Wrestling Mental Toughness

wrestling mental toughness post- a picture of UFC champ Jon Jones holding his belt during a photo shoot.
“Simply Brilliant!”

Ok, before getting into wrestling mental toughness and how you can train and develop it, I want to first get your attention.

You see that guy on the right?

Yeah, that’s a former High School and College Wrestler.

On top of that he’s also the champion of some fighting organization known as the UFC.

Maybe you’ve heard of it.

Anyway, Jon has known the man I’m going to talk about today for quite some time.

Want to know what he says about him and his wrestling mental toughness teachings?

“Simply Brilliant!”

-Jon “Bones” Jones

Or perhaps you know the fellow below…

A picture of Kenny Florian in his fighting stance during a photo shoot.

I heard he’s pretty good and here’s what he had to say:

“The Winning Mind Set is a fantastic weapon that gives you the firepower to really succeed!”

-Kenny “KenFlo” Florian

And finally, maybe you recognize this famous guy who as posted about wrestling mental toughness before…

Wrestling Mental Toughness

I’m a funny guy, aren’t I?!?!

Anyway, that’s just me with one of my little dogs, Tricia.

And here’s what I have to say about Sifu Kevin Seaman and how he his mental training has impacted my life.

Mental Training From Kevin Seaman

Although I was familiar with him before, I remember my first real “Sifu experience” when he came to present on wrestling mental toughness at my old gym.

You should have seen the number of future State Champs, All-Americans, and National Champions there, including Kyle Dake.

He opened with something along the lines of:

“We all have heard of it and are familiar with it. We hear the terms ‘mental toughness’ and ‘mental training’ all the time in wrestling. But too often these traits are believed to be innate. You’re either born mentally tough or you’re not. Well what if I told you that you can in fact learn, train, and improve your mental toughness, would you be interested?”

The ultimate sales pitch on wrestling mental toughness. I was hooked!

Sifu went on to discuss strategies that we could use to make us more mentally tough and then he led us through a visualization exercise.

All in all it was a great experience that I’m sure everyone who attended can still recall to this day.

But it wasn’t until I purchased some of his books (The Winning Mindset and The Mind Game Of MMA) that I really started to notice a huge difference in my development.

Although I learn new things every time I read or listen to the two books above (I’ve read both at least 5 times and I listen to The Winning Mindset CDs when I drive), I’d like to share with you a couple of the biggest lessons I’ve learned.

My Favorite Lessons On Wrestling Mental Toughness

#1 Be a learner.

This is by far the most important lesson I learned. I’m sure it will make a profound impact on your wrestling mental toughness.

I remember reading about it in The Winning Mindset the first time and it was as though he was reaching through the pages and grabbing and shaking my head Billy Madison style…

Man that was a great movie.

Anyway, basically what Sifu was getting at was that instead of going to practice focused on winning and dominating everyone, instead focus on learning.

What this meant to me was the opposite of what I was brought up on. I was always told that everyday was a battle in the wrestling room and that it was my job to dominate my practice partner at all times.

Instead of being focused on dominating and winning, which is what competition is for, Sifu suggests that you go to practice with the mindset that you’re there to learn and grow as a wrestler.

Let me tell you, it seems basic. But it’s the basics that win. Actually, let me rephrase that- it’s the basics that, when put into practice, win!

Putting this into practice that made a huge difference between my ability to develop as a wrestler and to develop as a MMA fighter.

In fact, just a year into my training after only my 3rd amateur fight, a big promoter in Massachusetts told me I have the skills to be ranked in the top 2 or 3 of the Pro New England rankings!

I attribute this to my new found ability to go into each and every training session focused on learning rather than just tapping out everyone I can or hitting the pads as hard as I can.

Instead I was there just to learn, and let me tell you, it’s completely changed the rate at which I developed in all aspects of my life. Apply this lesson to your life and watch your wrestling mental toughness reach a new level!

#2 Why Can’t I?

Have you ever asked yourself:

Why can’t I beat this guy?

Why can’t I take this guy down?

I’ve been known to do this. In fact, I used to all the time.

And every time I asked myself a “why can’t I” question I always came up with really negative answers.

Why can’t I beat this guy?

Because he’s better than you, he’s faster than you, he’s stronger than you, etc.

