As you might know, I’ve spent much of my life studying the difference in performance when competitive individuals switch their focus from ‘external practice’ (technique) to ‘internal practice’ (mind-body connection) and have developed the Chi Performance method as a result.
This year I’m celebrating 30 years of Tai Chi training (OMG!) and if you’ve read the research you’ll know 10,000 hours (approx. 30 years) is the time needed for anyone to ‘master’ a skill. As such, it might be a good enough reason for you to give my method a try!
If not, here’s another reason!
Many of the athletes and artists I meet with are extremely talented but have difficulty executing during competition. While they may be able to play their sport or perform their art efficiently – even masterfully - during practice or rehearsal, their ability to move with fluidity, effortlessness and power is all but lost in pressure situations.
This is because they are as yet unable to experience a crucial process in the brain as effectively as those players and performers of world-class status.
Simply put, they’re not able to *stop thinking* and this self-interference is responsible for all the tears and frustration experienced around the world by those who unwittingly sabotage their own best efforts, as they violate the basic laws of how the brain best helps the body to produce fluid motion.
Here’s how it works.
The Pre-Frontal Cortex (PFC) is the CEO of the brain, responsible for looking at all the thinking processes that occur and making sure that things run smoothly. When first learning a complex motion – like the tennis serve for instance – the PFC is largely responsible for taking in and analyzing information and helping the muscles of the body execute the motion that is being learned.
However, another part of the brain – the Motor System (MS) - takes over when the motion has been learned and repeated thousands of times.
Staying with our tennis example, in order for the player to execute a world-class serve or back-hand down the line passing shot when under the pressure of competition, the signal about the intended motion must go directly to the MS, bypassing the PFC - otherwise the motion will be clumsy, ineffective and most likely off-target.
This is a process that happens automatically in world-class players. Obviously they’re not aware they are sending signals directly to the MS – but they do know how to minimize self-interference and allow the brain and body to communicate with each other effectively, without getting in their own way.
It’s my belief that Meditation, the Eastern art of focusing on the breath is the fundamental skill every athlete and performer needs to master, as it has been proven to reduce activity in the PFC, shutting down this over-active part of the brain and allowing the occipital lobe to produce ‘alpha brain-waves’ i.e. the zone or flow-state.
P.S. There are so many processes occurring in your brain, body and nervous-system while you perform a complex motion that once you start thinking about it, the less able your body is to move smoothly, efficiently and with power.
Research shows that internal practices like Meditation really are the key to peak performance so please get in touch if you’re ready to raise your game or art to a level beyond good technique and into the zone.