For the most part conventional sports psychology techniques have focused on essentially mental techniques of writing down goals, setting plans and visualization. A highly market driven and hyped martial arts mental development program in recent times was in fact just a combination of these well known techniques and provided nothing new.
The methodologies of hypnosis and cognitive behavioral techniques such as NLP are still not well supported by the conventional sports psychology practitioners. However, the results of such methodologies do attest to their effectiveness. It appears that the status quo is still caught up in the academic argument as to whether it is just suggestion and therefore the effect is no different than just using other techniques of suggestion
However, surely any methodology that focuses the attention such that the suggestion takes hold is valid. They are just techniques, and some work better than others for different individuals.
In recent times neuroscience has made a great deal of advances in understanding the interaction between the mind and body. One of the most profound findings was that the body tends to lead the mind in how it’s emotional state is at any time. This was in complete contrast to previous thinking which determined that the mind led the body.
There is clearly no doubt that the mental state of the mind plays a significant role in how an athlete performs, whether in combat sports such as martial arts, Muay Thai and MMA or other sports such as tennis, golf or track disciplines. However, recent research suggests that the old thinking that the mind determines how the body will perform is in fact not as it was thought. It appears that the body tends to drive the mind-set and that by “acting as if” an individual can bring about changes within their mind that will influence how they perform.
Other findings have also broken down several other old dogmatic beliefs and channels of thinking.
The old thinking that the brain was fixed in its makeup at a very early stage and could not grow new brain cells has been shown to be wrong. The way that the brain can reprogram and repair itself through neuro-plasticity has revolutionized treatments of hitherto severely debilitating brain damage.
The understanding that the memory was fixed and copied as near prefect copies, for the life of a person, has also been overturned with the finding that every time a memory is recalled it undergoes modification. In fact memories are being constantly changed and modified such that they may not even resemble the original situation at the time the memory was first set. In addition it has been found that memories can be modified which is a useful tool when it comes to modifying or even removing old fears and phobias.
The value of this for sports and personal development training is very powerful from several levels. From the break down of old inhibiting traits set in early childhood through to the enhancement of learning new techniques and the development of attributes for the performance of the skills of the discipline, which may include, concentration, and power and speed enhancement.
I do not buy into the natural talent idea that some people are born with ability. The evidence is very clear, all skill development and expertise is developed through performance and practice, both mental and physical. It is the degree of experience (time spent) performing in a focused, intentional manner that determines anyone’s ability in anything from academic achievements to arts and sports abilities, not natural talent. If you want to reach the peak of your ability in martial arts whether, competitive or for self defence, you need to embrace both the physical training and the mental preparation though the techniques and methodologies that research is now firmly supporting.
An approach that combines both the physical “act as if” approach and the cognitive behavioral methodologies of NLP/neurosemantics, could act in a positive feedback looping manner to dramatically increase the effectiveness of change and development.
This certainly appears to be the case with the methods I have been using at my martial arts school. As a NLP/Neurosemantics trainer/practitioner and a practicing martial artist I have found that combining both the physical modification and the mental modification tends to make dramatic increase in ability and progress compared to others that do not use the techniques, in any particular discipline.