If I have a specific goal like when I was training to get my black belt, I knew how many months I had to plan. I had a vision in my head how I wanted to perform the day of the test. So several months out, in addition to going to more classes per week, I made the effort to practice. I was shy about it at first. I would set time aside, go to the studio and walk right up to the edge of the mat and I would have to nudge myself to actually take the final step onto the mat. Just to practice! Recently I have set the goal for myself to practice my forms every Sunday afternoon. It's not a particularly difficult task yet I find myself putting it off. Giving in to guilty pleasures like Sunday afternoon naps or like today, writing this blog post instead. What's my problem? It's really not hard to practice. It can actually be very relaxing to work my forms and the relief I feel once it is done should be incentive all on it's own. Plus I would improve my skill. My practice needs practice.
A year ago this weekend I passed instructor certification to teach kettle bells under Steve Maxwell. I set the certification as a challenge for myself. I knew it would be grueling but I wanted to make myself do it to see if I could. The seminar was geared to professional trainers and school owners and other martial artists. I learned a lot and did better than I thought. My kettle bell instructor from the school where I take my weekly classes worked with me and we practiced before the certification. She coached me to the level I needed to be to pass the certification. In addition to the workout challenges it was interspersed with lectures and information about how to train a professional athlete or high level amateur. Mr Maxwell walked us through some steps and the final steps were mental emotional skills which included visualization. He said all great athletes do this and there are four steps. Step number one visualize a master doing the moves. Step two is a personal point of view from far away like watching the master but it's yourself. Step three visualize from first person. Like you are actually doing it and seeing it through your own eyes. The fourth step is to see yourself in trouble and then triumph because things never go the way that you think they will.
An athlete needs a prematch ritual something that gets you focused and relaxed. Find a way to feel calm and feel good. Next is a performance mantra, self talk, positive statements. For every negative thought replace it with two positive ones.
I feel I need these rituals just to walk out on to the practice floor.
When practicing it's good to have a goal for the practice session especially when practicing forms. Have a plan and know what specific things to work on. Your intent is your purpose.
I know I have greatness in me. We are born with everything we need. But life somehow takes it from us. We learn many things in martial arts that used to be part of us. Much of what we are learning we were born with. When I was a little girl about eight years old I saw ads on TV for a toy made by Whamo that was called a "Footsie". It looked like great fun. It was a yellow plastic ring with a green vinyl plastic string and a hot pink plastic shaped cup at the end of it. It worked by slipping the ring around the ankle and tossing the plastic cup, getting the string and cup in motion. Then with a little flick of the ankle to keep the plastic cup moving in a circle while the other foot jumped over the string and the cup as it came around. It looked so easy on the commercial. I remember the evening I got it. I was at my grandmothers house with my cousin, we both had them and it was so disappointing to realize it wasn't as easy as the commercial made it out to be. And to make it a little worse, but just a little, my cousin who was a year younger was having more success with it. I had a tremendous desire to conquer this toy. I'm sure it was all I could think about. We played with it that night till it was too dark to see. The next morning my parents awoke to the sound of bright pink plastic chafing the macadam outside. At seven a.m. my mother asked, "What's that noise?" My dad replied. "It's Teresa learning how to Footsie, she's been out there for at least two hours since the sun came up. " I practiced it till I had mastered the Footsie by seven am. I didn't hesitate, didn't second guess myself. I wasn't embarrassed to make a fool of myself. I visualized it, I set the goal and I practiced till I got it. Perfect practice makes perfect. The next time I need to practice I'm going to channel that little girl.