Saturday afternoon , our indomitable Gary khoury presented another excellent sparring seminar at Mike Murphy sensei's dojo in Randolph Ma !
The attendance was good but short of what it should really have been considering the excellent format and the need for such skills indoctrination within our Uechi System !
Gary explained that he enters rigorous tournaments because he is actually 'scared of them' ; he wants to push out of his comfort zone and keep constantly challenged emotionally and physically ! He is quick to point out that karate should not be perceived as a safe sport ; it can be practiced with safety in mind but the very nature of the beast is confrontation /danger driven !
We talked about how difficult it is to coax Uechi-kas into sparring sessions , much less tournament play ; how difficult it is to get senseis to espouse the concepts needed to program their students to good fighting instincts !
I related the same frustrations back in the sixties when I introduced the " weekly opens" sparring classes at Mattson sensei's dojo ! Most people have innate fears surfacing mercilessly when dealing with the exchanging of serious blows in sparring and or tournaments !
Then there is fear of failure before the eyes of their peers ; criticism by other practitioners as to their " black belt" status given their usually pitiful performance on the floor , and yet an arrogant display of smugness from within the circle of the 'belt' tied around their waist !
Ensconced in their great denial is the belief that all they need to prevail in a fight is good conditioning and some prearranged kumite experience ! As Gary puts it : " yeah , they are conditioned to take a good beating out on the street , and they invariably will "
When I was teaching sparring , one of the images I would try to pass on to the students , bore the mind seal of "dominance and control" ! Gary brought this concept alive by explaining that just by the first few moves of your opponent in the ring you will know if he is a winner or a loser in the long run !
Anyone who has ever choked on a simple exchange of technique or missed on easy layouts of targets should well realize the toll that natural emotions can take on performance taken for granted from your mindless 'formal exercises' !
The truth is that when you feel subliminal fear mobilizing within you , you are jolted into powerful shifting of physiology and neurochemistry , neurologically and throughout the body , which if not understood and harnessed by emotional conditioning , it will be your downfall !
In contrast , according to sport psychologists , if you contain those impulses within an "ideal performance state" which you can learn to identify with , the result is much more complimentary to peak performance !
Trough 'mind games' in physical motion , you learn things such as aggressive body language , commanding posture , confident walk , no slumping of shoulders, no head drooping down , no show of negative emotions , positive self talk , remaining aggressive , thus keeping negative fears at bay without unraveling your sense of control !
The best way to achieve this state is through the continuos self challenge of serious sparring Matches , at least for a portion of your martial arts training life, and through exposure to tactical scenarios a la Peyton Quinn or Tony Blauer persuasion !
Then practice by "immersion" i.e., when you spar envision your opponent , the ring , the arena , the colors , the smells , by zooming upon the 'stage' of your performance with your mind's eye so as to study and make the image of your efforts to be as clear and detailed as possible ! Employ all of your senses to capture every nuance of the event and opposition ; make sure you are fully in "the movie" of your match ; see yourself and feel yourself dominating and making perfect contact with your techniques !
Some more suggestions by Sports psychologists :
1] There are only two ways to control the physiology of peak performance >> control what you are thinking and act with the physical body >> [ James Loehr Ed. D., ]
2] Shoot your inner critic as negative self talk creates anxiety and tension and blocks your performance !
3] Think back to a glorious moment of great technique you scored with in the past and vividly replay it in your brain ; >>> then "hook" that feeling of success to a Buzzword or performance cue , such as " explode" and a touch or slap of your thigh to summons it back instantly [ Kenneth Baum ]
4] Act tough , play act at feeling invincible and confident so as to " genuinely move your chemistry to target peak performance emotions " [ Loehr ]
5] breathe from your belly , inhale through your nose , take oxygen deep in your lungs , your belly rises before your chest does ! Stay away from shallow choppy breaths which build up carbon dioxide into your bloodstream !
6] Let your jaw slacken as " facial muscles control the degree of tension in the entire body "
7] " Unclench your hands , hold them as you were cradling an egg and your body will begin to relax "
Bottom line is if you want to be considered a true martial artist by you peers and by your inner self [more important] , you must learn how to handle yourself in sparring and reality scenarios in accordance to sound body mechanics and you must challenge yourself mentally ! If you don't you will never measure up , it is that simple ! I already hear the counterpoints …but my sensei thinks …believes ….does …told me… all you need is sanchin …. I don't believe in tournaments , sparring >> etc.
Pleasant dreams !
PS [ Check out Allen Moulton Pulse for another excellent write up of Gary's seminar ]