Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Positive Visualization for Martial Artists

I don't get to practice nearly as much as I want to. I have a day job that makes it hard to just randomly do a form in the hallway, and punching or kicking my coworkers violates many HR policies. When I get to class, I'm teaching. Before and after class, people ask me questions. Home is for sleeping and grabbing a clean dobohk before the next day.

A long time ago, I was reading a story about a famous grandmaster in a Chinese system. A student was charged the intimidating task of picking him up at the airport and bringing him to the school. During the car ride, he tried to start some small talk despite the language gap and asked "Sir, you are constantly traveling from school to school; when do you find time to train?" The master looked up and said to him "I'm training right now."

At first, the student thought he was being blown off, but came to realize an important lesson from that discussion. You don't have to be sweating or moving to be training.

I often review forms in my head. It is not as easy as it sounds, because I am as close to ADD as one can be. To get through an entire form without distraction takes serious focus on my part.

Of course, I occasionally just walk through the moves to keep it fresh in my head, but that is very different than practicing it in my head. What would you do if your students walked half-heartedly through a form in class? Probably yell at them or swing a stick!

Same goes for practicing in one's head. When doing so, I try to employ positive visualization techniques. Before competing or demonstrating, I take the week up to that point to visualize my performance. I focus on what I know to be my weaker points, such as eye contact, posture, use of the off hand, and see myself doing the form perfectly. If I'm competing in sword, I visualize my step and cut ending in time, I feel the swing and step in my mind. I hear the blade cut the air.

The convenient part about using visualization is that time doesn't always work in the same way. Mid technique, I can stop, correct myself and move towards success. Sometimes, doing a hyung "correctly" can take me up to 15 minutes.

When I practice for real, I can focus more on those weak points, remembering the feeling from earlier visualizations. I'm not sure how to explain it better, but it honestly works.

Has anyone else tried this method with success?
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