A few years ago I read “The Inner Game of Tennis – The Classic Guide to the Mental side of Peak Performance” by W. Timothy Gallwey. And as you might know, I’m not a Tennis player, in fact I only put my feet on the court holding a racket a couple of times and it was enough for me to know that I should stick to the walls. This book is the narration of a pro tennis coach through his discovery of a new teaching/learning method. I felt like his experiences were similar to things we experience in PK, therefore I decided to tell you a little bit of what the Inner Game of PK is for me.
Firstly, I hope you guys understand the importance of having a strong “armour”. There is a lot of athletes with great mental performance, but a not properly built armour can lead you into overloading your body on a long-term, causing injuries; or bails that within seconds can make you stopped for months. PK can be very harmful for your body. If you do not make your body ready for impacts, changes of directions, sudden full-stops, over-bending, among other things, you will get outworn quickly and your traceur life will be short and painful. (There are loads of drills, and exercises on the internet, make sure you check ‘em)
On this text I will try to give you a few tips to learn tricks or unblock your mind during your training sessions, based on what I read on the book and from self experience.
1 – Discovering your Selves.
As it goes on the book, you should discover your 2 selves while learning and practicing. The Self 1 is your judgemental and insecure conscious, it will always make you have second thoughts while you prepare for a jump. The Self 1 is also what keeps you safe and understanding of your capabilities, it knows the physiques of each movement and is able to describe how each technique is performed. The Self 2 is your body’s capabilities, it’s the natural gear of your movement. It will never overthink while you train, it’s muscle memory or instinctive reactions. It’s your body working on a less judgemental or even rational way.
Do you remember when you have a move that was suddenly blocked for some reason? You know how it works, how to do it, and if you try it, you will land it instantly. Well, this is your Self 1 blocking your Self 2 from doing what it wants to do. Keep in mind that this is a completely normal reaction, you can’t simply hibernate your conscious(Self 1) while training, however, you should be aware that this block you have is simply your mind tricking you with fear.
One thing I realized after training with so many amazing people, it’s the “non-hesitating” mindset that they have. If you see someone with a high level, you will see that this person doesn’t reflect and prepare his/her mind for too long before performing the jump. This pre-jump moment usually is your Self 1 telling you it has to think and reflect before you commit, it’s your conscious building up fear, when in fact, you already know how it should be done, and your Self 2 is ready to do it.
So make sure you are able to recognize when your Self 1 is blocking your Self 2, and manage to free your mind and let it happen.
2 – Letting it happen
One day I wanted to do the scariest jump I have ever done in my life. The run-up was narrow and high, the drop for coming up too short could take me to a hospital, the landing was a piece of wood, it was far, and not level, I thought I would never make it. My Self 1 was constantly tricking me not to do it – I will hurt myself; the risk is not worth the reward; my friends and family will hate to know that I hurt myself – and that got me really close to giving up. Except no. I put my Self 1 in a positive place, it was peaceful and quiet, and I left it sleeping there. Looked at the jump a few times, stopped thinking and over focusing, and just Let it Happen. The running pre went great! I walked out of it and after the rush was gone my Self 1 kicked in again, my heart was beating really fast and I felt fear from something I was past already.
The point is, your body knows its own limits, your eyes will not usually trick you into considering some jump you can’t do, possible for you. What you have to do is let it happen. It might be a long process until you get used with going with the flow, but as soon as you are able to control your Selves, you will accomplish every challenge your body and your mind desire.
3 – Learning a new trick
You can find hundreds of tutorials online, about every single move you want to learn. But nothing will be more efficient than observation and experience. Everything that is said or written on a tutorial or classes, are hardly digested by your brain and transformed into action.
For example, if you want to learn how to do a frontflip, the tips will always be the same: run-up with moderate speed, take off aiming high, throw your arms and chest as high as possible, tuck tight, feel the rotation, spot the ground and open for landing. Now that you read and understood it you should be able to make it, right? I’m afraid it’s not that simple.The point is that one image is worth a thousand words. Observing the movement many times and then letting your Self 2 trying it according to what it absorbed from the observation is much more efficient. As well as trying the trick and having the feel of what goes right or wrong will work better than listening to instructions.
Everyone has different movement and body types. It’s really important that you practice your movement to feel what works the best for you. Experience your own body by practicing the same movement many times, you will eventually feel control and coordination.
It’s also very important to relax and let your Self 2 work according to what it feels right. A lot of people make the common mistake of tensing the whole body way too much and becoming too tight to perform the movement. You don’t need to flex your biceps while doing a cat pass. Besides of the tightness that will stop the natural flow, you are wasting useless energy and overloading your brain. But don’t think too much about it either, just let it happen naturally and let your Self 2 find the flow by itself.
4 – Visualize your movement
Since my early years of training I felt something was going on in my head very often before doing something. I call it the “light”, and sometimes while getting myself ready to do something I wait for the “light”. Basically, I waited for the moment I could clearly see the movement in my head, I could actually see myself doing it before it happens for real. One day I met Rick Koek, a Trial Bike rider, and he told me: “If you can visualize, you can make it”. Finally all my “Light” reflections made sense, and I could fully understand what it was. But isn’t it overthinking or letting your Self 1 control your training? No, it’s the opposite. When you visualize something, you are not trying to figure out how to do it, you basically see yourself doing it, and as long as you fully see the movement making sense on your head, you can turn it into reality. What your mind is doing is “letting it happen”. So, look for your own light, it will help you against your inner doubts.
5 – Do things for yourself
Motivation is obviously an important tool to progress. It leads you to train hard, struggle with your difficulties and battle for your dreams. But at the end of the day, motivation is only found within ourselves. Practice for your own victories, don’t be too judgemental on yourself, and don’t let it drag you down. I tell you this from my own experience. When training by myself or with friends, my performance is much better than on an event, shooting a video, etc. What I realized was that my Self 2 was not doing things for himself, the Self 1 was creating insecurities and fears in my head, which caused me to move worse. When you’re out training or moving, let yourself play in the way it feels good for you to play. Do it for yourself, for your own pleasure. And have fun.
I highly recommend this book, it blew my mind, although it’s a Tennis book, the narration was easily translated into PK talk to me. Leave your comment below, telling about your Inner Game.