Thursday, October 18, 2012

Psy-ki-do - Visualization rehearsals

In aikido and judo, most all of the kata are partner exercises that require a real partner to work with.  So, what do you do when you don't have a kata partner available when you want to get in some practice?
One possibility is visualization exercises - sort of like meditating and going through the kata sequence in your mind.  This sort of rehearsal has been shown to be very helpful in all sports.
Here are a few hints on how to get the most out of your visualization rehearsals...

  • First, write out a script for your visualization.  A good way to begin is to divide the kata movement into three steps (like kuzushi, tsukuri, kake) and then write out a numbered list of what is happening in each step.
  • Make your descriptions highly sensory.  Describe in great detail what you are seeing and feeling, how the mat feels under your feet, what your breathing is doing, if your hand is slik with sweat, etc...  It can also help to write out what's going on with your emotions - if your first step is a surprise/fear reaction or your final control is calming instead of letting your anger and indignation wash over you and make you want to punish the attacker...  Don't forget to include in your script the cues that uke is giving you that you are reacting to, like "Uh oh! I see uke moving toward me  and crossing closer than ma-ai..." or "Now I can feel uke pulling away from me..."
  • Now, get in a quiet, comfortable place where you can concentrate, and read through your script, trying to visualize each step in as much sensory detail as possible.  Try to evoke the emotions associated with each step.  Once you get the visualization in place, examine it from every angle.  You might even rewind and re-run the step like reviewing a film a few times.  Don't forget to run through your visualization from the point of view of bothe roles (uke and tori) - you will need separate uke and tori scripts.
  • When you get good at the 3-step visualization, break one of the steps into three so that you have a higher-resolution visualization.  For example, you might re-write your script with 5 steps - kuzushi, beginning tsukuri, middle tsukuri, end tsukuri, kake.  Then spend some time in that visualization before you break one of those five steps into three to get still-higher resolution.
  • When you do get a partner to practice with, pay attention to how well your real kata practice fits your visualization.  Allow your kata practice to inform your next visualization session by remembering more sensory details.  Over time, pay attention to the positive emotions that you experience when you have a good day of real kata practice - when everything works right - and make sure to insert those emotions into your visualization instead of the negative emotions that happen when your real kata practice goes awry.

Patrick Parker
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