Sifu Greg Weir

Sifu Greg Weir

Junior Student’s Corner

Professional athletes and sports psychologists have long known the benefits of visualization. That is, imagining doing something successfully before actually trying it. For example, every time LeBron James steps to the free throw line, before shooting the ball he pictures it arcing perfectly through the air, then dropping into the hoop. Research has shown that he will make more free throws as result of this visualization than he would if he simply stepped up and shot the ball.

It’s difficult to quantify how much of an impact visualization has (it’s bound to be different for different people), but here’s an interesting story I read about:

James Nesmith was your typical, average golfer. He belonged to a country club and practiced a fair bit, but he could never score any better than low 90s. Mr. Nesmith also happened to be a soldier in the US Army. Eventually he got sent to the Vietnam War and soon after was taken prisoner. Locked in a small cell all by himself, James quickly realized he had to do something to maintain his sanity. So every day he’d play a round of golf in his head. He imagined getting dressed in the morning, driving to the club, warming up and then playing all 18 holes. In real life a round of golf takes around four hours. In James’s head it took four hours as well. He’d picture hitting the ball from the tee and then in his mind he’d walk every step down the fairway to where his ball lay. He’d take a club from his bag, feel it in his hands, make a few practice swings, then hit the next shot. Since he was playing in his head, he didn’t hit any slices or hooks, nor did he miss a lot of putts, so his imaginary games went quite well.

After seven years of this practice, Major Nesmith finally got out of prison. When he returned home, one of the first things he did was go to his club to play a real round of golf. Despite the fact that his body had deteriorated considerably due to the time spent in his tiny cell, that first day he shot 74—roughly 20 strokes better than what he used to shoot!

What does Major Nesmith’s story have to do with you and your Kung Fu training? Well hopefully you’ve come to realize that there’s more to Kung Fu than just the physical aspect. The mental part is just as important.

Believe that you can do something, picture yourself doing it and you’re much more likely to be successful.

The next time you have a few minutes free, try visualizing yourself doing a form. Do it perfectly in your mind over and over again—great stances, full extension on all your strikes, perfect balance. Then the next time you’re at the kwoon, trying doing that form for real. You might be surprised by the results.