August 8, 2013 Off By Alan Fister

Visualization is a means of mental rehearsal. It is useful for learning new skills and practicing existing ones.

When we learn a new movement we fire a neural pathway for the movement. At first this pathway won’t be very strong and may not take the most efficient path (a little like a drunk wandering home). However, as we practice, this pathway becomes stronger and as the skill develops the neural message takes a more direct route. That is why it easy to keep repeating the same mistakes if we don’t continually monitor and correct our technique as this will reinforce the incorrect pathway. This is where visualization can help.

Here is an example of how visualization works that you can try. Take a piece of string and attach a small weight to it such as a ring. Hold the string between the thumb and forefinger so that the weight can move freely. Imagine that the weight is swinging back and forth for a while and see what happens. Next visualize the object making a circular action. This demonstrates that when you think about an action there is a suble corresponding muscle impulse – this is called ideomotor action.

Visualization can be practiced almost anywhere where it is a useful skill to enhance performance and is a good way to practice when injured. It can be used, for example, when learning a new kata or kumite drills. It can be used to visualize a positive outcome when competing be it the end result (wearing the medal) or the techniques you intend to score with. It can also be used to aid relaxation by imaging a place you feel calm in such as a warm tropical beach or beautiful garden.

There are two ways to visualize:

Internally This is where you see yourself from inside through your own eyes.

Externally This is where you see yourself through the eyes of an observer like watching a video of yourself.

Which way you choose is up too you use which ever you find easiest. Choose a skill/movement sequence. Visualize yourself making that movement perfectly. Try to see what your doing and in your minds eye think about what it feels like and which muscles are tense / relaxed. Try to use all your senses in your visualization as the more vivid you can make it the better. It is worth noting that it is a good idea to get an example of the technique you want to practice by watching someone else perform it either in the flesh or on video. Look at the technique and see yourself performing it as well as they do.

Visualization is used by many top sports people to enhance their performance. It is a skill like any other – the more it is practiced the better you will become at it. I hope that this article has been of intrest and is helpful in your training.

References Body Mind Mastery By Dan Millman

Catherine Harris