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"Mindful Practice, Using Sport Psychology Skills to Improve Martial Arts Training: Challenging Perfectionistic Demands"

Frank, Monica
Physical Training: Fitness for Combatives (2002)

Highly Recommended

This article is one of a series on employing psychology skills to enhance martial arts training. In this article, Dr. Monica A. Frank expands on her previously published research—"Performance Enhancement in the Martial Arts: A Review"—to provide detailed and practical application of techniques.

The article is based on the concept that there are two types of perfectionistic thinking—perfectionistic demand or perfectionistic desire. Each of which impact a student performance.

According to Dr. Frank, a student with a perfectionistic demand thinking style has high expectations and works as hard as possible to reach his or her goals. However, if this student falls short of expectations, he or she feels like a failure. These students hate failure of any type, and consequently avoid challenges because of the risk of failing. Dr Frank uses students who do not seek promotions in rank because they are more likely to win tournaments at their current belt level as an example. In doing so, these student miss the opportunity to improve and learn. As the author summarizes, "They make winning more important than learning."

Students with a perfectionistic desire thinking style have similar expectations and work habits. However, if one of these students fails to reach their goals, he or she would feel positive about his or her performance, learn from the experience and seek improvements. The author uses her son's approach to playing chess to illustrate perfectionistic desire. In chess tournaments her son preferred to compete against a master level player—believing he would learn more from losing to a expert than beating someone of similar skill level.

After detailing the differences between the concepts, Dr. Frank then outlines steps to avoid perfectionistic demands and cultivate perfectionistic desire. The first step is awareness of negative self-statements or "self-talk" that students use when training or competing. The student makes a list of self-statements—an example being"Why can't I get this?"—and then examines them based on eight questions designed to determine which are beneficial. Lastly, the student works to replace negative thinking with positive "self-talk" by reviewing the list frequently, and choosing single statements to focus on throughout a practice.

In concluding the article, Dr. Frank states "The overall goal is to increase the beneficial self-talk which reduces the effectiveness of the harmful self-talk. The end result should be a corresponding increase in performance."

I recommend this article because the outlined information, techniques, and resulting enhancements in performance appeared to be drawn from substantial research; the concept of perfectionistic desire, as opposed to perfectionistic demand, is basic and easy to understand; the techniques needed to foster this type of thinking are fairly simple, and could easily be employed by most students; and the benefits of developing perfectionistic desire could also be a valuable skill outside of the dojang—in the workplace, classroom, or wherever the student faces challenges.

The article is written in a style with the intended audience being the individual student. However, I believe instructors could also benefit from the material by examining their instructions, statements, and critiques made during practices to determine if an environment focused on perfectionistic demand is being fostered. For example, one of the eight questions used to determine if self-statements are beneficial is; "Does it encourage me to keep trying or do I want to give up?" This question could be adapted for an instructor to; "Does it encourage the student to keep trying or will he or she want to give up?"

This article was written by Dr. Monica A. Frank. She is described as "a clinical psychologist and founder of Behavioral Consultants, a psychology practice in St. Louis, Missouri—and is currently receiving additional training to certify as a sports psychologist and teaches a Sports PsychSkills class at the Martial Arts Center."

Annotated by: Julie Carr (August 2002)

Martial Arts: Taekwondo |

Topics: competition/sparring | forms | instruction | philosophy | psychology | training/exercise science |


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