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The Fighter's Mind: Inside the Mental Game Hardcover – February 2, 2010
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From Publishers Weekly
Sheridan (A Fighter's Heart) examines what contributes toward a successful mental approach in professional fighting, interviewing people such as mixed martial arts icon Randy Couture, legendary college wrestling coach Dan Gable, and tai chi master Josh Waitzkin. The author gains some interesting insights from his investigation. Losing, it turns out, is a crucial component behind a fighter's success. Confidence is fine, but ego is an evil thing, with humility being a great equalizer. Those interested in pugilistic psychology may find some value in Sheridan's reporting; for others, too often the sources' lessons sound similar, and the book frequently drifts into a lengthy, somnolent discourse on fighting styles. Sheridan also can't stay out of his own way; his first-person prose is clunky and long-winded. His misguided attempt to merge elements of memoir and sports journalism derails the book, keeping it from succeeding in either genre. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Starting with the premise, “We are all fighting something,” Sheridan follows his successful A Fighter’s Heart (2006) with a wide-ranging exploration of how great “fighters” succeed. Among those he profiles are 1972 Olympic gold-medal-winning wrestler Dan Gable, ultra-runner David Horton, mixed martial artist Randy Couture, 2004 Olympic gold-medal-winning boxer Andre Ward, and even chess wizard Josh Waitzkin (from Searching for Bobby Fischer). Some are defined not by their victories but by their defeats (boxer George Foreman); others need “killers in the room” (MMA champs); others win by a certain stealth (Ward)—not to mention thousands of hours of training. To explain just why these men do what they do, Sheridan says that fighting, in whatever forms that it takes, forces you to “learn who you are.” Like its predecessor, this book should find an audience well beyond the ring. --Alan Moores
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Sam also covers areas outside of fighting, but areas that are thematically related. He talks to David Horton about endurance running, and he talks to Josh Waitzkin about moving from chess to tai chi to jiu-jitsu. In each section, Sheridan lets the subject be as concise or explanatory as they need to be on the page. He interjects his own experience into the responses, always at the correct time and always with an astute bit to enhance what the passage is about.
I'd say that this isn't just the best combat sports book I've read. This is the best sports book I've read. It's the best psychology book I've read. It is as thorough a meditation on the human passion for fighting and testing oneself as has ever been written. If you are at all interested in mixed martial arts, boxing, traditional martial arts, the human mind, or competition, you owe it to yourself to check this book out. As far as Sam Sheridan's catalogue of modern combat sports goes, I can definitely say that he is the A.J. Liebling of this generation.
Each of the fighters he spends time with gives a different answer and Sheridan adds a little of his own experience. The book is not the typical sports psychology--think positive stuff--although Sheridan does cover that. I think every reader will walk away with a different answer as to what will make him or her better in whatever they do. Marcello Garcia sums it up most simply in the book, but again every reader will get something different, so I won't spoil it here.
Sheridan focuses on fighting, but touches on other competitive events so any competitive athlete will enjoy this book.