"...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 theoryhas 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).
Much of the research in this area has focused on
individual sports or individual skills for team sports
as that allows for better experimental designs. As the
research base has grown, it has become possible to
select particular sports, especially those that are
individually based, and examine the literature for the
factors that influence performance. A number of studies
have specifically focused on enhancing performance in
the martial arts as the martial arts are conducive to
empirical study given their nature and the reasons that
individuals participate in the martial arts.
Although we may prefer to believe that learning a motor skill is purely learning a set of physical techniques,
we have to consider that most learning typically takes place in the context of an interpersonal relationship with
a teacher. The critical question is how does this interaction affect the development of motor skills. It appears
that the mediating factor between the presentation of the instructions by the teacher and the performance of the
skill by the student may be the cognitive process of self-efficacy (Escarti & Guzman, 1999). Some may argue that
the development of effective skills may lead to the increased self-efficacy demonstrated by students of high
ability. Although this process occurs, it is not sufficient for explaining the role of developing
self-efficacy and its impact on learning motor skills. To fully explain the role of self-efficacy, we must
evaluate the interpersonal context of how the teacher or coach provides feedback to the athlete, how that
feedback affects self-efficacy, and how self-efficacy enhances performance. Unfortunately, studies directly
examining this relationship are sparse, and therefore, the inferences need to be made based on research
examining the relation of the different components of the equation such as the feedback/self-efficacy
relationship and the self-efficacy/motor skills relationship.
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...
Personality testing has been used for many decades by industrial/organizational (I/O) psychologists to select
appropriate candidates to fill certain job positions. In particular, police departments and fire departments
often require personality testing of applicants. Even many seminaries require testing of students desiring to
become ministers or priests. More recently, some professional sports teams are using personality testing to
help select from the draft choices. Is this a good idea and what kind of problems can we expect in this process?
Without confidence in one’s ability, an individual cannot perform to his or her potential. It is
even possible that someone with lesser ability, but with confidence, can outperform this person because
belief in oneself can be a powerful influence. What is this sense of confidence? Albert Bandura refers
to situation-specific self-confidence as “self-efficacy” which is the strength of an individual’s belief
that he or she can successfully perform a given activity. The concept of self-efficacy has often been
used interchangeably with the concept of self-esteem which is the process of evaluating the self;
however, self-efficacy is more accurately described as a precursor to self-esteem and is mediated
by the individual’s self-attributions.
Low self-esteem has been implicated in most psychological dysfunction; however, low self-esteem is not
necessarily the root cause of this dysfunction. It is believed (Aro, 1994) that individuals with high
self-esteem who may be predisposed to psychological disorders are better equipped to cope with those
disorders, and thus, reduce the negative consequences that may result. Therefore, if self-esteem can
be enhanced, the psychological consequences of disorders can be reduced. This process can be
illustrated by describing a similar process that occurs with physical illness such as diabetes.
The individual may be genetically predisposed to developing the illness, but if they engage in the
proper healthy care-taking activities, they may prevent the development of the illness or, at least,
reduce its consequences (Amir et. al., 1990. The enhancement of self-esteem and self-efficacy can
be an important contributing factor to both the prevention of psychological and physical illness
and the maintenance of health.
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.
Frequently, people have many misconceptions about what sport psychology is and how it is applied.
These misconceptions stem from making assumptions based on a limited understanding of psychology
and how it is used in applied settings. In particular, misconceptions include thinking that
sport psychology is for treating athletes with mental disorders or that it is simply focused on
getting an athlete through a slump or that it is just fluff. There is also a great deal of
confusion about the credentials of a sport psychologist primarily because there has been
controversy within the field as to the appropriate credentials.
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