Article by Tony Sokol

Mental focus and concentration are as important in sports as physical training as far as attaining a winning mindset. Visualization exercises can increase confidence and strength and even help athletes cope with post-game pain. Mixed martial artist Miesha Tate, who is the current Women’s Bantamweight Champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, recently added hypnosis to her training regimen.

Tate, who became a wrestler while attending Franklin Pierce High School in Tacoma, Washington, was the first UFC fighter, male or female, to win a world title by submission in the final round when she choked out Holly Holm at UFC 196. Tate began her professional mixed martial arts career in 2007. She won the bantamweight championship of the Freestyle Cage Fighting promotion in 2009, the Strikeforce Women’s Bantamweight Championship in 2011. She has also won a silver medal in the FILA Grappling Championships.

Tate is more than just a winning athlete. She is a model who posed for such outlets as ESPN The Magazine and Fitness Gurls, and an actress who is featured in the video game EA Sports UFC and will be seen in the upcoming feature film Fight Valley. Tate also hosts The Miesha Tate Show, a podcast which recently profiled Dr. Marc Savard, a leading comedy hypnotist with a residency at Las Vegas’ Planet Hollywood.

“Comedy hypnotist Marc Savard explains the difference between the conscious and the subconscious mind,” Tate wrote on her website. “This episode is funny yet informative as Marc will walk you through the intricacies of the mind!If you’re ever in Las Vegas make sure to check out his comedy hypnosis show at Planet Hollywood, it will have you spewing tears of laughter!”

The podcast convinced Tate to explore the benefits of hypnotherapy.

Tate is a fighter who knows what it is like to endure pain. In the first round of her 2012 Strikeforce title bout against Ronda Rousey, she was caught in an arm bar, but fought through a swollen jaw and nose to victory.

“I definitely built up a tolerance to pain and to adversity because I competed against men for the majority of my career, at least four years straight,” Tate said. “It was mostly against men, 90 percent of the time I would say. Obviously, being a female in a male-driven contact, combat sport, it was one of those things where you either had to sink or swim. You had to accept the fact that you were going to be in adverse situations. But you learned to understand that you’d be down but never out.”

Hypnosis does for the mind what physical activity does for the body. Athletes perform better when they can relax mentally and focus. Hypnosis can be used to help control anxiety and manage stress. It can also go deeper, helping athletes cope with automatic stress responses from fears of repeated injury to “trigger freeze” or “target panic.” Sport psychologists can teach athletes how to replace positive predictions for negative self-fulfilling prophesies.

The mixed martial artist also found hypnosis helpful as a way to learn from tactical athletic mistakes

“If you want to get better, you have to be willing to try everything,” Tate recently told Yahoo Sports News. “I thought I could benefit from the mental training, I guess you could call it. I firmly believe you don’t need a problem or an issue to benefit from soul searching. I don’t mean that in a religious sense, but from being in tune with yourself, your energy, your mental state.”

Many athletes, coaches and psychologists recommend sports hypnosis to enhance the mental state during training and competition. Boxing legend Mike Tyson regularly went to a hypnotherapist to reinforce his confidence. Athletes have to get “in the zone,” the natural state of trance that occurs when they are on their game. The psychological advantage of sport hypnosis kicks in during crunch time.

The adventurous Tate says she is open to the therapeutic tools of the subconscious fearless competitor.

“I hear so many people say fighting is 90-percent mental,” she told Yahoo Sports News. “We all put all this time in working out and preparing our bodies, but if it’s 90-percent mental, why do we put so little time into training our minds?”

“You know, I’ve never had any reservation about trying something to make myself better, because even if it is just one percent, that makes you a more difficult opponent,” she said. “The point is, there are talented girls coming out of the woodwork who are tough, and who are capable of winning. You need to evolve with them, or the sport will pass you by. And so all I’m doing is trying to give myself the best chance.”