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 Mental/Emotional Fitness & Peak Performance: Training: Tools for Transformation 
 

Slow motion works, and it's fun. Like the practitioners of T'ai Chi, you may even discover that slow-motion sport is a form of moving meditation.

The Beginning-and-End Method
Beginning and end points are keys to a complete movement skill. Sometimes it isn't practical to work in slow motion?for example, in learning a cartwheel or a somersault. In cases like this, it's useful to pay strict attention to a perfect beginning and ending position. You may not have any idea where you are in the middle, but if the beginning and ending positions are just right, the middle will take care of itself. That's why so many coaches instinctively emphasize the correct follow-through.

Golf in particular benefits by awareness of the followthrough. Don't just swing the golf club, hit the ball, and move on. Hold the ending for a moment, and check your position, your balance, the position of your arms, head, and body. When I teach golf, the first emphasis is on balance and wholebody centering: then I show the best beginning and ending positions. These things form the basis of a consistent swing.

The physical application of beginning-end awareness is that if you complete a movement and find that you're in the wrong ending position?or example, if, in attempting a somersault, you find yourself ending up on your nose instead of your feet?ou should move as rapidly as possible to the correct ending position. The next time, you'll find that you won't be quite as far off?erhaps on your ear this time?nd you should again move instantly to the correct ending. Before long you'll simply end in the proper position, and the middle will begin to flow smoothly as well.

Golf in particular benefits by awareness of the follow through. Don't just swing the golf club, hit the ball, and move on. Hold the ending for a moment, and check your position, your balance, the position of your arms, head, and body. When I teach golf, the first emphasis is on balance and whole body centering: then I show the best beginning and ending positions. These things form the basis of a consistent swing.

The physical application of beginning-end awareness is that if you complete a movement and find that you're in the wrong ending position?or example, if, in attempting a somersault, you find yourself ending up on your nose instead of your feet?ou should move as rapidly as possible to the correct ending position. The next time, you'll find that you won't be quite as far off?erhaps on your ear this time?nd you should again move instantly to the correct ending. Before long you'll simply end in the proper position, and the middle will begin to flow smoothly as well.

Part-Whole Practice
Any skill, like the functioning of your car's carburetor, is made up of component parts. If you want to clean a carburetor and find out why it isn't working well, you take it apart and find the trouble spot. It works the same for a movement skill. The entire carburetor?r the skill?ay be fundamentally all right . . . except for one little part (which can cause imbalance in the whole), but you don't know where it is. That's when analysis comes in very handy.

A good teacher or insightful student can dive to the source of the problem, undistracted by symptoms. Once isolated, the problem is practically solved.

I've found it useful to teach a new movement skill by breaking it down into its parts first the beginning, then the middle, then the end. Afterward, it's easy to put the whole thing together.

Analysis can also be applied to specific drills that can save time and make learning an entire movement pattern much easier. Instead of isolating your practice to a single activity or skill, it's valuable to practice related drills. Divers, for example, will often train on the trampoline to learn somersaults and twisting without getting wet. Acrobatic skiers will do the same, because they can practice more repetitions with less energy. Pole vaulters can use certain gymnastics drills to learn more efficient ways of working the pole. These fundamental drills, which can be created and applied to any activity, save time.

The Programming Principle
Today, more and more programmed instruction is becoming available. It's possible to learn complex subjects?uch as the fundamentals of law, medical terminology, English grammar, languages?hrough programmed material. Programmed video training for movement activities will soon become plentiful. Programmed learning is based on the principles that:

  • we learn in small steps, taking it in simple and progressive increments.

  • we take an active part?esponding to the cues.

  • we get immediate reinforcement and feedback?he correct answer is displayed as soon as we make our response.

  • we feel successful, because of the small, simple progressions.

Good programmed learning is designed around commonsense principles. They make learning easy and therefore fun. I have approached learning?nd teaching?sing the same principles, and have found them to be of great use to myself and to my students. Any movement can be learned by first taking it apart (analysis), then practicing it in very simple progressions or steps. Programmed progressions allow for a constant feeling of success in which the process of learning-rather than a single end result-becomes the goal.

Imitation: The Ultimate Technique
Children are masters of imitation, the most powerful and natural way to learn. As infants, we were masters of imitation; it's how we learned to walk, talk, and use many other practical life skills; that is, before we learned that it was "bad" to be a "copycat," that we were supposed to do our "own work." I was fortunate enough to have parents who never discouraged my interest in imitation. They told me that it was fine to copy people as long as I was certain their qualities were worth copying. I extend that advice to you.

We can learn far more than athletic skills through imitation. As a young man, I modeled different personal "styles" by imitating the qualities I admired in people. Modeling these styles permitted me to "try on" different ways of being. I've never met a single person who didn't have at least one quality I admired.

Everything and everybody has a mixture of virtues as well as issues. If you look for the good in everyone you meet, that person becomes your teacher.

We have no friends;
we have no enemies;
we have only teachers.
    -Anonymous

To learn a skill, we need to find someone who is skillful and watch that person carefully. Study the skilled person's musculature and movements, facial expressions, arms, and legs. As we watch such persons perform, we need to feel ourself moving in the same manner.

Our ability will improve with practice. Even the most cr~ ative painters began by copying. If you wish to copy a drawing of an accomplished artist, you may not be able to reproduce it precisely at first, but with practice, your copying will improve. We can practice copying anywhere or anytime.

Of course, in order to copy well we must first be prepared; we can't imitate a power-lifter unless we've developed some strength or imitate a ballet dancer unless we've developed the necessary suppleness and muscular control.

I'm convinced that imitation is the master technique of learning because it works at the subconscious level?s if one body learned directly from another without intervention of the intellect.

If you haven't made the best use of your innate powers of imitation, it's probably due to one of the following reasons:

  • You may not be sufficiently prepared to copy well. (If so, back to basics; develop your talent.)

  • You may experience unconscious resistance to copying someone else because of a belief that you must "live your own life" or because you feel that you could never imitate an expert's skill level (as a result of your low self-concept) or because you aren't ready to acknowledge that someone else may have a quality you don't presently possess. If the latter is the case, swallow your pride.

  • You may be copying the wrong people or the wrong qualities. This is an ever-present fear of parents, who feel that their children may "pick up" the wrong qualities if their kids don't have proper playmates. Exposure does have a lot to do with the development as a child and as an adult, since we don't imitate that which we've never seen.

    Imitation Practice
    Have a friend face you. Lets say your friend is a man. You hold his arm in an unusual position. Copy his arm position, as if looking in a mirror. Have him take another position, perhaps with both arms askew. Imitate that. Then mirror his posture. Do the same thing as he moves very slowly.

    You'll find that, with a little practice, you can mirror your friend with a high degree of precision, and you can apply your ability to imitate in your sports activities and your daily life.

In this chapter I've outlined practical ways to learn how to learn. Only you have the power to bring the words and concepts to life. Start with the principles that make the most sense to you or that you find the most fun. If you use even a single one of these techniques to its fullest extent, it will enhance your game and can enrich your life.

Just do your best; it's all you can do. Don't ask how; just begin, and do it now. The world waits for you.
    -Harold Whaley

(Excerpted from The Inner Athlete ISBN: 0913299979)
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 About The Author
Dan Millman Dan Millman is a former world champion athlete, university coach, martial arts instructor, and college professor. After an intensive, twenty-year spiritual quest, Dan's teaching found its form as the Peaceful Warrior's......more
 
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