(Posted from an article first published in Martial Arts Illustrated magazine)
“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions” Albert Einstein
I would like to think the great scientist knew a thing or two about using his imagination, after all, how on earth could someone come up with a theory such as ‘Relativity’ without spending hours contemplating over it and envisaging its form. Visualisation is linked to imagination. Let this sink into your minds…
‘It all begins with a thought’
From that first thought The Little Dragon ‘saw’ JKD, Jigoro Kano ‘saw’ Judo, O Sensei Ueshiba ‘saw’ Aikido, the Gracie brothers ‘saw’ Brazilian Jujitsu and closer to home Bob Sykes ‘saw’ this very magazine, the copy you are holding in your hands being edition #280 if I am not mistaken! In all of their unique ways whether big or small, the actions of these pioneers have given rise to opportunities for careers, fame, and money to literally thousands of people. These are just a few examples but are you beginning to get the picture? It is that initial thought, its conception in perhaps the most minute seed form that has the capacity for pioneering or life-changing possibilities. Now, sometimes these thoughts can be engineered by our own pre-meditated design but they can very often arise out of a moment of pure inspiration – the proverbial ‘light bulb in the head’. It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss the origins of thoughts and whether they be a result of quantum mechanics or divine intervention but suffice to say having even the most basic understanding of thoughts, the imagination and then fuelling that image by constant application of visualisation and good old hard work can go a very long way in helping you reach the next level. So let’s just break a few of these ideas down prior to actually describing a simple exercise that can be integrated into your ever-growing ‘toolbox’ of methods and formulas.
Your Vision or Purpose
As I said earlier on in this series even though this is a martial arts magazine I am by no means limiting your personal ‘next level’ to being able to perform a better arm-bar, roundhouse kick or improving your sticky hands. Sit under a good instructor, practice diligently and those results will surely come. My challenge to you is to raise the bar higher, to step out of your comfort zone and to actually dare to dream. However, if it is just an increase in physical performance that you are after then this information is still perfectly valid and applicable. Briefly going back to those names that I mentioned, imagine for a moment if they didn’t have the courage to follow through on their vision? For one I would not be writing this article because the magazine would not exist. There would, in fact, be so many alternate realities but I guess you could say we would be none the wiser anyway! I am grateful though for all of these and the thousands of other pioneers that had the courage to walk the path with no definite assuredness of success to which in so many ways all of our lives benefit from.
If you managed to have a go at trying any of the different methods I have talked about over the last two installments, you will be better placed to ‘see’ and ‘hear’. The very first point then about the imagination/visualisation process is to be clear on exactly what it is you want; a definite purpose. Unfortunately, our vision can often be a fuzzy one but the good news is the image you hold will become sharper the more you work with it. This is the grand design, the overall picture.
The second point as I see it relates to being courageous. It can take a great deal of ‘bottle’ to follow a vision or goal through to the end. There is no sure guarantee that you will succeed, you only have your faith and burning desire to keep you going. Many people do not follow through on something they have ‘seen’ because of a big fear of failure. Sometimes it’s better to just not go there right? The problem with that is it can haunt you forever, those nagging lingering thoughts saying ‘could I have, should I have?’ The same also holds true of the fear of success. People not wanting to commit to something they deep down would love to do because in their own minds they would not be able to handle the responsibilities or pressure that might come about as a result of being in demand. The take-home message for this second point is this; be absolutely certain your vision or goal is what you want, don’t be half-hearted. Being double-minded is one of the worst positions to be in so strive for a crystal clear clarity of purpose.
Dreams vs. Dreaming
Before I go on any further it is important to really be able to distinguish between solid dreams/ambitions/purpose and pipe dreams. You might turn around and say “wasn’t the theory of Relativity initially a pipe dream?” Perhaps it was but Einstein was already an advanced mathematician and physicist so it was already in his ‘sphere’. Generally but of course not always, you will find there is some link whether obvious or not so between what you do and what your vision is. It is usually a progression that’s based on your work, the people you mix with or perhaps any level of success you might be getting with anything you are putting time and effort into. Case in point the aforementioned pioneers. Desires that are a bit bizarre usually don’t really stick around too long. If for example, I woke up tomorrow with a desire to want to play in the NBA, because I had watched some games and caught the bug for the sport, as much as I meditated on, trained for and visualised it, 99.9% reoccurring it would not happen. I am almost 41, 5ft5 and have never played basketball in my life. A somewhat comical example but you would be surprised at the madcap ideas people have. Live and let live at the end of the day but time is our most precious commodity. Setting aside a little bit of quiet time will help you to see clearly so you can be pretty much assured those visions and dreams you have will be truthful and solid. Maybe you have recently begun training but longer-term would like your own academy or perhaps you’re an advanced practitioner and have a burning vision to break into the film industry as a fight choreographer. These are just two examples. On the other hand, you might decide to want to give up martial arts altogether and become a priest! The beauty in all of this is that it’s your own choice, responsibility, and life. Whatever you decide be 100% certain and count the cost.