Why can’t I take this guy down?

Because he has more experience than you, he has better technique than you, etc.

Ultimately I’d be telling myself that I can’t do it because I suck!

Wow, what a great thing to tell myself. I bet it did a number for my confidence!

So what magical thing did Sifu tell me to change this?

Simple- change “why can’t I?” to “how can I?”

Seems stupid right?

But think about it…

How can I beat this guy?

I can go to practice 4 times a week instead of 2 times. I can add 4 more sets to my weight training routine. I can stay at practice an extra 15 minutes. I can do exercises to improve my wrestling mental toughness.

How can I take this guy down?

I can work on my setups. I can watch tape with my coach. I can do this and I can do that…

See how you find solutions to your problems instead of beating yourself up?

Another simple tip that makes a world of difference.

Thank You, Sifu.

These are just 2 of the many tips I’ve read about in Sifu’s books that have made big improvements in my training and life.

I can’t say enough about him other than you should treat yourself to his lessons.

Below is a link to a free chapter from his latest book, The Mind Game Of MMA.

While it’s not specific to wrestling mental toughness, the lessons are very similar.

In fact, all you really need to do is replace “MMA” with “wrestling” and it has everything you need to make huge improvements on your development and performances.

Wrestling Mental Toughness- Free Chapter

This next passage is directly from The Mind Game of MMA:

I ask every athlete and coach these two questions, and I am now going to ask you. First, “In competition, how much of an athlete’s success is attributed to their physical ability and how much is based on the mental aspects that an individual possesses and utilizes?”

My question has been confirmed with a variety of statements, 50/50, 30% physical and 70% mental are the usual, yet all will admit that the mental component is critical to the outcome.

I have trained amateur and high-level Pro fighters for decades and I know the kind of ass-busting physical commitment that is required during a training camp to get in “fighting shape.”

If you have a great coach you work both offense and defense. You work hard to be in peak condition, you work your standup, your footwork, your takedowns, your clinch, and you work your grappling game.

Now here’s my second question. “So what do you do to train your Mind Game?”

At this point most of the people just stare off searching for an answer.

I have the answer!

First of all, winning is a state of mind. If you aren’t training the mental aspects needed to be the best in competition, you’re at most training at 50% of your potential.

As a teacher and coach of martial arts and martial athletics for over 35 years it is obvious to me that prior to, and during competition the mental aspects that are used by the performer are absolutely as crucial as the physical qualities.

It is what we call a critical success factor, which we will cover in complete detail later.

A Mental Toolbox

In this book, I will give you some valuable keys utilized by many of the top athletes in the world and formulated by some of the leading coaches. Let’s start by building a Mental Toolbox, filled with the basic tools necessary to become the fighter or coach that you want to be.

Here are the first five tools. As we progress through each lesson, we will add to your Mental Toolbox.

#1 A Belief in Yourself and Your Team

Your beliefs are based on the references you focus on, which in turn support that belief. These references (experiences) can be first hand (personal), second hand (you were told, you read, you saw), or imagined references and you can substantiate your empowerment, giving you confidence or also create the opposite effect, depending on your mindset.

Our mind works by moving us in the direction of what we focus on. Focusing on our losses (what we don’t want) supports the belief that we will lose again and directs us toward all the possibilities surrounding our looses. In contrast, when we focus on our wins, we create a sense of strength through the possibility of continued victory.

Our mind always leads us in the direction of our dominant thoughts.

“If you believe, then you have already taken the first step towards your achievement.” -Rickson Gracie

#2 Visualize To Win

See it, then achieve it. Athletes have long used mental imagery prior to an event, just as warriors have before engaging in battle.

Did you know that your subconscious mind can’t really tell the difference between experiencing something vividly in your mind and actually doing it? In fact, the neuro-receptors in your brain respond almost identically.

Your thoughts, self-talk and inner visions (visualizations) are electro-chemical events that affect your performance on every level. Visualizing is a skill that needs to be honed, just like footwork, throws, positioning, locking and striking.

When visualizing, focus on these four keys- Vividness, Frequency, Consistency, and Duration. When using these four qualities for visual success you will see amazing results in your overall performance.

This may just be the missing key that will unlock your potential and take you to a level you’ve never before achieved. When you see yourself performing with intensity and emotion over and over, focused on the outcome you expect, your subconscious accepts that as real.

