Mindfulness and Martial Arts

By Chloe Harris

Training in martial arts requires a tremendous amount of focus. Combat sports training and our response to life in general can also depend on our internal mental state. The goal of a martial artists is to developed this skill of being fully present in the every moment and not just in training.

Mindfulness is being fully aware of what’s happening in the present moment. May it be your thoughts, actions, or circumstances or whatever is happening to you in that moment. Calm and Mindful and not being overwhelmed or passing judgment on anything/anyone. This ability is embedded in human nature. People do not need to change themselves to accomplish mindfulness; it just needs to be accessed and utilised consistently.

How Does Mindfulness Help the Martial Arts Student in everyday life?

The ability to be mindful reaps many benefits, especially in the long run. Research from Dr Daphne M. Davis and Jeffrey A. Hayes, authorities in counselling psychology, showed findings of cognitive and physical improvements among clients who had undergone mindfulness exercise in their psychotherapy. Some are as follows:

Stress alleviation

-Reduced rumination

-Strengthened focus

-Improved memory retention

-Less emotional reactivity

-Overall life satisfaction

The benefits are already rewarding in the big picture. How about in the world of martial arts? The answer is complementary to each other. Mindfulness is a path to martial arts just as martial arts is a path to mindfulness. No one can master any form of combat athletics without being fully in control of his own mental tendencies. Here are some foreseeable outcomes if one has implemented mindfulness in his training regimen:

Easier learning

Neurotic thoughts are lessened

-Relieved nerves during sparring or actual combat

-Quick reflexes

-Controlled reaction to physical or mental adversity

-Training becomes a spiritual experience

How to apply Mindfulness

Karina Wolfin, founder of Direct Appliance Rentals, firmly believes that small habits improve our physical and mental faculties one day at a time and contribute to our ability to focus over the long term. She says, “Concentration is a skill that has to be developed and maintained for a long period. If we are not cultivating healthy eating and sleeping habits, the effects are detrimental. Mindfulness will never be fully achieved.”

A student can achieve mindfulness in different ways. Here are some habits you can immediately implement in your next training sessions:

1.Meditate – Lots of different ways have sprung up since influencers have hyped meditation. Although this is ideal, some are having choice paralysis from having too many options. Before training, start with the simple practice of sitting down quietly, in a silent room without any form of distractions. It’s best to close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Do this consistently for a designated amount of time; you could start with 10 to 20 minutes of meditation.

2.Control your breathing – Before, during, and after training, be conscious of how you breathe. There are right ways to breath during combat and general exercise. Implement those and don’t let it slip away from your mind. You will feel the proper breathing is second nature once you do this consistently.  When confronted with any situation, be it verbal or physical attacks breath deeply first and then choose to respond.

3.Do not judge – Remove your inhibitions, prejudices, and discernment about anyone or anything on the mat or in the real world. Don’t label anything as good or bad understand what is and choose a response. A true Martial artist does not want to hurt anyone. Resolve disputes before it gets physical. If you are judging someone too harshly because of their present actions, you are not being mindful. 

4.Take care of yourself, physically and mentally – Concentrating is a burden if the body and mind are not adequately nourished. Get enough rest and practice a mindful diet.

Mindfulness is a powerful tool for everyday life. Aikido, the Way of Peace is aligned with the idea of being truly present in every moment. To fully realise the present moment without judgment and cultivate a calm relaxed nature in any situation.