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The Three Most Important Words to Know for Peak Performance

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

March 1, 2011

One of the biggest concerns for a martial artist is peak performance. It can be in a tournament performing a weapon’s form, free sparring or worst case scenario, a life and death encounter on the street.

Wouldn’t you agree, being at your best, physically, psychologically and emotionally is of paramount importance to any serious martial artist. Having a body that responds swiftly to the intentions of the mind and having a mind that can maintain a sense of calm and clarity during stress and conflict is critical. It can mean the difference between going home with a trophy or getting home period.

Just as it is important to put your body through vigorous physical exercise and arduous combat conditioning, so must you put your mind. There are three very important words that influence your mind and can enhance your performance for combat, competition or just plain health. These three words are:
Act As If.

Yep, that’s right, act as if. Act as if you have already won that trophy for your weapon’s kata. Act as if you have already had your hand raised by the referee for knocking out your opponent. Act as if you have already defended yourself easily and successfully in a tough street encounter. Act as if you are already healed from your painful injury. Why?

Act As If stimulates and harnesses the power of the subconscious mind that stimulates peak performance. Acting as if uses, engages and stimulates your imagination. You see, your subconscious mind has no way to differentiate that what you imagine in your mind is real or not. All images, real or imagined are perceived as real time events and will produce changes in your body.
Imagine head lice for a moment. Most of you reading this will begin to feel your head itch just from the thought of head lice. And I am going to guess you really don’t have it, so why does your head itch? Again, the subconscious part of your mind has no way to determine what you imagine is real or not and will produce a physical change in your body as if the head lice were real.  It is all about safety and protection, which is the primary purpose of your subconscious mind.
So, when you do guided imagery or mental rehearsal of your martial arts’ performance, see it and feel it as if it is already done and successful. In your mind act as if  you are perfect. Do this over and over and over and your body will have stored the performance in its memory banks. Olympic and professional athletes do this as part of their regular training routine. You should too.

A word of caution however…Act as if still demands you physically practice your art in real time and not just imagined time. The two work together so you can achieve optimal performance. Act As If does not replace training, but complements it and adds that competitive edge we all seek as athletes. Once you get the feel of how to apply Act As If, it can change your performance. It can change your life. You can read more about how to harness the power of your mind in my book, Black Belt Healing: A Martial Artist’s Guide to Pain Management & Injury Recovery. I cover all the rules and principles for making Act As If come alive and make them the three most important words you need to know for peak performance. Be Well.

Next week: More herbal recommendations.

The Most Important Herb for Your Medicine Kit

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

February 22, 2011

Most martial art studios have a first aid kit equipped with the standard bandages, gauze, tape, ice packs and perhaps some form of ibuprofen. What most kits do not have is an anti-coagulant in case of a severe cut. I don’t know about you, but I have been cut a lot in the dojo over the years. It can be from a student who didn’t trim a toenail to a finger sliced open from the tip of a well-placed bokken. Some studios actually use live blades for knife practice and accidents can and do happen.

I believe the most important herb you can have in your medicine kit or bag is cayenne pepper. Yes, cayenne pepper. Did you know the most traditional use of cayenne is for its coagulant properties on open wounds? It is a powerful blood coagulant when applied to a serious cut that is  bleeding openly or profusely. When placed directly onto the wound, cayenne balances the blood pressure and coagulates the blood. It will sting a little (well actually a lot), but it will slow and stop the bleeding.

It even gets better. Cayenne pepper also acts as a powerful styptic. It actually disinfects the wound as it stops the wound from bleeding. It helps prevent infection. How good is that? 

Cayenne also has many other health benefits due to its active ingredient, capsaicin. Capsaicin is what makes cayenne so hot and spicy. It is a most wonderful herb that not only makes your chili nice and hot but soothes the digestive system. Capsaicin has been used to help curb gas, stomach cramps, stomach acidity and reflux. You would think the opposite, but this hot and spicy herb actually aids in digestion and stomach health.

What I find fascinating about cayenne is that when it is used externally it acts as a blood coagulant, but when taken internally it actually thins your blood. It has also been used for circulatory ailments and has been purported to help lower blood pressure and in some incidences even halt a heart attack.
For those of us martial artists who have some chronic pain, either from trauma or as we age, perhaps some arthritis has set in, cayenne can help reduce inflammation and pain sensations. In this case, cayenne is used in a lotion and can be rubbed onto the pained area.

