In the literature and studies of self improvement you’ll find the concept of Neuro Linguistic Programming, that’s a mouthful, so it’s commonly referred to as NLP. NLP is a recent branch of applied psychology, and has high profile proponents in the field of self help.
Originally used in psycho therapy, its concepts and tools found their way into business,and personal development. Car salesmen were using NLP principals to increase their sales, people in sports and various fields were using it’s concepts to improve their performance.
So what is it? The words themselves bear extended definitions as well as simplification; Neuro refers to the brain and its relation with mind and body. Linguistic refers to language and communication systems, how we communicate with ourselves and others. Programming refers to patterns and change. It’s a process for establishing patterns and making changes that improve our condition.
How can martial artists and use of NLP work together? Without going into a comprehensive study of NLP, it’s still important to cover a couple of things, one is the Four Pillars of NLP. They are:
- Sensory Acuity
- Behavioral Flexibility
Another important element I’ll mention is called “Modeling.”
Instructors can benefit from understanding what a student’s goals are (outcomes), how students learn (sensory acuity), adaptability to help the students achieve their goals (behavioral flexibility) and, in order to communicate effectively, rapport.
Can instructors do their work without these pillars? Sure, and they have for a long time using traditional methods. NLP is a relatively new science, and it offers the potential not only for significant change, but of accelerating the process of change over the older methods.
Traditional instruction methods often rely on a one way street of pitching and catching; I throw material at you and it’s up to you to catch it or not. NLP invites a partnership between instructor and student, an effective giving AND receiving. There are a myriad of constantly evolving tools that can be used for this, all driven by individual outcomes. This method is more properly called coaching.
A friend and instructor, Neil Ehrlich, a few years ago set up a martial arts school with a few unique concepts going on, and one of them was that we, the instructors, were now “coaches,” not Sensei, Shihan, Sifu, or Grand Master. “Coach Neil, Coach Jimi, Coach Rick…” We coached to help each student succeed in achieving their goals. For some it was competitive, others combative, others defense, others just recreational and fitness.
This coaching method of instruction is different from traditional instruction where there is only one way to teach, only one type of student, and only one outcome; the glory of my martial art, or myself.
Using NLP for martial arts instruction doesn’t lend itself well to an en masse approach with an easily followed instructor’s manual. It’s been said before and bears repeating, not every skilled practitioner is a skilled instructor, they may know the material, but not the effective teaching of the material.
On the student side, the individual can facilitate and accelerate the process of learning using NLP.
The Four Pillars apply:
- Outcomes. Having a goal, knowing the Outcome you expect, and having a driving vision of it.
- Sensory Acuity. Receiving, storing, and applying of information important to your goals/outcomes.
- Behavioral Flexibility. The ability to re-route, to take detours if necessary, on the way to your goals. If something isn’t working in an appropriate time frame, change might be in order.
- Rapport. This is important. An easy definition is “friendliness” or “getting along.” A deeper definition is: understanding, understanding others, and understanding yourself. It is also about trust and connection. In a teacher student relationship, it is hard for a student to learn from a teacher they don’t like, or thinks aren’t liked by. Why? There isn’t sufficient trust. If the instructor or coach cannot elicit trust from you, or you can’t give it to that person, move on. The point here is to learn, to improve, efficiently and speedily, and lack of trust is an obstacle to that. That’s right, you don’t have to automatically trust every karate/kung fu/martial arts school owner in the world. Trust is earned, given, and shared.
Another helpful NLP technique is called “modeling.” It’s not quite imitation, it’s more applying from observation the successful behaviors, strategies, and practices, of someone’s exceptional performance.
This modeling is used as a higher starting point to achieving your own excellence. Modeling acknowledges that we recognize a level of performance excellence or success we want, and we start our own process as close to that as possible, not from zero. Modeling is a powerful tool in accelerating skill development and performance on the way to your outcome/goals.
As instructors or students, I hope you’ll consider exploring NLP and how it can bring you greater and speedier success in your personal and martial arts development.