You make the decision to step on the floor at a competition, expose yourself to the rigour of the test and the judgment of others. The day comes and you begin your preparation, following your established routine and familiar feelings come to the surface. Thoughts and emotions flood your system, some welcome and others less so. You reflect on your preparation, the decision to compete, the opposition that youʼll face today and your past experiences on the mat. You think about your breakfast and how itʼs sitting uncomfortably in your stomach, how your body feels today; loose and fresh and bursting with energy and excitement or perhaps flat and stiff with every little thing taking more willpower and energy than it should. This should be familiar to most of us, but we donʼt talk about it much. Maybe itʼs just too real, or we have to expose too much of ourselves to potentially uncaring and judgmental others. Maybe we see openness as a sign of weakness or we fear our confidence and comfort in that situation might be seen as arrogance by others. Our past experiences shape us, creating a world view that is unique to each of us. That world view is acted upon by our thoughts and emotions and later events, shaped and moulded until it influences our future actions. The confident can become more confident or have their self assurance shattered by a series of events that force them to shift their world view. The nervous and timid can be bolstered by positive experiences or shattered completely through an overload of negative experiences and the precipitating emotions and unproductive thoughts. If this all sounds like itʼs outside of your/our control and more down to fate and circumstance then that can be true… or you can choose to exert a little control and understand what your mind is doing to you and shape your thoughts and emotions to enhance your future actions and experiences. How? We examine the chain of events and choose an appropriate intervention to give us back control.Something happens… letʼs say youʼre a couple of points down and youʼre chasing the match under pressure from the ticking clock. You commit to a headshot and are nicely caught and winded by your opponents back kick. What does this mean to you? Well if you tend to be a rational minded person you may have negative thoughts that emerge in this situation. Why did I do that, that was so stupid? She was clearly setting me up? Why didnʼt I just go for the safe shot and take a better ring position? These negative thoughts can, if left unchecked, lead to negative emotions; despair, inadequacy, disappointment, anger. Based on your previous experiences of similar situations and the outcome of your responses you may cascade to a negative action or response. You might seek to hurt your opponent, blame the referee or your coach, give up on the match, go to drown your sorrows afterwards etc. On the other hand you might be more emotionally driven and respond to the hit with shame, embarrassment, anger, frustration. This could then lead to negative and unproductive thoughts. Whatʼs the point? Why did I sign up for this? Iʼm no good at this? Iʼm such an idiot. The actions you then take are less likely to be positive in the same way as the rational example. What to do? We can exercise control by using positive self talk and affirmations to influence our feelings. When the emotional mind is in play we notice our feelings and develop thoughts from there which influence our response. We can exercise control by re-framing or thought stopping. In other words, we recognize and acknowledge the negativity in thoughts or emotions and take action there to influence the down chain events. When we recognize a negative thought we use a prepared cue word to stop the negative chain of thoughts before they influence our emotions. We substitute that negative thought with an ‘if this then thatʼ practiced response. We recognize the negative and reframe and replace it with a positive action. We use a physical trigger to ‘resetʼ our emotions and set us on the right path towards a productive response. Weʼll be talking more about how to create Taekwon-Do specific practices to prepare athletes for this inevitable situation over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more discussion, example drills and games and some case studies!
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