Visualization is an incredibly powerful tool, an absolute staple in an authentic martial arts practice. Martial artists visualize detailed scenarios both ahead of time and in real time in order to greatly improve and enhance their performance.
Visualization ahead of time serves as a form of actual practice. The way this works is fascinating and profound and is only partially understood by modern science. What is understood is that with clear, detailed visualization, the entire nervous system is engaged. From the perspective of the nervous system, it is a “real” event! The amazing result is that all the beneficial results from “actual” practice, also occur from the “virtual” practice of visualization! In other words, on a neurological level, your brain and the rest of your nervous system, don’t get the difference. A classic example of this for martial artists is the repeated visualization of breaking boards with a specific technique. As the execution is visualized over and over again, the necessary and corresponding neural pathways are literally generated to facilitate the “real-world” event. Additionally, the practitioner has the psychological, and emotional confidence of having succeeded a number of times already. By the time the event is “realized” in the material world, it is but a continuum in a long series of successes.
Visualization in real time serves to enhance the “real-world” experience as it is actually happening by adding dimension. A classic example for martial artists occurs during the execution of hyungs or katas (predetermined patterns of movement, against and imaginary opponent, performed individually). Though the “actual” opponent is not present, the martial artists can visualize the opponent’s presence along with detailed, specific attacks in order to make the event “real”. The entire experience is elevated in this case – and if done well, even an onlooker will actually “see” the attacker.
The most exciting part of visualization is that it is available to us all! It takes very little time. It can be done anywhere. It takes no money. And we need no one’s approval or permission. Visualization will be effective in any context and can be applied to any thing or idea. The two most naturally effective times to visualize are in bed, just before falling asleep and then again, just upon waking, before rising from bed.