The enabled researcher

The enabled researcher

The enabled researcher

The enabled researcher is a blog about higher education and all things postgraduate and researcher focussed. Specialising in training development, student progression monitoring and behavioural frameworks

The first rule of fight club – what boxing tells us about the way we learn and approach to mental health?

Training & DevelopmentPosted by Davina May 02, 2015 12:48

On the eve of the Mayweather v Pacquiao fight which has been billed as the ‘most lucrative fight in history in Las Vegas’ ( I think it’s a good time to consider what boxing has to offer training and development. The strategies which are core to the sport are transferrable to the learning experience, some of these include:

  • * Understanding yourself, your strengths, weaknesses and how these could be developed or exposed.
  • *Having a ‘game plan’ and a ‘fall-back’ position to enable you to get through the fight in the same way we can understand the training needed and the importance of a plan to work to.
  • * Managing yourself and your energy to avoid burn out. This is important in high stress situations but is a common issue for researchers, knowing how much energy or push to give without exhausting reserves.

Burn out is a particular concern and the structure of ‘boxing rounds’ provides a useful approach in breaking things down into smaller or ‘bite-sized’ chunks.

According to SHIFT's eLearning Blog 'bite-sized has always been the right size' ( With many elearning providers and higher education institutions now choosing to promote training and development in this way, what are the benefits? SHIFTs approach states that bite-sized learning improves psychological engagement:

'It takes away boredom itself. Instead of spending 90 or more minutes, learners will be motivated to consume short, snappy yet meaningful content.

This approach can help prevent mental burnout. Moreover, it encourages students to carefully process information—not hastily and thoughtlessly consume an overwhelming amount of data.'

My personal thought on this is that we like to measure our own improvement and development. By having a series of bite-sized modules, this helps us visualise and track progress as well as preventing content overload.

The first rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club! The second rule of fight club is that you don’t talk about fight club! The third rule… well you know how this goes! This familiar phrase from the 1999 film ‘Fight Club’ is apt to discuss important mental health issues which are not currently being addressed. In the film and novel we see the main character fight with others and himself as he struggles to deals with his own stresses and emotions with dramatic consequences. The real life struggles that exist for those with mental health issues are serious and should be considered. Whilst we may not see them manifest as a film or as violence we do need be aware of them and make adjustments in a learning and development context.

As the first rule of fight club states, we don’t talk about it! This is true to all mental health issues and whilst stress is now being more actively discussed, most people are still reluctant to talk about mental health more generally. An open approach is required and there is a training need to understand more about it so that we can identify issues, know how to approach and provide support where it is needed.

What we think and feel affects every part of our lives and so will impact the way we learn, can receive information and the ability to take it on-board. There needs to be wider recognition of mental health but not as a disability which it is often seen as but as a different learning style. There is some evidence to suggest that coaching techniques such as ‘mindfulness’ may benefit adults with mental health issues and these techniques may also prove beneficial to the wider learning community to help focus on the training activity. It’s important to consider from a development perspective that those with mental health issues may need different learning support. This could be providing additional time, packaging training in a different way or simply being more aware about these issues. Many learners ‘fight’ on a daily basis to simply get through the day if they are under stress. Finding the time to learn and the ‘mental space’ to retain information can be challenging. Stress is considered to be on the lower end of the spectrum of mental health issues so you can imagine the difficulties which may be encountered by those with more serious health issues. However, if we can understand these challenges better and see it from the learners perspective perhaps we can develop a way to cater for all learners training needs.

It’s round one – the need to support mental health issues in a learning environment is only just starting to be recognised. We now need to consider, what we can do to facilitate learning and support this moving forward and get ready for the next round! Seconds out…..

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