Mental Imagery in the Martial Arts

Mental imagery –learn more about this mental technique and how it can improve your performance...

Mental imagery is part of our mental training tools.

It is a technique we can use to improve our performance in a fight or combat situation or during training.

Other techniques we can use for our mental trainings are tools such as meditation and hypnosis.

Mental imagery

A technique in which we use our imaginations to visualize

• A situation

• Ourselves inside it


• The way we perform and feel in that situation.

For example: Before a boxing match we can visualize (with as much use of all our senses as we can)

• The situation – the crowd, the screaming the smell of popcorn in the air, our opponent inside the ring…

• Ourselves inside the situation – our heart rate, our feelings (anger, stress, anxiety, excitement…), our thoughts, the color of our boxing gloves, the feel of our trousers and boxing shoes…

• The way we perform and feel – We are very fast – too fast for him… we stick with our game plan – when ever he sets up for his right hook, we strike instantly with a left jab…

We feel good, the tension is decreasing, and we hear the crowd cheer us…

This is only a short and small example of what our mental imagery could be like.


Improving quality of performance by

1. Mental

Deepening our experience by simulation it -by “being” there and solving mental problems which arise – over-stress, over-motivation, over-confidence lack of it and so on…

We can experience the fight as if we’re actually fighting – getting hit and hitting, the stress we feel when we look in our opponents eyes… - face and solve the problems either during the imagery session or afterwards.

* Note – in some cases because of the “critical factor” hypnosis can be a great completion technique for actually solving the problem…

2. Technical – when ever we perform an action it is our brain which performs it for us (aside from a reflex), by imagining the action in our mind we actually train and prepare our brain for what it must do.

This “brain workout” can be done in many ways, 2 important ones are

Micro and macro

• Micro – on a small scale we imagine ourselves doing one detailed movement at a time for example - giving a punch

First we visualize the proper timing for acting (for instance when he steps in with a cross), then we visualize our legs and the direction of their movement, while they extend we can see and feel our hip start to rotate while our shoulders follow through – the arm extending and at the last minute the fist closes…

This is a good way to improve individual techniques, especially ones which for some reason we’re “stuck” on, and despite the physical and technical training we can’t seem to get it right…

• Macro – on a large scale –

We imagine ourselves performing a series of movements – with out going too deep into the actual motion of each movement – for example –

Visualizing what we will do (and actually doing it in our mind) inside the “pocket” position or visualizing what we’ll do (and actually doing it in our mind) when we’re caught in the clinch position….

We can imagine ourselves performing our game plan or imagine the whole fight. If we “succeed” in our mind to perform to the level we want, then the imagery has trained our mind for proper behavior, response and execution, and has improved and developed our self confidence;

If during the session we lack the ability to perform, for example,

In our imagination we can’t seem to work our game plan (tactics) (due to lack of understanding, or lack of ability to execute – yes in some cases our mind will “let us know” we have a problem to execute by not letting us imagine the “scene” or by not letting us experience it in details…) we can now begin to solve the cause of the problem..

Solving problem which arose

In some cases we can solve the problem during the imagery session while in other cases we resolve the problem afterwards with other methods.

Improving quality of training

We can use mental imagery during our workouts to improve everything we reviewed developing performance quality, with an addition of improvement and reinforcement of our training motivation and refocusing on our specific workout goals.

Other uses

• We can use imagery as a refocusing method

• We can use imagery as a method for relaxing

Performing mental imagery

Imagery’s most important rule is:

Making it as real as we can

By using as much of our senses as we can. The image must be vivid, real and continuous with out “frame gaps” – like a good movie, with the addition of utilizing other senses as well.

2 view points

• Seeing the events through our eyes – this method is helpful especially when we’re working on mental aspects.

• Seeing the events through an outsiders eyes – this method is helpful especially when working on technical elements and martial arts techniques in general.

Mental imagery can be performed through using an outside person like a colleague or martial art instructor or teacher to help us with the visualization or by performing it on our own

In the Warriors Project there are different preferences and opinions as to how to achieve proper imagery – our best advice for any martial artist is to test and examine and find what works best for him.

When and where to train and perform it

When ever we need –

• Before workout

• During or as part of our warm ups

• During training

• For relaxing

• During or as part of our cool down exercises

• Before a fight

• After training

• And so on…

Like any technique and skill we should train it in order for it to become useful and effective as well as easy and fast to perform.

Tips regarding mental imagery

(Some of them are already written in other parts of the article)

• Try to involve as many senses as possible and create a realistic image of the situation

• The images should be optimistic, positive and successful – if there’s an obstacle which interferes – good – solve it and return to the process.

• Practice between 10 – 20 minutes a day in order to increase effectiveness and skillfulness of the technique.

• Imagery should be learned and practiced while we are relaxed and in an un-distracting environment. Afterwards we can, step by step, practice it in normal and then in stressful situations…

• Writing our description can be helpful

• Taping our description can be helpful

• Having a colleague martial arts instructor teacher or trainer can be helpful


For more mental imagery drills and tips – sign up to our free

Warriors Project – Drills and Tips E-zine


Although mental imagery is defined as a mental training tool, it can also be a martial arts techniques training tool and a preliminary tool for fight simulations and acquiring fighting experience.

Imagery can never replace actual physical training but it is a stepping stone on the path to training our most important attribute – our mind.

Learn more about Mental Endurance

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