration. In this regard, it should be noted that one of the most important factors in ensuring the kickboxer’s effectiveness is the level of mental stress. In this case, three main components of activity of the individual can be seen in an integral process of mental regulation: the intellectual, emotional and volitional components (Ashley 77). There is no accident in the fact that volitional and psychological preparations occupy a prominent position in the training of highly skilled kickboxers, along with the physical, technical and tactical components. However, this separation is quite arbitrary because neither mind nor senses can be separated from the body entity. Given the importance of the intellectual component, features of interaction and interference of emotional and volitional components are of fundamental importance for the efficiency of kickboxer (Ashley 81).

Mental stress is manifested in training and competitions. Tension in the training process is associated mainly with the need to perform ever-increasing physical actions. Mental stress is added to it in the extreme conditions of the competition, in order to achieve a certain result. Conventionally, tension during training can be called procedural tension, and in the competition – resultative tension. Usually, these occur not only in performance but also before it, except that procedural stress occurs immediately before training, and resultative one can occur long before the competition.

It is known that mental stress and physical fatigue alternated with rest are means to supercompensation phase that is the purpose of kickboxing training. However, those physical super-loads, which are used in today’s high performance kickboxing, can lead to fatigue, mental stress and decrease of body functions. This certainly can be seen as a negative factor.

If to consider training process as a pedagogical process of management of kickboxer’s conditions with a closed feedback loop, then a very important component here is the control system. Such control system is called psychodiagnosis in managing mental condition. On the basis of the fact that kickboxer’s psyche recovers longer than other functions after a hard workout, the knowledge of the signs of mental overstrain comes to the forefront: nervousness, stenicity, loss of strength and vigor. Such signs define the general and specific features of each stage.

  1. Competitive and precompetitive mental states

Usually, there are the following characteristics of precompetitive and competitive dynamics of mental stress: indifference, combat readiness, fever and apathy (Ashley 43).

Indifference means that the kickboxer is calm enough and his level of preparedness is sufficient for victory due to the fact that the upcoming event is not of special significance for him. It is believed that indifference cannot contribute to the manifestation of the reserve capacity of the organism, which could be revealed only by extraordinary mental states (Ashley 45). Therefore, the state of indifference is determined as an adverse one.

Combat readiness condition is optimal as it ensures the harmony of all body functions when manifestation of its reserves is possible. The training of kickboxer in such way, in which this state is dominant even at the start of a match, requires great psychopedagogical skills of coach (Ashley 47).

Increasing mental tension can result in  mental stress so the kickboxer enters the state called fever. Fever in kickboxing is characterized by decline in energy capabilities and disharmony of functions and systems that support the activity. In this state, the result of the match is completely unpredictable, although much more likely that it will be negative (Ashley 48). It is quite clear that the state of fever is undesirable.

It should be noted that an uncontrollable state of fever can cause a sharp drop in mental tension and transition to an extremely dangerous condition, which is hardly amenable and called apathy.

  1. Methods of regulation and self-regulation states of kickboxer

Persuasion and suggestion have an impact on kickboxer from outside. Their task is not only to create the desired attitudes and states, encourage to immediate or delayed actions and cause volitional efforts, but also to lay the foundation for self-persuasion and autosuggestion. The outside forms improve and correct the system of self-regulation. Education and self-education in kickboxing are so closely intertwined that they can be divided only conditionally on:

  • Lectures and discussions for kickboxers;
  • Indirect suggestion;
  • Relaxation;
  • Suggested rest (Billingham 103; O’Keeffe 122).

Methods of self-regulation can be classified according to different schemes and principles. The proposed classification is based on the fact that the conscious self-regulation is the control and change of the content and direction of consciousness (O’Keeffe 130). Therefore, the most faithful principle is consideration of objects of consciousness. Such objects of consciousness can be divided into two groups: external and internal. The essence of external objects lies in the diversity of the surrounding human world. The essence of internal objects lies in the Ego. Each person creates the concept of their own Ego, which is always threefold: physical Ego, spiritual Ego and social Ego (O’Keeffe 133). Complex emotions that arise in the process of reflection and self-management of each of these Ego components form a big part of the process of self-regulation. Hence the three groups of methods of mental states self-regulation arise:

  • Control and regulation of tone of skeletal muscles, the rate of movement, special breathing exercises;
  • Narrative representations and imaginations, autosuggestions;
  • Variation of goal setting (O’Keeffe 141).


