Physical vs Mental practice is a subject everyone touches on but is sometimes still a bit confusing to the novice. In this writing I will concentrate on the idea of mental practice which is not only the most difficult to do but the least understood.
The whole idea of mental practice is placing yourself in a situation or series of movements in your “minds eye”. We have all pictured ourselves making that touchdown or dazzling our peers with a presentation or flying through the air with the greatest of ease. This is seeing ones self in your minds eye. To become a complete Martial Artist you have to be able to do this. Literally you close your eyes and see yourself in the dojang, standing at chumbee, and begin your form. To do this correctly watch yourself performing your forms perfectly. If the form calls for a side kick see yourself executing that kick with great focus and concentration using proper technique. We all know what it should look like and that is what you see yourself doing. If you do this once a day with all your forms your technique will improve.
This idea of mental practice is especially important in terms of self defense. You can picture yourself in any number of dangerous situations and watch yourself “get away.” This allows you to experience these situations and use what you have learned to the greatest advantage. If you ever find yourself in one of these situations in real life your mind will tell you that you have been there and that you know what it feels like. You will know what to do without any thought given to the actual defense. This gives you the advantage and will allow your body to react with the proper technique and be successful.
Mental practice works with anything. I had not been skiing for many years and knew that I was going to go in a couple of weeks. My wife, being an excellent skier, gave me some pointers and explained which ski the weight should be on and how to turn. (Turning I thought would be important.) I then began to practice mental skiing. Every time I got to a certain place or problem that I discovered while I was mentally swishing down the hill I would ask my wife how to get around the tree or maneuver myself out of a crowd or whatever. Using this newfound information I would hit the slopes again and again. I probably mentally skied two or three times a day for two weeks.
By the time I actually rented my skis and made it to the slopes I had mentally encountered most any obstacle. It really worked, I did ok, not great, but good, my mind had already been there so my body followed. Without that mental practice parts of me would still be on that hill. In summary you can use “mental practice” to your advantage not only in Martial Arts but in all aspects of your life. Given the right circumstances you can do anything if you put your mind to it.
by Master John Rankin