I invite you to explore all of the healing properties of cayenne. It is truly the one herb I would not be without.

Coming soon: I asked my good friend, Miles Coleman, Master Herbalist and Master of Goh Family Kung Fu what he would have in his medicine bag. His herbal remedies have served me well over my forty years of being a martial artist, especially when I tore the medial meniscus in my left knee six years ago. You’ll want to check back over the next few weeks. Be Well.

Stress Can Make You Healthy…Really!

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

February 15, 2011

Think about all the diseases we have in the world: heart disease, gall bladder disease, liver disease, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, migraines, ear ringing, high blood pressure, blurred vision, anxiety, depression, alcoholism, colds, the flu, to name just a few.

Did you know that the U.S. Government’s Center for Disease Control reports that about 90% of all diseases and illnesses treated in medical clinics across our country is a result of one thing? STRESS. The other 10% is congenital or acquired through trauma. I don’t know about you, but that makes me stop and think. Wow…so, if I managed my stress properly, I wouldn’t get as sick or have a lot of physical disease. What a concept!

Here’s another concept for you to dwell on. As a martial artist, you aren’t only in the business of self-defense, as you are in the business of stress management. As an instructor or practitioner of Karate or Tae Kwon Do or Kung Fu you place yourself in stress every time you step onto the studio floor. But this is the type of stress that makes you healthy and actually combats the fore-mentioned diseases. Let me explain.

When you go to the doctor to get a flu shot or an immunization, what do you think they are shooting into your bloodstream? If you guessed small amounts of flu or mumps, measles and rubella, you guessed right. These small injections of the virus itself gets your immune system pumped up with antibodies that will fight off the flu or viruses if you get attacked by them. Small amounts of the disease is actually healthy in this manner. It builds up your defenses.
You do the same thing when you subject yourself to small doses of stress every time you block a kick, punch, do pushups, test for a belt, face a bigger opponent for free-sparring or perform a form for your instructor. It is stressful yes, but in a healthy way.

You are creating within yourself the ability to manage stress when you leave the studio. Your mind, body and spirit are getting ‘injected’ and tempered with the ability to remain more comfortable under stress. You are creating a larger comfort zone for which to manage stress. What most non-martial artists would consider stressful, you will find “a walk in the park.” You are actually building antibodies against stress and subsequently disease. We all know that physical exercise is good for your muscles and hormones to feel good, but it also increases your tolerance to stress and remaining calm when others would not. This leads to a healthier you.

So when your teacher is hard on you, pushing you, making you sweat, be thankful. You have a good teacher. You are getting healthier by going through this stress. You are being injected with stress to combat stress. Yep, stress can make you healthy too. So, if your instructor is too easy on you, ask for more work. If you as an instructor are being too easy on your students, you are not doing them any favors. Just think of yourself as a good doctor giving your patients a vaccination. You are creating health along with great combat skills. So, be vigorous in your training. Remember, the way you train in the studio is the way you are going to respond on the street. If your training is not vigorous and stressful enough you might get harmed on the street in a real life battle. Also, if your training is not stressful enough, you may get harmed by diseases that come at you by stress. Just like any good fighter does, stress will attack you at your weakest point. Be prepared. Train hard. Train smart. You will be healthier for it.

Next week’s blog preview: Some of my favorite herbs every martial artist should have in their medicine bag or kit.

It All Begins in the Mind…

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

February 8, 2011

This is probably one of the most important posts I will ever write, so please read this carefully. But first, I have some questions for you. Why did you start training in the martial arts? What was the igniting spark that sent you in search of an instructor and a dojang or dojo? How did you pass your last belt exam? Stop and think about it. It began with having a thought, did it not?

A wise person (I want you to guess who said this or do a little research) once said, “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we create the world.” This is so true when you examine your situation closely. Look around you right now. What do you see? You most likely have a computer in front of you, perhaps sitting on a table. I am going to assume you are sitting in a chair of some fashion, in a room decorated with paintings, pictures, lights, other pieces of furniture. Is there a window where you are? I am going to assume you are wearing clothes right now. Perhaps you have bicycle or a car in the garage.