Improvement in terms of psychological training is aimed at improving the sensorimotor coordination, speed and accuracy of motor actions in a critical shortage of time in strange or unfamiliar surroundings. Summarizing the above, the several aspects can enhance endurance of kickboxer during the match. Such aspects may include: formation of psychological readiness to conduct combat with optimal energy consumption; stabilization of a high level development of the mind in a dangerous situation in the match in order to overcome the inhibitory (impulsive) kickboxer’s behavior; achieving a state of adaptation to any impact of extreme factors. Making the right decisions and their subsequent implementation using skills and abilities will also help during the match. Development of the anticipatory reactions, the ability to intensify movements and stabilize attention, the accuracy of spatial perception, the field of view, the evaluation of time and a whole range of other qualities can improve the endurance chances of winning during the match.

However, further work in this direction is only possible if there is a certain culture of mental activity, stable self-management skills and mental self.

Annotated Bibliography

Ashley, Scott. Kickboxing: A Champion’s Guide to Training. New York: Aeon Publishing Inc., 2009. Print.

“Great Scott” Ashley was awarded the title of U.S. Super Welterweight in June of 1993 and the title of World Super Welterweight in June of 1994. In this book, the author shares the secret of his victories, which consists in the right psychological condition and attitude to the trainings. The author analyzed training mental states, detailing the volitional and psychological preparations for the match. He also describes the differences between competitive and precompetitive mental states, emphasizing their four characteristics: indifference, combat readiness, fever and apathy. According to the author, every of these characteristics can play a decisive role in a fight, so he considers in detail each of them.

Billingham, Justyn. Kickboxing: From Beginner to Black Belt. New York, Crowood Press, 2008. Print.

The Justyn Billingham’s book explains how to reduce the risk of injury through the control and regulation of tone of skeletal muscles, the rate of movement and special breathing exercises. He examines kicks, punches and training drills as well as the methods of self-regulation of kickboxer. He emphasizes the crucial importance of education and especially self-education in kickboxing. He also examines the importance of ideomotoric training and comes to the conclusion that inclusion of ideomotoric training in the training can help improve the speed, strength and technical qualities of kickboxer.

Delp, Cristoph. Kickboxing: The Complete Guide to Conditioning, Technique, and Competition. Berkeley: Blue Snake Books, 2006. Print.

Kickboxing coach Cristoph Delp examines the basics of this kind of martial arts, sometimes pausing on mental aspects of fight conduct. He notes the importance of such concepts as thinking and attention during the match, emphasizing the concepts of operative and intuitive thinking. Delp analyzes in detail the value of attention as an integral part of kickboxing training. Author of the book managed to find these universal means to reveal the main secrets of skills, which are contained in the mental processes and states of the kickboxer’s body.

Gifford, Clive. Kickboxing. Mankato: Sea-to-Sea Publications, 2011. Print.

The author believes that kickboxing is a key to wellness, confidence and discipline. That is why he analyzes mental processes during the fight more than physical techniques. Gifford examines the concepts of visual and auditory analyzers and their place in the system of kickboxing. He emphasizes the importance of perception during fight and its important characteristic – constancy, which allows kickboxer to keep constant visual perception of the opponent. Along with visual and auditory analyzers, he also explains the concepts of motor, auditory, vestibular, tactile and speech analyzers and how they interact.

O’Keeffe, Pat. Kick Boxing: The Ultimate Guide to Conditioning, Sparring, Fighting, and More. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Print.

Pat O’Keeffe is a trainer, coach, and champion with thirty years of experience. His book contains dozens of techniques to prepare both mind and body for this exciting and dangerous kind of sports. His book allows embracing faster increase of the speed and power of the kicks, repeatedly improve the effectiveness of training at the expense of self-persuasion, autosuggestion and self-regulation. O’Keeffe examines methods of self-regulation, resulting in the concepts of internal and external objects of consciousness. He concludes his work with various techniques and tactics of the match, as well as methods of self-regulation of mental states.

Wells, Garrison. Muay Thai: Kickboxing Combat. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2012. Print.

The book examines the classic version of Muay Thai, including psychological aspects of fighting and training. Garrison Wells describes in detail the strategy of the fight, indicates the importance of the sensitivity and modality of musculoskeletal system, explains the essence of ideomotoric training and its role in the system of Muay Thai and kickboxing as a whole. Moreover, the book has illustrations for better assimilation of the material.

Works Cited

Ashley, Scott. Kickboxing: A Champion’s Guide to Training. New York: Aeon Publishing Inc., 2009. Print.

Billingham, Justyn. Kickboxing: From Beginner to Black Belt. New York, Crowood Press, 2008. Print.

Delp, Cristoph. Kickboxing: The Complete Guide to Conditioning, Technique, and Competition. Berkeley: Blue Snake Books, 2006. Print.

Gifford, Clive. Kickboxing. Mankato: Sea-to-Sea Publications, 2011. Print.

O’Keeffe, Pat. Kick Boxing: The Ultimate Guide to Conditioning, Sparring, Fighting, and More. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Print.

Wells, Garrison. Muay Thai: Kickboxing Combat. Minneapolis: Lerner Publications, 2012. Print.