A little psychological framing can go a long way in fight sports. Using schemas to accomplish your goals is probably the only other high value addition you can make to your process that will predict your success or failure when the time comes to test what you know against an opponent. That's when whatever mask you wear for the outside world falls away and what is left is what is real.
And it might not be pretty.
Although masks can be helpful, the distance between who you truly are and what those masks represent is not something you want to foster in your training. Closing the distance between the two is important to sustained growth and, ultimately, authenticity in everything you do.
The key is to encourage low-effort, automatic thinking as often as you can. This is the type of thinking that we do without, well, thinking; it's easy that way and provides a lot of efficiency in our lives.
This is what the "bro" coaches and athletes like to collectively refer to as "muscle memory" and, even though people are fond of saying muscles don't have memories, your nervous system certainly does. Score one for the bros, I suppose.
This low effort thinking, known as schemas, allows for quick decision making with minimal pause--something we probably want in the middle of a fight. Schemas have three levels of accessibility and they are as follows:
When a schema has been made accessible through recent experiences, like a good warm up, we say that the schema has been primed. Primed schemas can often influence how we interpret situations.
This is why the warm up before walking out to a fight is so essential. It brings to fore all the schemas a fighter will come to rely on well before the first exchange in the ring or cage occurs.
Whether an accessible schema will be used to interpret our social environment ultimately depends on whether the schema is applicable/relevant to the situation at hand, and whether the schema is over-ridden through high-effort thinking processes.
You need those high-effort thinking processes when you're dealing with things like self-fulfilling prophecy. Self-fulfilling prophecy can explain why once developed, schemas about ourselves and others – both positive and negative - are so resistant to change. It takes a great deal of effort and an awareness to overcome these attitudes.
Another way to navigate schema is through culture. This is why choosing the right coaches, training partners, and facility can be crucial in creating your fighter schema.
Culture often serves as a schema to help us select what to focus on, and how to interpret what we encounter.
Cultural schemas tend to be shared by certain cultural groups rather than by individuals, and that can be most helpful to a person when feeling overwhelmed or frightened.
Cultural schemas for social interactions are cognitive structures that contain knowledge for face-to-face interactions in one's cultural environment. Nishida (1999) points out the eight primary types for generating human behavior for social interactions. These eight schemas are also referred to as Primary Social Interaction (PSI) schemas.
That's enough about schemas for now. The main thing to take from this is that much of your thinking happens at a level you might not even be aware of or give consideration to in your day to day activities.
That can and most likely does happen in your training, too.
Knowing that and how it all impacts your actions is one of those things that may seem intellectually intimidating, but comes quickly with a some studying and effort. While everyone else is chasing life hacks and shortcuts with little to no basis in science, you can bypass all that pop psychology noise and build off real scientific classifications that are studied and repeatable. In other words, none of this n=1 crap that people rely on to sell snake oil.
Thinking isn't hard, but thinking about thinking is; metacognition is something that can change your life once you grasp it. Your game might be fine, but how is your meta game?