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IMGCA Article - The Mental Game of Martial Arts


Using Your Brain For a Change - The Inner Game of Martial Arts

Barry Hart

Mental preparation is as important as physical training in order to do your best, whether you're at an amateur or professional level in your martial art. This involves trusting yourself; relaxed concentration; visualization; and bodily sensations. I have used the following techniques with Tae Kwon Do colleagues to get rid of nerves, do great patterns, and kick butt in the ring. Ready? Let's go:

1) PREPARE: Sit in a comfortable position in a place free from distractions.

2) RELAX: Close your eyes, clear your mind, and focus on your breathing. Let yourself go loose, limp, and heavy or light.

3) VISUALIZATION: Imagine being in a special place, where you can be as you want to be.

4) ANCHORING: Rub the fingertips of your thumb and forefinger together on one hand, while saying a word or phrase to yourself that describes how you feel when in your special place, such as "focused" and "in control."

5) SELF-SUGGESTIONS: Tell yourself that from now on, whenever you rub your fingers together and say these words, it will bring back the feelings associated with being in your special place.

6) REHEARSAL: Remember doing something really well in your martial art. See this in your mind and experience the feelings in your body. Tell yourself that you're storing this memory deep in your mind and that it will flow when you need it to. Rub the same fingertips together again and think of a word or two that describes the experience of performing your martial art well. Tell yourself that whenever you rub your fingertips together and say these words, the feelings and memory will be available to you without effort. Repeat this procedure for whatever aspect of your martial art that you want to excel at.

7) SELF-AFFIRMATIONS: Tell yourself that you're learning a powerful technique to enhance your performance.

8) Return to focus on your breathing for a while.

9) Open your eyes and reorient to where you are.

Say the trigger word(s) from #4 and rub your fingers together if you want to calm down before an event. Rub your fingers together and use the trigger word(s) in #6 to bring back the mental and physical memory of that aspect of your martial art that you want to do well. This gets you into the "flow" or "the zone" to do your best.

Keep emotion out of it, don't ever berate yourself, and simply allow the changes to happen on their own. The mind has an uncanny ability of taking you where you repeatedly tell yourself you want to be. Practice your event BOTH physically and mentally. Either on its own isn't enough. Both together will help you to achieve your hidden potential in your martial art.

Barry B. Hart, Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist ( ), is a 1st dan in Tae Kwon Do, clinician, author, and speaker. He combines the techniques in this article with hypnosis in order to help enhance the performance of athletes in any sport.

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