I’m a believer that practicing a form of Internal martial arts is the epitome to create the best foundation for training in sports. This is the way I trained to essentially win 4 gold medals in one of the most extreme and fastest mind/body sports in the world.
First, what is Internal Martial Arts?
In most all martial arts practice, the body is developed starting with the limbs, then working inward to the body's center. The internal arts, conversely, begin with developing the inside and then working outward.
This development refers not only to physical development, but also metaphysical and spiritual development. Thus, in the internal arts, mastering and controlling qi, (energy) as well as cultivating the powers of the mind, is the first stage of development, not the last.
Find your Inner Power
Building on a foundation of inner power is a special power that others will notice. You’ll start moving differently, carrying yourself differently and your strong focus will be apparent.
If you just build a tight mass of muscles through body building styles of exercise, you will not be flexible or powerful in a mind/body way - and it will show.
When you cultivate the health and focus from the inside out, you’ll have a beautiful body like a martial arts master; lean and strong tendons, extremely flexible all conducted with Qi (energy) stored as power for when you need it. Your whole demeanor will change.
How I started using the internal arts for sports training
While I was training in sports, my older sister (who was a well developed martial artist and had great insight) started giving me suggestions of how to train using the martial arts philosophies. I followed her direction and starting practicing specific forms to start increasing strength, flexibility, coordination and mobility.
As I kept up the repetition of the forms, I realized how powerful integrating the workings of the mind and body together were.
I was learning to condition the body from the inside out – which is required to develop speed, power, endurance, coordination, reflexes and sensitivity.
I started using the theories to completely change my techniques for how I trained in gymnastics skydiving competition and how I used my body to perform the moves at 200 mph.
At the highest level of my training, when I was winning World Championships, my entire mind, body, spirit and energy was integrated. Over time, I was competing from the aspect of “no mind.”
What I learned was to keep refining these techniques to perform with no forced moves. My movement became swift and focused, or soft and direct - which ever was needed. My mind was free from thought and hesitation and my power manifested effortlessly.
How this training differs from Western training techniques
Training in Internal Martial Arts is different because of the amount of focus and dedication that is required.
For example, working out on machines at a gym while watching a TV - compared to learning 64 moves where your mind and body needs to remember with focus, power and clarity.
One requires a significantly more focused and concentrated mind where you are refining mastery of skills. From years of training the foundation you learn how to bring every aspect of your mind and body together at the same time.
In the end, it depends on the individual and what goals that person is looking to accomplish, but I know if you explore the Internal Martial arts forms, you will inherently and naturally develop an added level of concentration and skill that you can take into any sports competition and excel.