The Bulletproof Musician has a blog post HERE about choking under pressure. Although he has contextualized for musicians, the principles remain true for anyone. The main idea is that anxiety interferes with attentive focus in action for 2 reasons:

  1. Exterior distraction (e.g.: “What are the people watching me thinking?, “Did I forget to turn off the oven?”, “What is going to happen if this guy hits me really hard with that heavy right hand?”, “What technique am I going to use now that he has shifted to that position?”) All these thoughts take you out of your subconscious controls, and require you to start diverting some of your attentiveness to judgements, instead of becoming pure action- which is what we must have in combat.
  2. Interior Monitoring (e.g.: “Now I shift to the left foot”, “I’m dropping my weight while I hit”, “strike and breath out”, etc) All of these thoughts require one to manually focus on doing the techniques correctly, instead of letting things take place on the subconscious.

Becoming aware of what one is doing is a useful skill: in practice. Considering the ramifications of one’s actions is a necessary practice: prior to the action, and possibly in retrospect as well. But when the swords are clashing, the bullets are flying, the fists are pumping: there is no room for this, and you will overload your mind with anxiety and decrease your performance.

Every wonder why you’ve played a game so much better when nobody was watching? People bring the opportunity for exterior distraction. Ever wondered why your performance was better when you started an activity, and decreased over time? Possibly you began to focus so much on judging your performance in the process, that the mind could not focus in on inhabiting the process.

“Too many mind.”