As we train more and more we can continue to develop our imagery skills. Like any skill the more we use it the better we should get. Last year I took and passed my 4th Dan in Ju Jitsu, it was a massive test and a huge challenge, it was 8 years since I last graded. So whilst I had effectively been training for 8 years I had also been teaching more and more especially since I took over the club in 2014.
In April 2016 I crashed a motorcycle and sustained a long lasting injury to my right foot, just as that was clearing up I was injured, unintentionally by my training partner, and my right bicep was in a pretty bad way for a couple of months, then 3 weeks before the grading I picked up a pretty aggressive chest infection.
My training schedule was erratic to say the least but I did manage to train in a limited capacity. Thankfully our black belts rallied round and put in some extra shifts for me to throw them around. The trouble was as the grading approached I was not confident that what I was doing was of a high enough standard, yes I listened to and took advice, yes I tried and experimented with different defences to attacks, most of which were random. However, with a couple of weeks to go I was still unsettled and needed to think carefully about what I was doing. It felt too mechanical.
I needed to rationalize and deal with my inner doubts and I did some serious thinking. I came to the conclusion that my problem was that I was not trusting myself enough so I examined each defence and each technique using my imagery skills, well not each one individually because this is what happened.
I started to go through the attacks in my mind and imagined how I would respond, where and how I would move, how I would strike and throw. I closed my eyes and watched. I started doing this with one set of techniques and then modifying my physical response and things started to become smoother, they made more sense and I was seeing not remembering, the thing is I was seeing it as the attack came in, my body seemed to be getting its shit together fast. It was an interesting experience, I stopped worrying about my performance and just decided to trust that my body, governed by my subconscious mind and many years of practice, would make things work.
I knew the theory, I had been teaching others but it took the impending pressure of being examined by my peers to make me practice what I teach others to do.
Well, it worked pretty damn well, if I say so myself I put in a pretty good performance and was complemented by the examiners, including a 6th dan owner of another Ju Jitsu club, and Ukis, I even pulled off some stuff during the grading that I had not tried out in preparation, I surprised myself to be fair. It just happened, I went with the flow and it felt good, you know when it is working and you are expressing yourself well.
Developing imagery skills is good for the mind and body, my experience, and I am really keen to hear of other peoples, was that the practical application was possible during the act of training. Not just stopping the physical act and creating images in the mind but during the physical act, yes as the punch or kick is coming in. Seeing it immediately before application, well that is what it felt like. I am pretty convinced that this is in part due to the vast amount of hours spent on the mat and in preparation along with all the research and even reading and writing about martial arts, self defence, training and many other affiliated topics. Nevertheless, it was an interesting experience and a valuable one.