What’s the cost?
This cost I am talking about refers to what you will give to make your vision a reality. If you think success in any endeavor is simply a case of doing some breathing exercises and pushing out some visualisation techniques you will be in for a rude awakening. Getting to your ‘next level’ takes effort, sweat, and consistency. Visualisaation helps to ingrain the process of maintaining the right habits and mindset and also to develop a greater degree of energy that is used to fuel the momentum needed to achieve all of your targets. You still have to work, hard! On a more sublime level when you visualise and push out your intention you often get to meet along your path people that can sometimes be integral in helping you arrive at your destination. How does this work? Quite simply, success in any endeavor is something you help to attract by becoming an attractive person. In other words, what do you resonate? What ‘frequency’ are you operating on? I am sure we have often heard someone say “trouble always seems to follow me”. Is it not usually the case those people are looking for trouble, are trouble makers or in some way troubled? Like really does attract like! What is it that attracted you to the friends you now have? What is it that puts you off certain people? These might be obvious such as having common interests but on the flip side might be as vague as simply having a ‘bad feeling’ about someone. The visualisation method I will soon illustrate will help you over time to ‘resonate at the right frequency’ so you can be an ‘attractive person’ but beyond that, you still need definite goals and a great action plan. Only when you have those all-important practical components in place will you really get the benefits of visualisation. Once you do get into that ‘zone’ you can really begin to materialise. You always want to dwell on the end result, the outcome and place yourself into the feeling of having experienced what it is you desire. Over time you can bring your senses into play so that the process becomes even more ‘real’.
I hope you have understood a bit about how these things work. These are not the easiest of subjects to discuss and experience is the best teacher which leads us onto our final practical exercise in this series.
It is just as easy to practice visualisation much in the same way as you meditate. In fact, they are one and the same thing for all intents and purposes. However, I do like the following drill as it has several layers to it and as it is standing and moving it just seems to work so well. This visualisation exercise is an adapted version of a method I teach called ‘The Unification Breath’. I showed an individual who will remain nameless the complete version which has other aspects to it. He called me up sometime later telling me that so many great things had begun happening in his life after regular practice and I saw the changes in him. It will work for whosoever so try it out and keep an open mind to it.
Phase One – Draw it
Standing with feet should width apart and in the illustrated position (A) you breathe in through the nose lifting your arms up to the sky in the following fashion (B) ensuring the breath is finished by the time your arms are fully extended. During this inspiration phase begin thinking about drawing in all of the resources you need to make your vision happen. Exhale as you bring back to position (A). Repeat the same process on other side (c) Complete three cycles with a deep focus on attracting everything you need to complete your mission.
Phase Two – Hold it
After the initial three cycles and back into position (A) again breathe in through your nose only the time one hand reaches up and the other reaches down (D). Hold it there for a moment and visualise having already gotten to that place you want to be in or having achieved the goal you have set yourself. Use your imagination to add layers and dimensions and smells, sound, and colour to that image. Really try and own and experiencing it as though you’re slowly digesting it all, satisfied with having fulfilled that dream. Go back to the start position and repeat other side (E). Complete three more cycles
Phase Three – Project it
You should again be at the start position again (A) this time take a deep breath through nostrils until you reach top position (F,G,H) then hold the breath bringing hands down to (I). From there step out with left leg while extending arms and breathing out (J). During this extension direct all your thoughts and energy out towards all the people you know might currently or strategically be useful to your purposes. Re-trace to the base position (A) then repeat the other side completing three cycles.
Over a period of time, you should be able to tune in much quicker to this drill and begin creating by the power of thought, auto-suggestion and some other psyche methods, the world in which you want to live. How long does this take? Well, it is an on-going process and of course, it’s just another tool that can be used as and when you might feel led to go into an intense time of visualisation.
In conclusion to this series, none of what I have been sharing is magic, although it can be truly magical and transforming. There is nothing religious about it so whatever so just because you’re a big burly testosterone flowing MMA fighter don’t think this can’t be useful to you –it can! This goes for every martial artist – Silat included. These are simple methods that can help us become much more in tune with the world in which we live. We become almost like radio transmitters and receivers that will attract the right people and situations with the long term hope of better success and happiness in life. That is what we are all striving for right? So that is pretty much it, I hope that you have gotten something out of little series and looking forward to hearing any news from you about how you have gotten to “the next level”.