When I enrolled in my first Taekwondo class, I remember instructors expressing a strong emphasis on self control. At that time, in my youth, I understood self control to be strictly about being able to control my body in such a way that it would display balance, power, speed, and accuracy. I have come to discover with my clinical psychology education and my continued Taekwondo training, that our ability to control our body movements is just the physical portion of self control. There is an entire other portion that is rarely discussed during Taekwondo training, the mental portion.
In my last post, I proposed 4 Ways Courtesy May Improve Mental Health and in this post, I want to share how mental control impacts our overall performance and wellbeing. Lets examine 3 mental abilities and how they relate to self/mental control. Moreover, these skills have been shown to have a significant positive impact Taekwondo performance as well as our performance in our daily lives. Here they are:
- Attention: This ability has to do with how well we are able to focus on what we choose rather than be distracted by extraneous stimuli. In the dojang, this might look like not being able to focus on poomsae or basic training drills because your mind is wondering off to problems at home, school, or work. Not surprisingly, our performance decreases if we are not attending to the matters at hand. Thus, it is very important that we are able to improve our mental control of attention.
- Self talk: This ability is known to increase or decrease our anxiety depending if it is negative or positive self talk respectively. Negative self talk can be heard when a student is presented with a new challenging drill and it may sound like, “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never be able to…” Needless to say, negative self talk can have a negative impact on self image, confidence, and performance while positive self talk can improve them and as a result should be a vital component of any training curriculum.
- Our responses to our emotions: I consider this ability is by far the most important in sport and in life. It is our ability to take a hit in the face and not respond with rage. It is our ability to feel depressed and not hurt ourselves or others. It is our ability to not let our feelings of nervousness stop us from experiencing life. Let me make an important distinction. This ability is not about controlling our emotions. Our emotions are appropriate responses to things that happen. Controlling our responses to our emotions is what we do with those feelings of anger, depression, or anxiety. We can choose to express rage or outstanding sportsmanship. We can choose to seek social support rather than self harm. We can choose find healthy ways channel our anxiety instead of letting it cripple us.
There you have it! Three mental abilities that I encourage all martial arts instructors as well as coaches to incorporate into their lessons. These mental abilities can improve with consistent training, just as balance, power, speed, and accuracy can improve. Research has shown these skills to improve performance as well as our wellbeing.
How do you define self control?
Self control is one of the five tenets of Taekwondo taught at Taekwondo Wellness. Be on the lookout for future blog post describing how the other tenets may improve mental health as well. If you are interested in learning more about our programming, please call 520-333-3320 or visit our dojang at Intuition Wellness Center.
Written by Yoendry Torres, Psy.D., Clinical Psychologist
Image by: Republic of Korea