"...there is a sufficient research
base to conclude that sports psychology can assist
martial artists with achieving peak performance in
both katas and sparring. In particular, skills
training can aid with regulating intensity in the
martial arts as well as improving the physical
skills required to be competitive."
Although sports psychology is still in its infancy, a tremendous amount of interest has been generated by the potential of psychological principles to enhance athletic performance. In particular, the dedication to empirical examination of the tenets of cognitive-behavioral theory has led to more effective clinical techniques which have been intuitively appealing to sport psychology consultants. As a result, psychological methods were implemented to enhance performance prior to solid research support. However, recent reviews of studies conducted in the last approximately fifteen years have shown the psychological methods to be useful in the area of sports performance enhancement (Greenspan
& Feltz, 1989; Weinberg and Comar, 1994).
Although martial arts derive from the eastern philosophical thinking which focuses on the importance of the
combined interaction of the mind and body, many western martial artists tend to ignore the mental aspects
of the art and only focus on the physical aspects.
Interestingly, other sports that were not so grounded in the metaphysical traditions seem to have more
easily accepted the precepts of sport psychology and embraced the development of mental skills. It seems
that more and more frequently, whenever a sporting event is on television, references are made to sport
psychologists assisting the athletes. Top athletes in most sports are turning to sport psychologists to
enhance their performance because the development of the mental skills has been shown to give an edge
to those athletes. READ MORE...
Training “smart” is more important than the amount of daily practice. Too often an athlete
believes that the more he or she practices, the more proficient he/she will become. However, this plan
is not only ineffective, but it can also be detrimental to achieving the desired outcome. An
athlete who practices frequently and hard without an overall plan will be more likely to suffer
the effects of overtraining such as burn-out, exhaustion, and increased injuries rather than
actually improving performance. By developing a set of specific goals and a plan for reaching
those goals, athletes can more effectively use their practice time and even reduce the time
required in practice to attain their goals. Obviously, this does not mean that the martial
artist can achieve rank or win tournaments with little practice; it means that the athlete does
not need to waste time through ineffective practice and through the harmful effects of overtraining.
Assessing performance and correcting errors are important internal skills for the martial arts student
to develop. But how does one develop this skill? To do so, the martial arts instructor needs to
consciously teach skill just as he or she teaches proper execution of a side kick or using faking
techniques during sparring. However, teaching the development of using internal sources of information
for feedback may be something many martial arts instructors were not taught themselves. So often when
we teach skills, our response to the student’s performance involves correcting errors or giving general
praise, neither of which are conducive to teaching the student how to self-correct errors. In fact,
these responses tend to create excessive dependence upon the instructor’s feedback and presence.
The manner in which instructors provide feedback to athletes can have significant impact upon an
athlete's self-efficacy which in turn affects the ability to learn a skill and the overall
performance. Self-efficacy is the athlete's personal belief that he or she has the capability
to learn and perform a specific skill or activity. The results of an interesting study by
Amparo Escarti and Jose Guzman in 1999 indicated that performance feedback which focuses on
providing feedback regarding technique rather than evaluating outcome was related to increased
self-efficacy, a higher level of performance, and the tendency to choose more difficult tasks.
Other research has shown that a higher level of self-efficacy improves performance. Thus,
research shows us that how a coach provides feedback to athletes is critical in the development
of the athlete.
To make this issue all the more complicated, there is research evidence that women respond
differently than men to feedback from coaches. This is most likely a crucial point in the
martial arts today because the majority of instructors in the martial arts are men and there
are more and more women choosing to participate and compete in the martial arts. Therefore,
a martial arts instructor needs to be more attuned to the methods of providing feedback to
women in order to elicit their best performance as well as to keep them interested in
continuing their training