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Sport & Exercise Psychology

Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review 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.  READ MORE...

Feedback, Self-Efficacy, and the Development of Motor SkillsAlthough 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.

Developing FocusAlthough 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 in Sports 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? READ MORE...

Self-Efficacy: The Key to Success in Sports 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. READ MORE...

The Reciprocal Influence of Self-Esteem and Exercise 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.  READ MORE...

Setting Goals to Maximize Performance 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. READ MORE...

What is Sports Psychology?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.  READ MORE...

Teaching Self-CorrectionAssessing 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. READ MORE...

Giving Women Feedback to Increase Self-EfficacyThe 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  READ MORE...