Mental Toughness in Martial Arts
First win, then fight.
While Martial Arts can enable you to Master your body, meditation on the other hand can provide you with the tools to Master your mind and emotions. Admittedly, it is not easy and requires much commitment, but the mind-blowing (literally) results are definitely worth all of the hard work. Martial Artists certainly aren’t afraid of discipline and confronting new challenges, so the choice is yours.
In an actual fighting situation, the ability to stay focused and block out distractions and/or interference is essential in surviving and protecting others.
Too often the ‘conscious mind’ will focus on predicting or assuming a certain action will come from an opponent (ie., in training or real life situation), however by utilizing your meditation skills you have a broader awareness of the overall situation (including yourself and others) and can remain calm in readiness for any and all outcomes. Hence, by adding a regular meditation practice to your existing Martial Arts training, you can enhance your overall performance, be more acute and decisive, have faster reflexes, remain confident in challenging situations and surmount self-doubt.
Most people struggle with intrusive thoughts (ie., thoughts which intrude on one’s consciousness and can be difficult to overcome). However, there are many psychological techniques as well as meditative practices which can assist in reducing the impact these thoughts have on your performance as well as helping you to remain clear-minded. Our thoughts / beliefs directly lead to our emotions/ feelings. Once we understand how we think triggers our feelings, we can start to learn and utilise psychological techniques and mediation to change or transcend our thoughts. Martial Artists can lose focus as their mind reviews what just happened a few minutes ago or thinking too far ahead. Our body is always in the present moment and when we have a thought (irrespective of whether it is about the past present or future), our body responds as if it is happening now.
For example, if we think back to a past event which was painful or stressful in some way, our body will assume it is happening now and hence stimulate the ‘fight or flight’ response (or the ‘stress response’) to assist in overcoming this stressor. This is how powerful just one thought is. Naturally then, to maximize our human potential we need to learn how to ground our thoughts in the present moment. ‘Mindfulness meditation’ is the most effective way to experience this on a regular basis.
When we are in a stressful or fight situation, we need to conserve all of our precious energy. However, if we are too emotional, we simply waste some of that energy which may be required to defend ourselves or another.
It is therefore imperative that we find our own way to manage or control our emotions. You may have noticed when sparring in training or in a competition, that someone who is very emotional can certainly have increased power physically, however they can become exhausted much sooner that the person who is more level and centered. The highly emotional person is generally more erratic and less controlled. Learning how to control emotions reduces impulsivity and facilitates a more ‘strategy based’ attitude. Furthermore, by implementing the above techniques one is able to increase or maintain ‘mental toughness’ which is required in many circumstances including recovery from injury and general setbacks in life.
Advanced intuition as a powerful tool in Martial Arts. Intuition is an advanced ability which can come from dedicated meditation practice. We all have intuition to some degree and it is simply a part of our brain. So why not utilise this amazing gift! Intuition gives you an added level of extra-sensory perception which can be useful in an attack or dangerous situation. Combined with your physical Martial Arts skills, intuition can contribute to a more balanced and centered internal state. By letting go of the ‘mind’ and it’s tendency to ‘predict’ the next move from the opponent you are not attached to any particular pattern or attack from the other person, but rather can use your intuition to be aware and respond.
Personal Development. Meditation also provides the space to analyze yourself and develop your character to the highest integrity which is a primary tenet of Martial Arts. Increased awareness and consciousness of your internal world facilitates the possibility of positive change. To truly know yourself via introspection and meditation, is a ‘power’ that cannot be underestimated. If Martial Arts is based on the principle of peace and having less conflict in the world, a natural first step is to start with yourself, to reduce your own inner conflict and develop true inner peace.
When you learn how to silence the voice inside your head, you will find that pot of gold. It is an infinite experience and offers truth, peace and tranquility. ‘The conscious mind’ thinks it is in control, but it is only a fragment of who you really are.
Meditation takes you on a whole different journey into the unknown and offers you the ability to live in state of peace and serenity in everyday moments.