As well as being a clinical hypnotherapist and musician, I am also a big fan of boxing. To be a good boxer you must be strong, fast, fit, brave, and have a tough mentality. Any weakness in any area will be spotted and exploited by your opponent. You need so many positive attributes just to be competitive. As a young boy I would stay up late at night to watch people such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Mike Tyson, Frank Bruno, Nigel Benn, and Lennox Lewis.
When I was a teenager I began buying boxing videos and watching older fight footage. I stumbled upon Muhammad Ali, who I’d never seen before as he was just before my time. I enjoyed watching this brash young fighter who was as quick with his mouth as he was with his hands. A fighter who could talk a great fight, but importantly could back it up with his fists. I loved his style, both in and out of the ring, and became a fan, buying more and more archive videos of him.
I didn’t realise it at the time, but looking back I now realise that Muhammad Ali was great at self hypnosis. He would use so many positive affirmations towards himself all the way through his career. He particularly boasted about being ‘the greatest’, would often correctly predict what round he would win a fight in, and would always be looking to gain a psychological advantage over his opponents.
He would even devise metaphors about himself such as “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.” and “I'm so fast that last night I turned off the light switch in my hotel room and was in bed before the room was dark.” These types of vivid pictorial quotes could be easily absorbed by an opponents unconscious mind, causing them to over estimate how good Ali was, making them doubt themselves before they even stepped into the ring.
Ali fully understood the importance of positive self affirmations. He once commented that “At home I am a nice guy: but I don't want the world to know. Humble people, I've found, don't get very far.”
“It's the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.”
When Ali first challenged for the world title at the very young age of 22, he was up against the mighty Charles ‘Sonny’ Liston. With an immensely powerful punch and jab, Liston was at the time regarded as one of the greatest heavyweight in the history of the sport. Although Ali boasted an impressive unbeaten record, no one realistically gave him a chance.
Instead of freezing like a rabbit and being frightened like many of Liston’s previous opponents, the young Ali confronted Liston at the weigh in before the fight. He acted like a crazy man, calling Liston ‘an ugly bear’. He even arranged with his assistant trainer Drew Bundini Brown to ‘hold him back’ when Ali pretended he wanted to fight there and then. Although Liston was a fearless warrior, he had never encountered anyone ‘crazy’ before. He didn’t seem to quite know what to make of this young fighter. This was new to him, and probably unsettled him a great deal before the fight. Needless to say, against all expectations there was a new champion at the end of the fight.
A regular tactic of Ali was to insult and wind up his opponents before, and sometimes during a fight. This often made them angry and tense, which wasted a lot of their energy, and often made them forget their fight strategy as they looked to shut him up.
Ali did this throughout his long boxing career. Even as a 12 years old amateur, Ali would poke his head inside his opponent's locker room asking, 'Which one of you is the guy I'm beating up tonight?’
According to Lynne McTaggart in her book “The Intention Experiment”, Muhammad Ali would often rehearse his fights in his head as if they were real. Apparently before one of his fights with Joe Frazier he would imagine “the fatigue in his legs, the sweat pouring off his body, the pain in his kidneys and bruises on his face, the flash of photographers, the exultant screams of the crowd, even the moment when the referee lifts his arm in victory...” This is classic visualisation technique of visualising the success that you want, and is used a great deal in hypnosis. If you want to be a great football player, then simply visualize yourself doing really well at the highest level.
Ali would say himself that "Champions aren't made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them: A desire, a dream, a vision.”
This tally’s with what Napoleon Hill taught, and can be used for success in any venture. Find out exactly what you want (in Ali’s case it was to be the greatest boxer ever), and spend your energy focusing on that positive thing that you want. If Ali kept talking about not wanting to be the worst boxer it wouldn’t have inspired him at all.
Another good example of Ali’s positive thinking can been seen during an interview where his continued boasts were met by Howard Cosell saying “Muhammad, you’re being extremely truculent.” Ali simply replied “Whatever truculent mean, if that’s good I’m it.”
Ali simply refused to lie down, in every sense. He was known to have a chin made of stone, and took shots off some of the hardest punches to ever grace the sport, and be totally unfazed. Ali, later in his career, even encouraged the very hard hitting young George Foreman to repeatedly punch him in order to tire him out. Ali the older of the two men won by shear desire and determination. He was not as young or big and strong as the champion Foreman, but he found a way to win. He convinced himself through repetition that he was the greatest, so his mind and body refused to give in, and found a way to succeed.
Out of the ring Ali was equally as determined. He refused to fight in the Vietnam war because he didn’t believe it was right. He went to prison for a short time, and was not allowed to box for 4 years, but still refused to go to war for a cause he did not believe in. He made up his mind of what he was going to do (or not do in this case) and stood by his decision firmly, regardless of the consequences. This strength of mind is what helped bring him his success both as a boxer and human being. Ali seemed far more aware than most that he must use his mind in a certain way if he wanted the success that he yearned for. He literally thought his way to success using various hypnotic and psychological techniques that were probably intuitively learned by him.
Sure Ali talked the talk, but he also walked the walk. His repeated use of positive affirmations and visualisation helped him achieve ‘greatness’, and inspire millions of others around the world. And he continues to inspire millions even to this very day.