Peak Performance

Recently I have moved jobs and into a new area. I have been training in Aikido for the last 5 years and I was keen to continue training. Although the basics of Aikido are similar from style to style, the emphasis differs in each school. The school I have joined teaches a very different emphasis from other Sensei I have trained with and I have suffered a drop in personal performance.

Frustrated by my drop in personal performance I have been refreshing the techniques I use to increase my own performance.

Aikido is a martial art that uses the force of any potentially attacker against that attacker, using balance, blending and redirection of energy (Ki). The problem for the practitioner is that without an opponent, you have no energy to redirect. This led me back to my early days of training for both martial arts and rock climbing, where I used a combination of relaxation and visualisation to improve.

Studies have shown that a combination of relaxation and visualisation can increase performance dramatically. This is because the brain cannot readily distinguish between a high fidelity visualisation of an event and the even itself.

Visualisation begins by entering an altered mental state. This isn’t as new age as it sounds. You sit or lie in a quiet relaxed room and take a few deep breaths. Then you almost day dream the event of technique you want to improve, building a comprehensive image of the moves, running through the motions as though you are watching yourself in a movie of the event. The more you run the event and the more comprehensive the image is, the more you will absorb the pattern of behaviour you desire.

You can experiment with this phenomenon by visualising something simple and noting your physiological response. For example, when you next have a few minutes, close your eyes and picture a lemon on a chopping board. See its skin shining in the light and the dimples on the surface. Imagine the smell of the citrus oil in the rind and the scent of the juice inside. Now imagine you have a knife and cut the lemon in 2 halves. See the knife blade glisten with the lemon juice and the pool of spilled juice cover the chopping board. Now imagine yourself pick up a half of lemon and bite into it, the juice running over your tongue and spilling onto your lips and chin. Feel the bite of the juice and the feel of the flesh as your teeth cut into it. Now open your eyes and feel the sensations in your body and the increase in saliva in your mouth. Despite being no lemon, your body is responding as if there were.

This level of visualisation is simple to employ but can be exploited to increase personal performance. I now follow each Aikido training session by taking comprehensive notes where I capture all I can about the techniques I have been practising. I then use these notes to revisit the training session and rerun the techniques in my head. It is very early in the process, but I am more rapidly adapting to the new style of training. Each visualisation session reinforces the technique and also allows me to more readily enter the relaxed visualisation state.

Dare to Aspire

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