Mental Power Training for Karate: Controlling Your Self-Image

By BILAL BBA   Posted at  3/10/2013   1 comment

  Self-defense is not a sport.


I think we can all agree on that.
So, by definition, traditional Karate can’t really be called a sport. Sure, people try hard to make Karate into a pseudo team sport – especially in tournaments – but the harsh reality is that on the mythical ‘streets’ there is just one person you can count on, and that person is you. No backup, no judges, no weight-classes, no safety net. Just you and your bare fists.

However, just like in sports, traditional Karate involves two opposite sides.
A losing side and a winning side.

Which side do you want to be on?
Me, personally, I prefer the winning side. You know, the side that can go home without the crutches. And who doesn’t? I mean, even in school, from a young age, we’re all taught that we should always strive to be winners. Winners get all the praise, attention and honor. Nobody ever comes up to a loser and says “That was great, you’re super!” unless they’re being sarcastic. Right?
Sadly, when it comes to sport, not everybody can always be a winner. If you are smaller, weaker or slower than your competition, chances are slim that you’ll ever win in any significant way (unless you have insane amounts of motivation). You just don’t have the odds on your side. So you change, and either choose a team sport (where you can blend in) or you quit sports altogether and play video games instead.
But, again, traditional Karate isn’t a sport.
Because the streets don’t allow for that.
In self-defense there is no quitting, no changing, and we must always assume that our competition will be bigger, stronger, faster, meaner and harder. Every time.
And, to top it off, we must win.
Every time.
Being average, blending in, is easy and safe in the dojo – but when things are about to go down you need to step your game up and give 110%.
And, if you ask me, one of the most surefire ways to succeed with that is by having the correct mental attitude. So that’s what this article is going to be about. Mental training. Sports psychology. To help you understand a bit more about the non-physical aspect of training… in order to stop being the ‘best of the worst’ or the ‘worst of the best’ (what we generally refer to as being “average”) and have a fighting chance.
Because, although being average, insecure and/or comfy is a common tactic among many dojo rats that I know, those traits won’t exactly help you on the notorious ‘streets’.
You need something more.
I think that ‘something more’ is mental power.

  • We can change.

In fact, we are changing every day, all the time, without knowing. We experience change naturally as we age. The direction of that change, however, can either be determined by you or for you.
  • In sports, winners are the ones who successfully control and direct their self-image.
  • On the street, survivors are the ones who successfully control and direct their self-image
Notice some similarities? That’s why sports psychology is super important.
Example: Some people think it’s not “like them” to drive a car one hundred miles an hour. If they get just a few miles over the speed limit, their self-image makes them feel uncomfortable until they slow down. It’s not “like them” to drive fast, so they don’t. Another example: Some people think it’s not “like them” to be successful at certain stuff, like, say, cooking. So they just eat instant noodles all day long! If they happen to eat something more fancy, they feel uncomfortable.



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