Want to get better at martial arts? Use your imagination.

An incredibly effective tool to use to improve your martial arts skills is visualising. It will focus your techniques and abilities, allow you to internalise skills and movements and allow you to extend your practice to outside of the dojang. It can also increase your reaction speed during sparring, defense drills or during fights. Used correctly it can also give you psychological advantages and improve your confidence in your abilities.

My first exposure to visualisation was as a young student. I was practicing some techniques or a pattern in the air without any real thought of aiming my techniques. If you are an instructor you will have inevitable have seen at least one child whose punches and kicks are all over the place and on this day I was that child. If my punches and kicks were compared to target practice they would have been landing everywhere but the target.

I was told to focus where I was throwing my attacks. To pick a spot on the wall to aim for to place my attacks. From picking a spot on the wall I then evolved to imagining my opponent in front of me. Every block I used was in response to my imaginary friends attack. Every punch or kick was aimed at them. This greatly improved my focus but also, I believe that it started to help me with my sparring drills  (defense drills in Choi Kwang Do).  By imagining an opponent when I practiced I was also unconsciously programing my nervous system on how to deal with attacks and where to place my counter attacks.

The next leap for me in my self defense skills during sparring was a direct result of using visualisation. I was practicing counter attacking drills where your partner would throw an attack and I had to block and then counter attack as soon as possible. I had learned what were the best kicks and punches to use after a block dependant on where I was to my opponent and could counter fairly quickly but I felt that I wasn’t working optimally. My reactions were honed well but something was amiss. I would have a slight stress while trying to anticipate what my opponent was going to attack me with and was prone to reacting too soon and blocking at the slightest twitch of my opponents movement. It was visualising that helped me reach the next level.

My practice of visualising during patterns and practicing techniques in the air allowed me to imagine and visualise my opponents potential attacks from each limb and also imagine where they would be open to counter attacks and what technique I would initially use to hit them back with. This give me the ability to not only block more efficiently and take the stress away but also give me a speed advantage with my counter attacks as my body already knew what it was going to do and so was pre programmed to respond. This gives me a great advantage whenever I use it in my drills.

Visualisation can also be useful in practicing and internalising the movement patterns of techniques and also larger combination of movements while outside of the dojang. Visualise yourself doing the movements and imagine the feeling your body would have as if you were actually performing the movements. You may even find yourself doing micro movements as you do so. The benefit of this type of training is you almost trick your nervous system that it is actually performing the movements. You will be firing off impulses to the correct muscles used in the movement and training your nervous system making it more efficient at doing the movement. The only downside is it doesn’t utilise the muscles much and so you aren’t strengthening them. It is a great way to keep practicing should you be ill or injured or physically performing them isn’t possible.

You can also obtain a psychological advantage from using visualisation which can build your confidence and improve your performance, be it in martial arts or in life. By taking the time to visualise in your mind a positive performance before the event you can ease your anxiety of performing badly, run through various scenarios and how to deal with them and effectively pre program your response so that you pre empt an action and deal with it well rather than stutter and fail. A good example of an elite performer who used this method of visualising is Mohammed Ali, who used to visualise his fights before each bout, how he was going to fight and win,practicing his tactics for the match so that the opponent was already beaten before he entered the ring. 

I hope you enjoy this article.  If you are interested in Choi Kwang Do self defence classes for your child, family member or yourself and are in the Bristol or Trowbridge area then please go to my web site at http://www.CKDBristol.co.uk for more information on our Choi Kwang Do classes that are great for teaching you self defence, self-confidence and also keeping you fit and healthy no matter your age.  We offer 2 FREE lessons to all who sign up via the web site.

If you don’t live in my area and are interested in Choi Kwang Do then please visit http://choikwangdo.com/locations.html where you can find the nearest location to you.  Most of the classes offer some sort of free lessons so please take a look.

If you are already an instructor in another Martial Art and you would be interested in converting to Choi Kwang Do please go to http://choikwangdo.com/school-conversion.html or contact them by email at ckd@choikwangdo.com and let them know you found them through Master Millers blog.


Dale Miller

Master Instructor of Choi Kwang Do.