This article was written by 3rd-degree Roger Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt Nicolas Gregoriades.
Many of you have probably heard about visualisation in sports. It is a technique used by many professional athletes to improve their performance and several scientific studies have proved the efficiency of this method. I started training in jiu-jitsu by myself, having no training partners with whom to try the moves I had learned in seminars. I started using some basic visualisation methods out of necessity. Later I read an article about visualisation in a martial arts magazine and I realized that I was using a very common technique. I began to use it a lot more and with the proper method.
Visualisation for jiu-jitsu has played a huge part in my progression. Watching sport on TV you have certainly seen an athlete with his eyes closed before action. He was probably visualising the moves he was about to perform. With visualisation, you can think about a technique in great detail and visualise yourself performing it perfectly. You are just telling your mind exactly what you want your body to achieve. Let’s look at it in more detail and see how we can use it to improve our jiu-jitsu.
How It Works
For every movement you make, and for every action you take, the initiation and completion begins and ends with the signals that come from and are sent back to your brain. Since your brain is the central command center for your body, it makes sense that improving the function of your mind also improves your physical capabilities. Visualisation is kinesthetic (how something feels). When a person physically performs an action, several areas of the brain are activated. Most of these parts of the brain are activated in the same way whether the person is actually performing the skill or simply imagining it. The brain can hardly tell the difference!
The author using visualisation prior to a grappling match
That’s why visualisation is such a powerful technique. You learn that the strength and shape of your body is directly tied to your mind. In this case the mind-body connection requires that you condition your mind first, and then your mind will send the correct signals to help you to use your muscles.
How To Do It
Just take a comfortable position, sit down or lie down. Close your eyes and relax your whole body. Then, choose a technique and picture yourself doing it. Imagine yourself within your body rather than looking at yourself from a distance. It is important that your visualisation be as vivid and as detailed as possible. Use all of your senses to to make the experience as detailed and vivid as possible. Conceive all the sensations and perceptions of the imagined technique - your muscular contractions, your balance, the texture of the gi on your skin, the sounds around you…
Only visualise techniques that you know you already do well and with correct form, or it will only help to reinforce incorrect movements and mistakes in your mind. So beginners should be very careful! - Do positive visualisation only, don’t visualise the classical mistakes to avoid for a particular technique, just focus on the technique properly done. Also, negative visualisation will likely impair performance, so take care.
When To Use It
It’s good to go through these exercises when you have a relaxing moment or before you go to bed at night. But these mental exercises can be done as often as you have time for them. When you have an injury and you can’t train, you can review your technique, work on your combinations. After training it’s a good idea to visualise the techniques that your teacher demonstrated during the class. - You can use it also when you are back from a seminar, it’s a good way to remember the techniques when they are still fresh in your mind.
Leading up to a competition you can anticipate the anxiety and stress. Visualise yourself in the tournament environment, with the crowd, the speaker calling your name…then visualise yourself in the - fight, using deep-breathing techniques and performing confidently to reduce your stress level. - Visualisation can be used in many other cases, be creative and use it as you want. And of course, visualisation is not only for jiu-jitsu, but you should try to use it for many other things. - This great tool has helped me a lot. I hope it will be the same for you. Feel free to ask questions and give us your feedback.