The importance of visualisaton

I find visualisation essential in martial arts training: from learning new techniques, to applying them in a dynamic context.

There was a time (2003) when I was confined to a hospital bed on a drip for 3 whole months. All I could do was visualise things. I used to look at the drip and think of it as an arm, with the bend as the elbow. Then I'd imagine locks or holds. I progressed to thinking of entire sequences in 3D (takes a bit of mental discipline and practice). It was during this time that I conceived of most of our 2 person drills.

The net effect was that when I did return to training (some 20kg/44lb lighter) I was able to apply techniques I'd never applied before in sparring.

The biggest "down side" to "just visualising" (apart from physical weakness) was that I couldn't judge speeds and distances properly, so I copped a few twisted fingers and broken toes as well as walking into a few punches, missing deflections etc.

However once I got over that hurdle however, my fellow students remarked that I'd seemed to have improved from before.

The drill in the video below is something I visualised while I was in hospital. The video was taken shortly after my return to training. I had never done this drill like this before - certainly not at this sort of speed. Post-visualisation my body seemed to have found the "key" to more fluid movement.

That's probably the best example I can think of, but there are many others.

So visualisation doesn't displace working with a partner by any means. But is it useful/important? Hell yes!

Copyright © 2009 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Visualization is also a key factor for myself and the arts, especially as it pertains to healing those busted toes/fingers and, of course, peak performance.

    I repaired a torn meniscus (left knee) with visualization. I tore it throwing a roundhouse kick doing heavy bag work. The mind and visualization, to me, is critical for a budoka.

    Thanks for posting.

  2. That's a different application of Tai Chi dantian circle rotation theory.

    The video.

    Btw, if you slow down your body movements it'll match the visualization. And by slow down, I mean 5-10% of normal speed, not 20% speed or 50% speed or a quarter speed like they do in many sparring.

    I think you were going too fast and that's how you injured your fingers, because your body didn't have the muscle memory to be able to expertly do the manipulations you had visualized.


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