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By Matt Kaplan, San-Dan
Shihan, Downtown Karate Dojo
Honolulu, Hawaii


As is increasingly understood in the world of sports psychology, "imagery training" enhances an athlete's potential for reaching his or her peak performance abilities. Imagery is an essential element of traditional karate training. As we practice the biomechanical motions of the various karate techniques, particularly as we train kata, we are also working on developing our ability to envision (and hence prepare for) real opponents, real encounters, real threats, and real conflict.

Although most people think about imagery training as merely "visualization," it also includes the sensations of touching, smelling, hearing and feeling. What this might mean for practicing or thinking about karate techniques is that we could "set" our perceptual apparatus for hearing opponents' footsteps, feeling the wind generated as attacks approach, and smelling the breath emerging from hidden opponents' mouths.

To go with the subject of imagery a bit further: Beyond what happens between the karate practitioner and the imagined opponent, it may also be helpful to visualize contextual factors such as having imaginary encounters take place on the edge of a cliff (where going ackwards means certain death), or perhaps in front of an unsupportive or hostile crowd that is likely to ridicule or even attack the karate practitioner. The possibilities are endless, as are theenefits -- readiness for anything, convergence of our focus, and the strengthening of our resolve to persevere and survive.

Matt Kaplan
Work: 1-808-566-2485
Fax: 1-808-544-9306

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