When you use mental imagery or visualization you produce vivid pictures or experiences in your mind and this is a useful skill for students to develop in order to enhance their practical effectiveness. Students can use mental imagery to practice skills and helps you to decide what to do in a given set of circumstances by having already thought about the options, “If he does that I will do this.”
You can practise techniques and responses in your mind as well as with your body. Practised properly you can see and feel yourself training. You can use imagery to learn new skills, practice old ones just as one imagines other situations in life such as that upcoming job interview or date. An inability to visualize can mean that we lack the ability to complete ideas. If we cannot create an accurate mental image of what we want to achieve, then it’s unlikely that we will achieve it. And without that certain insight it’s hard to make progress even if we are using appropriate training principles as the two concepts need to be employed in tandem. If we train our mind to analyse our current and potential performance in Ju Jitsu it will help us to perfect our technique and application.
It works because visualisation has a measurable, physiological effect on our body. When you visualise doing a movement, punch, kick, throw or kata, there is a measurable response by the specific muscles used in that activity in response to your imagined movements.
For instance, in order to do a half shoulder throw in reality, a specific ‘program’ of neuro-muscular circuits has to fire in order for that to happen. However, if I just vividly imagine doing a half shoulder throw, it’s been found that micro-muscular stimulation occurs in those same muscles used to do the throw in ‘reality’.
In fact, neurologically, your body can’t tell the difference between a ‘real’ experience, and a vividly imagined one. You consciously know one experience is real and the other is imagined, but at the cellular level, your body can’t tell the difference. Its like dreaming although in using imagery skills we consciously choose the subject and use it for a purpose. In a dream the things we experience are ‘real’ whilst we are in that state, perhaps you even jerked your arm up in the dream in response to the imagined events! It was only a dream, but your body still responds like it was real.
Because there is this muscular response to visualised activity, it makes it possible to ‘program in’ desired shots, strokes, plays, movements, behaviours, and even emotional responses prior to doing them. In other words you can begin to prepare your body at a cellular level, developing a ‘muscle memory’ of what you want your body to do.
Further, visualisation allows you to practice your techniques perfectly – without error, without risk of injury and without breaking sweat and so train the optimum neural pathway for future successful performance.