Martial arts like taekwondo are famous for not only developing skills but for mental strength too. Being able to control your emotions, get out and practice for that big grading or competition and override negative impulses are all part of training.
Here we take a closer look at the art of self-regulation and why it is so important in your taekwondo practice.
What is Self-Regulation?
Self-Regulation is the way you control yourself and can take a couple of different forms.
- If you are stepping up for a taekwondo grading or competition and you need to perform your best, you’ll want to control your feelings and stop unwanted thoughts, controlling those nerves.
- Instead of lounging on the couch watching a box set, you want to make yourself get up and do some training for the next class.
Both these are forms of self-regulation. It’s a practice that allows us to stay in control, take the right decisions and map the path forward. Unfortunately, it’s not always as easy as it sounds, especially when it comes to controlling behaviours like emotions.
For a start, our ability to self-regulate is not infinite. If we practice it too much, too often, it can become depleted.
What Affects Your Control
Various external forces affect how we feel about the world around us. We may not feel in control if we are tired and simply don’t have the energy to fight. If we’ve prepared well and are emotionally and physically ready, it’s a different thing.
We can affect the control we have in four connected ways:
- We can set a standard we need to adhere to. For example, you may want to achieve a black belt in Taekwondo.
- We monitor changes in behaviour: For example, perhaps you get too angry to execute your sparring strategy well and want to improve. To change you continuously monitor your reactions to meet the standard you have set yourself.
- We need to develop strength: It’s not just physical strength but mental strength that enables us to self-regulate more effectively.
- We need motivation: We must have a reason for wanting to self-regulate in a particular way and a clear set of goals for how to achieve this.
There is one other factor to consider and that is biology. Effective uptake and utilisation of glucose play a role in our ability to self-regulate. That’s because glucose is an integral part of brain function. That doesn’t mean, however, the more glucose you consume the better you are at self-regulation, ad infinitum. Rather it means that levels of glucose that are too low can impair function.
Self-Regulation Strategies for Taekwondo
We all have some degree of self-regulating ability. We can control our emotions, get up and do some training or make a decision to find a new job. What we’re talking about here is improving self-regulation for a specific purpose.
In taekwondo, that could mean putting in more hours to train or learn new skills or getting yourself ready for your next grading. Emotionally, it could be learning skills to stay in control of your nerves or even learn to be more combative.
- Be aware that self-regulation has a limit: We can essentially run out of steam when it comes to constant control. That’s why it’s important to focus self-regulation in the right areas.
- Recovery also plays an important role in self-regulation. Studies show poor sleep or lack of rest can severely impact our ability to self-regulate.
Finally, a little like building a muscle, repeated self-regulation over some time increases our capacity to exercise control more and for longer periods. In other words, if you practice self-regulation consistently, your ability will improve.