Your BELIEFS become your REALITY.

It will be convincingly apparent by your outward confidence that you are completely committed toward your directive and you will perform as though it were another victory.

See it first in your mind’s eye and then achieve it in your life.


For the rest of this chapter, click the image below to download it in PDF format.

mental training

And of course, if you have any questions or comments about mental toughness training please feel free to leave them below and I’ll get to them ASAP.

Related Posts:

What I Learned From GSP

How To Get Mentally Tough This Season

A Mental Lesson That Slapped Me In The Face

Too Focused On Being A Winner??

The Secret To Success

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.


Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.


Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.


16 Comments. Leave new

  • Awesome, I want to put this on my website!!! I’m always talking about this in some way or another! The mind tires before the body.

  • matt,

    feel free to put it up; i really appreciate it.

    also, if you’re interested in me doing a guest post i’d be more than happy to contribute to your site. just let me know some of the topics that would most benefit your team.

    thanks for stopping by and for the comment. talk to you later man.


  • I enjoyed reading this today, sir.

  • #2 Why can’t I? Thinking positively to get to where you want to be, is so overlooked sometimes. It will deffinately carry over to my lifting. You can’t always go to the gym and lift everything because you won’t get anywhere to fast. Instead you have to think and choose lifts that best carry over.

  • I definitely agree with you there. I remember when I first read about the “Why can’t I? vs. How can I?” and it just jumped off the page, much like the Billy Madison scene from above. Asking myself “How can I?” will definitely help your lifting. Just think- when you ask yourself “How can I bench more?” you’ll say to yourself “well, I need to read more, back off on pressing, adjust my technique, etc.” And with solutions in mind, you’ll act on making improvements and take a proactive approach rather than just sit home and verbally beat yourself up after a bad training session like I used to.

  • This is a very interesting post. I always believe that learning has nothing to do with age. You can learn new things till you want. The why can’t I? attitude is very important to get yourself somewhere in life. That positive energy and attitude is what lacks in many of us.

    • Thanks for stopping by Richa. I agree, the “why can’t I?” vs. “how can I?” really makes a big difference in achieving your goals and helping you to move forward in life. Sifu Kevin Seaman has a ton of lessons to offer. If you’re not so much interested in the specifics of MMA/combat sports, his original book is also on sale on Amazon- The Winning Mindset. For under $15 I can’t think of a less expensive way to have such a positive impact on your life.

  • Really great lessons. Why vs How really made me think about how i should train. I started wrestling 3yrs ago and caught on quick and fell in love with the sport. Each year i improved a lot but still have to split time between jv and varsity which really angers me. i always asked myself why cant i beat my practice partner enough to be on varsity or why cant i win more than i lose. this summer im going to be workingout a lot and going to a wrestling camp and make being a better wrestler one of my priorities. i’ll be thinking “how can I” every workout and force myself to be the best i can be.

    • Thanks for the comment Anthony. I really think you’re going to benefit from the “how can I” principle. It’s made a huge difference in how I approach training and life in general. Keep me posted with how everything is going and feel free to leave me more comments if you have any questions on mental training for wrestling, or any other topic for that matter. Talk to you later man.

      • Hey thanks a lot for the reply man. Ive got an intensive wrestling camp im going to in about a month or so and was wandering if u had any conditioning workouts i could do to prepare myself and get the most out of the camp.

  • Thanks for such an engrossing share . I agree with you that a winning mindset works as an inner motivation and pushes one to deliver persistent efforts . The line stated by you that it’s the basics, that when put into practice, that win bolsters confidence to achieve even the toughest . Wonderful share .

  • Be it wrestling or any other thing, a positive mindset is surely needed. Always being a learner is very important. Notone at any point of time can learn everythng. A learning attitude always helps in life. There is always a huge different betweeen II can’t and can’t I. One needs ot chose out of the two.

  • One of the key components of mental toughness is learning how to condition your mind to think confidently and be able to overcome self-critical negativity,this post is definitely interesting and I must say that it is highly applicable to everyday life. Thanks!

  • The key to mental toughness is applying consistently the traits of self motivation, positive attitude, emotional self control, calmness under fire, and being energetic and ready for action, exactly how I would like to live my life. Great content. Thanks.


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