NLP and Martial Arts – Change the way we think

Master Paul Mitchell 2008 Inductee (left), Shane Harley (centre) and 2010 Inductee, Lachlan Cooper (right).

Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), explores the relationships between how we think (neuro), how we communicate (linguistic) and our patterns of behaviour and emotion (programmes). In short , why we do the things we do and the associated emotions and behaviours that are tied to them.

Believe it or not, our brain processes around 2.4 Million pieces of information per second, and all of that information comes from our five basic senses, sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell. Of that 2.4 Million, our conscious mind only processes seven (give or take two), whilst our sub-conscious processes 140 pieces of information.

That leaves 2,399,853 pieces of information that is processed by our unconscious mind, which will either distort, delete, or generalise that information. A perfect example of this is when you buy a new car, you suddenly notice how many other cars like yours are now on the road, but you didn’t notice them before.

How is this relevant to Martial Arts? Well, there are numerous areas where NLP will assist in developing others as well as yourself, from the disillusioned learner to serious competitor, and this article will briefly touch on what NLP can do for those, however the possibilities are endless, not just for these two examples, but for all the in-betweens also.

The Serious Competitor: There could be a number of reasons that someone would be a serious competitor, and very few will truly know why. To go through all the possibilities would take pages and pages, so I will focus on how NLP would be able to assist them. Most competitors will either get nervous or excited before a match, both of which are counterproductive, so programming them to feel a different way in the same situation will benefit them greatly, such as being focussed instead, and programming someone to be more reactive with their peripheral vision will increase their reaction time.

Shane Harley executing a jumping back kick

The Disillusioned Learner: A number of training establishments will have members join their Martial Art because they were bullied or they have been in other situations that they felt completely helpless. Empowering the individual mentally as well as physically is equally important, we are not just teaching people how to fight or defend themselves, we are also teaching people how to be confident in situations that they never were previously, and I am sorry to say, but just teaching Martial Arts and self defence is not enough on its own. When a victim is faced with the same or similar situation, they will react in exactly the same way because that is how they are programmed. Breaking the associated emotion with the event requires the victim to understand why they are feeling that way in that situation, it is only then will they break those ties, and that takes time.

There are some light techniques that many training centres use on a daily basis, like visualising before practicing a movement, this helps concentration, but has no lasting effect of the individual which is a good thing.

Practicing NLP as an untrained person however can be very dangerous, and is not to be taken lightly. The trained person however can take the Serious Martial Artist to a new level of heightened alertness with lightning reflexes, and free from normal emotions associated with competing, whilst being able to cater for the disillusioned learner, and all the others in between. Imagine being able to make Martial Arts a truly emotional journey, and being able to help your students really feel the importance of the history behind their patterns or Katas, every time they perform them!

I am not associated with any NLP training institutions, however I am willing to help with any questions. For further information about what NLP can do for your Martial Art please feel free to contact me on