I had the less-than-enviable task of visiting the dentist yesterday. I knew I had to go in to have a chipped front tooth repaired, but an earlier checkup also told me I had two molars sat next to each other that needed deep fillings. I’m as level-headed as the next man, and while I’ll happily stand up to spar and have the proverbial kicked out of me, the thought of someone wielding a Black & Decker in my mouth has the same nerve-jangling reaction it does for many.
So I’m sat in the dreaded chair, lamp shining in my face, dentist above me sticking needles into my gums thinking ‘I’d rather not be here actually’ when I decide to practise what I preach, and try some visualisation.
Visualisation is a really important tool in sports psychology and a lot of other areas nowadays, and there are studies that show visualising something enough before doing it can actually train muscle memory without actually using those muscles. That wasn’t my goal in this instance though, I just wanted to put my mind somewhere else, and so I decided to step through my latest traditional form – Jinto – in my mind’s eye, in as much detail as humanly possible. At first it was a really difficult task, trying to keep concentrated on that and not the noise of someone drilling a hole in my face, but I got there eventually and I have to say it worked really well. I was able to examine really small, seemingly inconsequential details that I might not otherwise look at, and I caught myself at one point trying to work out application for the moves in the form.
In the end, I didn’t even make it to the end of my form, and given the fact that I was in the chair for half an hour and that the form is only around 38 moves in length, I was surprised. More importantly though, the appointment and dental work weren’t even in the front of my thoughts, and it was over before I knew it. Dentist appointments are always the same for me, I’m much more anxious before than when I’m actually in the chair. Once the injections are in it’s really not a big deal, but despite that, it was still a much more pleasant – and productive – way to spend the time.
Mu Shin (no mind) is an important thing in martial arts traininig, to be able to separate the conscious and subconscious and just let your body get on with what it knows, but equally important is the ability to be able to concentrate so much on one thing that you shut everything else out. This visualisation or concentration can help you get through some tough times, whether it’s sitting in the dentist’s chair, or struggling to get that hundredth push-up out in your grading, so the next time you’re in a situation where your brain would rather not be (and it’s safe – no zoning out at the traffic lights!) try visualising an aspect of your training.RSS