Dwell on this for a moment. Everything that exists in the room you are in right now, at one point or another, was a thought. Imagine that. The computer, the clothes, the table, etc., all were once a thought before it became a thing. Even you …yes, you. Your parents had a thought, well, maybe not about you specifically, but they had a thought that lead to you…bottomline, everything that is in your life right now has been the result of a thought. Wow.

Now, let’s take a look at your martial arts performance. Your kicks, punches, throws, etiquette. Examine your health, your weight, even your mood. All of these are also a result of your thinking. Your thoughts have directed and manifested your performance, health and current mood.

Did you ever have a time when you did not feel like going to train? I am sure you have. We all have. But you showed up and trained. How did you do this? You talked yourself into it with your thoughts, with right thinking and with a positive mental attitude...and I am sure once you started working out your mood changed as well.

Think of yourself as a car for a moment. Your body is the body of the car, your emotions are the engine that moves the car…and it needs a driver. That driver is your thoughts. Your car is moving down the road, so you, the driver, better know how to drive and can navigate safely. Your thoughts do this…it steers the car! So, where are you steering your car? What are you thinking right now?
For health, for healing, for peak performance, your thoughts are paramount. How you think, what you think, and how you manage your thinking is extremely important. It guides you to eating the right food, exercising properly and just plain maintaining a healthy self-esteem and self-image. Your mind is extremely powerful, so powerful it would blow you away if you could understand its strength.

As a martial artist, I am sure you have heard of Qi. This is the energy that moves through us and animates us. Most of us by now have also come in contact with Qigong, or energy exercises and there is the art of Aikido and Hapkido that use ki (qi) in its title. Qi is enhanced and strengthened via the mind. Yep. Your mind’s intentions (remember it drives the car) directs Qi. In Chinese your mind’s intention is called Yi. And Qi always follows Yi. Your energy flows where your mind goes!

In future blogs I will touch more upon this subject and show you how to use your mind to increase your martial arts’ performance, health and healing. All of the healing arts use the mind to begin the process of healthy living, fast healing and top notch performance. Yes, it all begins in the mind, just like this post. Now it is a ‘thing’ you just read. How cool is that?

Calling All Healers

on MAR. / 23 / 2011 | 0 comments

January 29, 2011

Remember the original Karate Kid movie and the scene where Daniel has been injured in the tournament? He is lying in pain on a trainer’s table in the locker room begging Mr. Miyagi to do something. Mr. Miyagi claps his hands a few times, rubs them together and then places them on Daniel’s knee. In a few minutes Daniel is up and ready to compete once again, and goes on to win the tournament in dramatic fashion.

What a great moment in movie history. What is special about this scene is the showing of a martial arts master, Mr. Miyagi, displaying a healing art. Up to that point in time, most people who ever watched a film about karate or kung fu only saw the wild fighting aspects. This moment was unique in film history as it showed the side of the martial arts that most people never pay attention to…the  healing side.

Welcome to Black Belt Healing with Dr. Dave. I am Dr. David Nelson, a student of the martial arts since 1969, a Doctor of Natural Health and author of the book, Black Belt Healing: A Martial Artist’s Guide to Pain Management & Injury Recovery. In this blog you will learn a variety of ways to care for yourself as you walk upon the martial path and also introduce you to the healing arts and what it truly means to be a warrior.

As a martial artist you are most likely very well aware of the longstanding relationship of the martial arts and the healing arts. In fact, when you think about it, you really can’t have one without the other. Given the vigorous nature of the martial arts, the ancient masters were well-versed in conditioning the mind, body and spirit for optimum health and performance. This was to prevent and/or reduce the occurrence of injuries. Experts in mending the mind, body and spirit they adhered to the old adage: “If you know how to break it, you have to know how to fix it.”

The path to Black Belt and Mastery is paved with pain. As you are aware, it will challenge you in ways you never dreamed of. When managed properly, however, it will propel you to greater heights and deeper insights. Pain and discomfort is a necessary part of warriorship. Talk to anyone who has achieved a Black Belt and they will tell you their story or stories of having to endure painful moments, if not just for conditioning, but also in the rehabilitating of an injury.

This blog is for you, the dedicated martial artist who possesses the maturity to explore the healing side of the martial way. In the weeks to follow you will learn of nutrition, herbs, mind-body therapies, energy work, weight loss, peak performance tips, and more. I am always open to comments, input and constructive criticism.

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