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Meditation—described as a deep inner peace occurring when the mind can be rendered calm and silent—has been an integral part of mixed martial arts legend Frank Shamrock’s training regimen since he made his 1994 pro debut in Tokyo.
This underutilized practice aids in recovery—it’s been proven to help reduce pain, stress, and anxiety and to improve sleep. But it can also be employed as a pregame motivator, the way the 45-year-old former UFC middleweight champ has used it his entire career. This includes his return to the ring this past October to face nemesis Kazushi Sakuraba.
With the lights out, Shamrock—a spokesman for Athletes for Care, a nonprofit advocacy group created to help retired athletes find alternate solutions for chronic pain and other medical issues—lies on the floor of his empty dressing room, distracted by only the packed arena’s sounds and vibrations. Shamrock begins his deep, rhythmic breathing journey down what he describes as “a long, dark, mythical stairway.” The deeper the descent, he says, the deeper the breathing becomes until he finds himself “floating.” From there, it’s fight time.
“I had a really pleasant meditation journey before the Sakuraba fight,” says Shamrock, who forced a draw with Sakuraba. “Because there was so much energy in the air, I got to a really great place of calm, where I could feel a connection to the arena.”
Shamrock (frankshamrock.com) describes his meditation practice as a necessary brain-rewiring device. “As a rehabilitative tool, it’s just tremendous,” says Shamrock. “You can relax your mind, get new thoughts going, and then take new actions that create new understandings and help you build out your brain.”