The practice of Taekwon-Do, in fact any Martial Art is not just physical movement, but an art with a much under- emphasised mental aspect. The physical movement is what most Taekwon-Do students’ con centrate on, as that is what they are primarily taught. Move that leg to there, shift that arm to here etc etc. That’s how we all have been taught.
However, our bodies do not move by themselves, far from it, it is our mind that leads, and the body follows. So equal attention should be made on the mental training as well as the physical movement, even from the beginning.
It is proven that in many aspects of life, the mind limits what the body can actually do and, more importunately, what it can’t do. We must view the mind as the captain of the ship, the body is the crew who listens for orders and usually obeys. Tell yourself enough times that you can’t do something, and you wont. Tell yourself you’re too old and you will be. Convince yourself you are ill, you will be. Most of us have experienced this at some time in our life, mostly I presume on the negative side. This is the power of focus. Focus on something long enough and that’s what you are likely to get. Seek and ye shall find!
Achieving greater levels of success and advancing down the path to Black Belt in Taekwon-Do you need a certain mental attitude. Sure you will get by with the average good days and bad days but many students will remain at a certain level because their brain is telling them to with negative thoughts and limiting emotions. I believe that if we put more effort in training our mind to think the ‘right thoughts’ then our physical skills in Taekwon-Do will improve immensely. As the late great Bruce Lee wrote: Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.
Focus comes from the mind; in fact focus is created from the mind! When I say the ‘mind’ I do not mean that grey soggy mass that we all have inside our skull, which is the brain. The mind is intangible and fluid. It is what really drives our body. It is the mind that is our inner voice, our personality, thoughts, emotions, intelligence, and feelings. Our thoughts (inner voice) are programmable and believe me, what we think or focus on, we will achieve. Now unfortunately, this works particularly well with negative and destructive thoughts and emotions. How many times have you heard at training class the following comments: I can’t do that, or I’m too old or I’ll never do the splits, I can’t be that flexible, or I can’t do push ups like that, I can’t jump that high, III never break that and so on? Well, I’m sure we have all been there ourselves at some point or other but make no mistake, these thoughts are doing you no good what so ever. Sure, you need to be realistic, never take on the impossible but you must change your inner voice to encourage and support rather than to upset and destroy. Rule your mind or it will rule you – Horace
These negative thoughts are called many things but we will call them mind blocks, and we all have them in most areas of our lives. These thoughts can be really destructive and steal from you your true potential. By changing this inner voice from destructive to encouraging, we can massively change the way we train. For example, rather than say to yourself that I just can’t stretch try saying my flexibility needs improvement I can always do just that little more. Rather than say III never beat that guy at sparring, try saying I need a different strategy and to learn his style in order to win more matches. Can you see what I am getting at? Stop enforcing negative thoughts onto the body because what the mind wants, the mind usually gets! Now this is very important so I will repeat this sentence again: what the mind wants, the mind usually gets! This is the power of focus!
In Taekwon-Do there are three main areas where negative thoughts can really have an impact on your training, these are normally: stretching, destruction (power test) and theory. But before we go any further it is important that we can establish a clear mind. By clear mind I mean that we have to first empty the cup to re-fill it. No doubt you have heard this many times and now the phrase is sadly over-used, however the principle remains still very important. We need to take away the precondition attitude or thought before we can change it. If your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything, said Shunryu Suzuki. Just like an audio pre-recorded CD, if we scratch it enough, we alter it forever. This is exactly how our minds work, if we interrupt the limiting belief consistently, replace it with an empowering belief, then our behaviours can only react accordingly. This is not my per-sonal theory it is scientific fact. Do you remember the well-known experiment of Pavlov’s dogs? In brief he rang a bell every time just before he fed them. In a short space of time, the dogs slavered just hearing the bell without even seeing or smelling the food.
So lets have a look at the three areas and see what improvement we can make by thinking a little differently, and that’s all it takes believe me, a small change in mind set can produce massive results. So lets focus on thinking & doing in order for us to achieve some real and noticeable results! ‘// your mind is empty, it is always ready for anything; it is open to everything.’ – Shunryu Suzuki Stretching
Most Martial Arts require some form of stretching. Taekwon-Do demands a lot and for anyone to advance, especially in the sporting area, it becomes vitally important. If you can’t stretch, you can’t kick. If you can’t kick, you can’t break. If you can’t break, then you don’t grade or attend tournaments. So stretching becomes pretty important! Do you agree with this? So if you are struggling with stretching and flexibility and it’s becoming a real hang-up, let me ask you these questions: 1. Is good flexibility important to you? 2. If so, what are you actually doing about it? 3. What are your limiting beliefs about flexibility? 4. Do you (really) believe you can alter your state (attitude) and by altering your state, altering your effectiveness?
By limiting beliefs I mean the certain reasons you have in your head that stops you becoming. Notice I have used the word reasons and not excuses. This is because the way you think is what you actually believe. Let me give you some examples: 7 don’t have the time to stretch My instructor never spends any time on stretching. I’m too old or too young. I’m just not made the same as everyone else.
Do these statements ring a bell, maybe you have heard others say these sorts of things? So lets move forward and agree at least one thing. If you keep on doing the same things, you are likely to achieve the same results. Yes or no? Hopefully you have said yes, so you have agreed to do something different. A different approach equals a different outcome – good. Now this must start with your mind-set. Let’s change the limiting beliefs for empower-ing ones and really think about them, and more importantly, believe in them. The consistent, unproductive preoccupation with things you can’t do, is the single largest consumer of time and energy!
For example lets look at the I have no time reason. This is the easiest one to fix. Think about it, who really has no time to stretch? How long does some simple day-to-day stretching take? Do you ever watch TV or eat a meal by yourself? Yes? Then you can be stretching whilst you do these things. Can you turn up an extra ten minutes before the lesson, or stay 10 minutes after the lesson? Have you taken the time to make your own personal stretching program? Have you sought advice from your instructor or bothered to research the sea of information on the web, or in book and video stores? Just how important is this to you?
Can you see what I’m getting at? By focusing on what I can do instead of what I can’t do automatically makes you do something different. As we have said, something different makes a different result. Analyse the result and if it works, use it. If it doesn’t, change it. (There’s more than one-way of being flexible you know)! Since to a large extent you are defined by your beliefs, it is crucial that you know your beliefs well and take time to think about them and if necessary, adjust them.
In Martial Arts we have often heard the theory of mind like water. If a pebble is thrown into a pond, how does the water react? It neither overreacts or underreacts, its actions are entirely proportionate to the impact. After the condition there is calm. Ultimately this is what a
Martial Artist should strive for.
We shall look at the other areas where we can seriously improve our actions by conditioning our focus next time.
I will leave you with a really important fact as stated by Mr. Ralph Waldo Emerson The ancestor of every action is a thought.