karate and sophrology

Is anybody out there interested to know how sophrology can help with achieving high goals in sports? I want to write about how sophrology helped me achieve my goals in martial arts, that may be helpful or simply of interest, or that might give some clues to people who think achieving goals in sports is purely in the muscle bulk, or in the regular training.

Yes it may be a little tricky for me to admit that I am 57, female, not exactly at my peak fitness stage and so maybe not a great success story to inspire the young sporty minds who look up at heroes in the magazines, sports celebs, as models of achievement. But from a normal, everyday, family perspective, my sons and my husband really look up to me with soooo much respect. I have achieved what I set myself to achieve and I am no pro.

Let me explain a few things about my journey of self discovery.

Karate has been part of my life for the last few years, quite a few years in fact when I think of the times I left the club, went back to train, left again because it was becoming too hard for me to keep up. The karate journey is a journey of the mind as well as a journey of the body. Sometimes the mind develops at a different pace to the body in this kind of journey. It becomes normal to understand that self development can be a long wild road, with slopes and bumps and hills. All along one tries to acknowledge some battles with oneself, some difficulties within that need to be worked upon to accept oneself. Why the hell do that then.... Well, I was always interested in the Eastern approach to life, the Zen approach, the respect for humility and learning.

"There are no gains without pains" Adlai Stevenson

When I started my sophrology studies, I immediately worked out the connection between karate and sophrology.Sophrology being a self development technique using breathing and visualisation as well as mental training is a direct product of Zen and other Eastern techniques. I caught myself visualising my black belt and relaxing my mind to be better prepared for the grading, I knew which type of breathing to use, or which quality to work on mentally to improve training straight away. I was 55. It made my karate friends laugh a lot and often as I told them that buying my black belt before the grading served the purpose of training myself mentally. As if...there was not already enough mental and visualising work involved in karate.

Two years on, with regular sophrology exercises which precisely and at various moments when needed made me work more and improve:

-my focus

-my speed

-my technique

-my strength

-my confidence

-my discipline

-my resilience

I took my first dan belt.

Every time I trained, I was aware of what exactly I was missing that day, before the session. So I would tell myself: I really need to work on my speed today, I feel so lethargic, and I would practise mentally a specific sophrology exercise learnt at sophrology school. It worked every time, obviously at my level and I am realistic about what is possible and not possible in a certain karate level. The goal is what it is, and I am what I am.

Before my last grading, the one for first dan, I felt calm, confident, focused, much much more so than before the previous one. And it just happened. No feeling of sickness or nausea. Just a clear mind. For me, that was a fantastic advantage.

I won't go through the details of the grading which lasts four hours, that is not my point here.

But I can think of all the capacities needed for karate as capacities developed by sophrology too because I know both karate and sophrology very well but my karate buddies don't know sophrology and can't even accept that there is an extra way to prepare oneself mentally and physically.

One of my friends said to me before the grading started: "Have you worked on the rythm of your kata since Friday?", I said "Yes, mentally". It didn't surprise him, I bet he does it all the time without realising it because that's exactly what karate does to you, you visualise moves all the time...

The added value of sophrology though is that there is always a specific technique to develop every aspect of the sport, other than the regular approach to training.

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