Belief is an incredibly complex thing, the length and breadth of this field covers an enormous area with many elements and subfields of philosophy, it ranges from theoretical and behavioural to cultural and psychological, and that just scratches the surfaces. Belief in yourself, is not always, but often born out of competence and acquisition of a certain skill and in the case of Taekwon-Do, frequently relates to physical prowess. Competitively speaking (and Grading wise too of course) to believe in yourself in the Dojang, you do need to be at your physical best. You should feel physically strong, flexible and also have solid technique. Being at your physical best will then perpetuate self belief and feelings of confidence in the art and that will in turn create a self fulfilling prophecy. So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? First do you get better physically and therefore believe mentally or believe mentally and therefore begin to get better physically?
It’s not just about being better physically, it comes down to how these two things feed into your actual ability to ‘perform’, and ultimately that’s what it’s about, how you ‘perform’ on the Dojang floor. Your mental and physical performance are not mutually exclusive, they work hand in glove, pardon the pun, you need them both to win. What good is physical capability without mental faith and intestinal fortitude? It’s highly likely you will still lose. And what is the good of the right mental attitude if you have a physical deficit? You need both. Work on both. You must simultaneously invest time on your physical body and your Taekwon-Do skills while concurrently working on your mental attitude, as they are inextricably linked.
To work only on your physical skills is, well it’s not a total waste of time, but it is only half the battle, but do not solely work in the mental realm either, things will become a drain and you will get just south of nowhere. Success is born of the capacity to work tirelessly on both your physical self while nurturing your mental fortitude. The two must be in complicite.
The psychology of belief and of wining (and therefore by default, of losing) is an area I am passionate about. Call me annoyingly optimistic if you want but I’ve always been the one to see the glass half full, to brighten the room when I enter it not when I leave it. I took this attitude right through my Taekwon-Do training and I instilled it in all of my students. Don’t get me wrong, you can have the right mental attitude and all the right physical training and still lose, Rafael Nadal has lost his fair share of matches that’s for sure, but remember, losing a match does not a bad tennis player make. Someone has to lose and having the right mental attitude will help you rationalise a defeat with more sophistication and help you dissect where you went wrong without beating yourself up about it and in turn, you will improve.
Studies have been done where basketball players were split into three groups – one group practised only in their mind’s eye – mental preparation; another group practised daily on the court’s free-throw line – physical preparation; and the final group practised on the court and engaged in visualisation techniques as well – mental and physical preparation. Can you figure out who had the most improvement? Both of the first two groups had almost identical improvement in their on court game but it was the final group, the group who participated in both mental and physical preparation who had such a substantial increase in their performance that it has become a regular part of their competition readiness preparation.
The martial art and sport of Taekwon-Do is not just about kick and punch, hand and foot, it’s so much more, it’s also about the ‘art’, the ‘do’, its beauty and power is in the balance of both art and science, the mental and the physical. Honour the art in you and yourself in the art by making your physical and mental preparation an innate part of your Taekwon-Do competition and grading ritual, make push-ups for the mind a regular part of your training. Experience success in your mind and body. Be the chicken and the egg.