Monday, November 15, 2010

A Mental Drill that Will Make You a Better Fighter!

You know, there never seems to be enough time in the day to get your training in. Even if we did have all day to train we’d still need quite a bit of time to rest and recover to get the most out of our training. Fortunately for us there is a way to improve your performance without adding any additional physical training. All you need to do is visualize yourself fighting an opponent.

As you may have already guessed it isn’t exactly as simple as that.

The Power of Visualization
It has been known for quite awhile that mentally rehearsing a skill or exercise will improve one’s performance of that activity – several studies have shown this to be true (link1, link2). In many cases the research has shown that those who work solely with visualizing improve almost as much as those who actually physically practice an activity. The groups that both visualize AND physically practice improve the most. This technique is not only used by elite level athletes but also by famous musicians and even politicians. Basically, if you want improve a particular skill – like, say, your fighting ability – you want to start visualizing the task as well as physically practicing it.
Visualization Practice
You could jump head first into this whole “visualization thing” by just grabbing a comfy chair in a quiet room and start visualizing away. But, I think you could get more out of the practice if you first laid the proper groundwork.
Proper visualization is more than just creating images in your head. You have to really recreate the whole scene in your mind. For a fighter this could mean: the feel of the ground or mat beneath your feet, the way your headgear feels and smells (if you’re doing the visualization to improve your sparring), that sharp exhaling sound you and your opponent make when you strike, ect… The whole “image” can get pretty complex. Such a level of complexity requires huge amounts of focus and willpower to get right. For this reason I suggest that you exercise your mind with a simple focus meditation.
Focus Meditation –
This is a pretty simple exercise but it will help you build the focus you need to create a proper visualization scenario later.
Start off sitting up in a comfortable position with your back straight (you don’t want to be slouching or lying back for this). Close your eyes and begin doing some deep, slow breathing in and out of your nose. As you breath begin counting your breaths. At first you will notice that your mind begins to wander after a couple breaths. When this occurs gently bring your attention back to the breathing and the counting. Your goal is to focus solely on the counting. You’ve developed some pretty good levels of concentration when you can count to 100 without losing focus.
Visualize the Fight –
Now we’re going to get into the actual visualization training. It really is a simple practice, it just takes a lot of concentration.
Begin by sitting as you did in the Focus Meditation. Before you get into the actual visualization you will need to create within yourself a relaxed atmosphere. To do this close your eyes and start doing some deep breathing. Bring your attention to your feet and take a deep inhalation. As you exhale release any tension you may have in your feet – feel them relax deeply. Continue using your exhalations to release the tension in your body as your work your way up to your head – calves, knees, thigh, hip/glutes/groin, lower abdomen/lower back, chest/upper back/shoulders, arms/hands, neck, and head. If you feel any tension return to any body part return to it and exhale/release the tension.
Now comes the part where we do some actual visualizations. Beforehand you should decide what you want to be working on. Will it be a simple combo? Do you want to work on improving your sparring? Do you have a fight or tournament coming up that you want to prepare for? Are you going to run through a self defense or street fight scenario? Bottom line is: you need a goal before you start the practice.
For the sake of argument let’s assume you want to improve your confidence when sparring. After running yourself through the relaxation sequence you’re going to begin to create your mental image.
Start off by imagining you and your sparring partner are squared off in your gym or dojo. Imagine the sparring session from beginning to end. Make it as vivid as possible. Here are some tips to make your visualization session as effective as possible:
·         Imagine an opponent who is either really tough or is someone who has beaten you in the past. For example, if you’re working on improving your sparring choose a sparring partner who seems to always have the upper hand in your real life training sessions.
·         Make sure the scenario has a positive outcome! There is no use in you visualizing getting beat up my your imaginary opponent. Instead see yourself absolutely dominating your opponent.
·         Make it as real as possible. I simply can’t stress this enough: you have to imagine and visualize every detail about the encounter. The sights, sounds, smells, and feeling all have to be there.
·         Make sure you aren’t going to be distracted. Ideally you want to set aside some time when you know you won’t be disturbed. There is nothing worse than going through all the effort to set up a visualization session only to be interrupted in the middle of it.
You should begin to see results after 2-3 sessions (some people see improvement after the first). The great thing is the more you use it alongside your regular training the better you become.

Train Hard,
Josh Skinner (donjitsu2)

1 comment:

  1. This is what I would call Internal Training. Very nice how you broke it down into smaller exercises. I wouldn't have thought of that.