It's a weird and wonderful thing, this mind of ours. I don't claim to be any sort of brain or cognitive expert, but I do have one (that might be up for debate in some circles, but this is my blog, so I get to make my own assertions). I would even venture to say that I use it on occasion, too. It's no secret that I am preparing for my upcoming black belt test in my karate studies. It's a very challenging task, both physically, and mentally. The physical part is hard--not just hard, but grueling, exhausting, and daunting. The mental aspect is even harder. The mental part fuels the gumption to push through the physical parts, to not give up, to keep going, to finish and finish well.
But there is another side to the mental aspect of my karate studies. It's not just the test of character. It's more basic than that. The test is also a test of knowledge and memory and recall. There will be approximately 150 techniques that I will need to be able to demonstrate proficiency and the ability to explain what it is I'm doing and what I'm doing to my attacker. Sure, no biggie... In addition to the techniques I have several Katas. Simply put, a Kata is a series of techniques strung together to be aesthetically pleasing. They should be fluid and graceful, almost a dance of sorts, with the added feature of being fierce and intimidating at the same time. That sounds really cool, right? I think so, but sounding cool and executing cool are two entirely different things.
To combat my lack of grace, and my sometimes spotty memory, I've been practicing my Katas in my head.
I don't just sit there and run over the list of moves in my mind. I recorded my voice reading through each of my katas, then I sit on the couch and see myself making each little movement as I hear my voice say it on the recording. I'll even listen to it as I'm driving sometimes. It's really not the same as reading through it a million times. When I just read it, I see the moves, but I'm not really focused on the minute details. When I sit still, close my eyes, and go through each move, I honestly believe that it ingrains it into my memory more than actually doing the moves. I'm totally serious. I know some of you reading this think I'm full of bologna, but this has been my honest to goodness experience. In fact, tonight as I practiced one particularly challenging (to me) kata in class, it was the best that I have ever done it. It wasn't just in my mind. One of my fellow martial artists commented to me that it was "the best he's ever seen me do that kata, and keep doing whatever it is" I'm doing to study. I'm not saying it was perfect, but it has come a long way in the last couple weeks, and the only thing I've done to practice is the practice in my head.
All this is just food for thought. It started years ago with reading an old book called Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. You can still get it on Amazon, I'm sure. It's worth the read.
I'd love to hear different techniques or mental exercises that you have tried to improve physical performance. Please comment below.