Mental imagery is a commonly used technique that is used by athletes the world over in a wide variety of sporting disciplines.
BJJ competitors are no exception and this technique is by no means an unknown science for practitioners of the ‘Gentle Art’.
What is mental imagery?
From a sporting perspective, mental imagery involves an athlete recreating a situation in their mind that involves them performing successfully.
For this technique to be most effective, the athlete will incorporate all of their senses (sight, sound, touch and smell) and will aim to recreate the scene in an as much vivid detail as possible.
How can mental imagery be applied to BJJ?
1 – Learning and Perfecting Skills
• Whether you are trying to master a new skill or polish off a technique that you already know well, mental imagery can be an effective way to reinforce physical practice.
• When you are away from the mat, take the time to run sequences of images in your head that show you successfully going through the motions of executing a particular skill or technique in as much detail as possible.
• Remember to incorporate all of your senses as you do this. Coupled with actual physical practice, going through these imaginary sequences will help to ingrain the right way of doing things in your mind at a faster pace.
2 – Emotional Control
• You may have noticed during training or competitions that you react in a negative way to specific situations that have hindered your performance.
• Make a conscious effort to make yourself aware of these behaviours and use mental imagery to imagine yourself reacting in a more positive way.
• Examples of this could include:
– Nerves hindering your performance during competitions
• Prepare yourself mentally for this kind of situation by imagining conducting yourself in a calm and composed manner
• Familiarise yourself with a competition style situation and recreate all of the sights, sounds, smells and hustle and bustle that goes on around you
• Familiarise yourself with the pressures and natural nerves of such an event and visualise yourself calmly going through your preparations.
– Reacting negatively to decisions that don’t go your way
• You may react angrily or get disheartened by refereeing decisions that go against you, which can have a negative knock on effect on your performance
• Recreate such a time from your past, or visualise such an occurrence, but imagine yourself brushing the decision off and quickly, calmly refocusing on the job at hand.
– Getting frustrated at your rate of learning or picking up new techniques
• Using the technique outlined above for familiarising yourself with new skills and techniques can help with this
• Another key element for getting on top of frustration with regards to your learning progress is to recreate positive images of the techniques that you have already mastered to remind yourself of your ability and success so far
3 – Visualising Success
Similar to recreating scenes of you conducting yourself in a calm manner in competition situations, you can take this one step further by imagining yourself winning in such situations.
You may want to create a picture of what the scene will look like after you have won a particular fight. Who will be there? What will you feel like? Recreate the sounds, smells, sights and atmosphere of the occasion.
The aim here is to again create as vivid and engaging scene as possible so that you will be extra motivated and drawn to this kind of positive outcome.
With scientific evidence to prove the success of this technique it is important to remember that as with physical practice, mentally repeating these processes will improve your visualisation skills to help you achieve more successful outcomes. Good luck!