Biochemical changes in the Jiu Jitsu fighter's brain!
In many of life’s activities, people will often start off with a certain zeal for their chosen hobbies or professions. They will enter the activity with a huge amount of enthusiasm and then begin to falter later in the game. This is normally not due to a physical deficiency on their part but rather a mental one. Their body will become stronger but then their will to drive onwards will become weaker. What allows a person who seems to have the love of a sport, become apathetic towards it for no apparent reason? Besides the obvious situation of financial strain or incompatibility of their schedule due to work and family obligations, how does one lose focus on their original goals so quickly? What seems to be apparent to me is that once goals have been perceived as important enough to attempt to achieve, the mental toughness of an individual serves as a huge indicator as to whether or not the goal will be a successful accomplishment or a failure. In Jiu Jitsu one of the greatest goals for an athlete is the rank of Black Belt. Most practitioners that I know covet this prize and hold it in the proper regards as far as ranking it high as one of life’s great accomplishments. Why is it then that people stumble and fall off the path mid way through the journey? What steps can one take to increase their chances of reaching that goal? There are many techniques that can be used to keep you concentrated towards maintaining the discipline needed to give you a competitive edge and help succeed in sticking to your plan and accomplishing great things in both BJJ and life. As both a fighter and a coach it is paramount to understand this psychological process and be able to prevent it from occurring and help positive progress in your technical and practical knowledge of the art. As a business owner it will allow you to retain your students and allow for academy growth. As a competitor, it may be the difference between winning and losing.
On technique that I find particularly useful is something that I call “conscious direction.” This is a technique that can be uniquely tailored to each individual and helps out tremendously. This is a motivational technique used in sports psychology and motivational therapists. Tailoring it to BJJ isn’t very difficult as the general idea is to create positive visualizations to instill emotions and direction molded and adapted towards a jiu jitsu fighter. “Conscious direction” is simply a way to start off the day or activity with a positive mental outlook focusing on success. It is similar to meditation and self hypnosis but requires less imagination and visualization on the practitioner’s part. It differs in that unlike with self meditation and hypnosis, the conscious brain is targeted and no subliminal suggestion is required. It is more or less a way to get the brain and “competitive spirit” warmed up and on track and aligned with targeted goals that an individual may have. This is extremely important in competitive sports, that the athlete works on increasing confidence and focus through visualization exercises. This only takes perhaps 5 to 10 minutes in the morning and will start the day off with an increased intensity, motivation and drive. Subjects find that there moods are elevated and this is likely due to an increase in serotonin levels. After time, the body will begin to make changes on a biological level and the association between mental imagery and endorphin levels will institute a behavioral change. The connection between brain and body is stronger than most people realize. Doctor David Bohm a renowned physicist and who made huge contributions in the fields of theoretical physics and neuropsychology gives valuable insight into this process. He understood that thoughts control our actions. We feel as if we have control over our thought processes but in actuality it is our thoughts that drive and control us. What this means is that when we are critical of ourselves and have self doubt, we will actually change and alter the biochemical make up of our brain, lowering serotonin levels while increasing cortisol levels, causing depression and leaving feelings of anxiety and stress. This will then only accentuate the negative thought processes which caused this process to begin, which leads it to spiral into even greater feelings of self doubt. It’s a snowball effect…it only gets worse over time. Fortunately the reverse is also true. Putting positive thoughts and associations in one’s mind and thought process of success and achievement will only increase the biochemical activity associated with these behaviors, decreasing cortisol while increasing endorphins like serotonin and likely increase the chances of repeating such successful behaviors and endeavors. Sometimes losing is a self fulfilling prophecy and reversely a winning attitude can be the difference in the outcome of an event. The influence the brain has over the body is profound and by directing the brain to focus and orient itself towards a directed goal, one can improve their productivity, attitude, health and well being. In the terms of Jiu Jitsu, and training, one can focus and orient themselves to help with their diet, stretching, training, competing, learning and teaching. Unlike self help books and c.d.’s, one can tailor their own program to reach their individuals goals and change it on a daily basis if need be.
Next Post...Part 2. Creating a Routine
Baby Rhino gets a new belt!