There are three factors that will influence our sporting ability: our fitness, technical skills and mental skills.  Many people spend loads of time on the first two, but neglect number three.  In sport however, an athlete’s mental toughness is a strong predictor of their success.  So what is mental toughness?

A study by Jones et. al. is often used to define mental toughness.  In this paper they studied elite competitive athletes and said that mental toughness is, ‘having the natural or developed psychological edge that enables you to: generally, cope better than your opponents with the many demands (competition, training, lifestyle) that sport places on a performer; specifically, be more consistent and better than your opponents in remaining determined, focused, confident, and in control under pressure.’ (Jones & Connaughton, 2002)

They further reported that the key characteristics of mentally tough athletes were self-belief, intrinsic motivation, concentration and the ability to handle pressure. (Jones, Hanton, & Connaughton, 2007)

Interestingly, it is exactly these attributes that Hapkido seeks to instil through the strict discipline and etiquette it teaches.  Through Hapkido training we become more aware of situations that get us frustrated, intimidated or enable us to lose focus.  Following the instructor’s commands, we rid ourselves of negative self-talk which undermines performance.  By focusing on the process of daily practice we learn from our mistakes and take joy in the personal growth they provide.  As we progress through the ranking system our responsibility increases, we grow in confidence and we begin to help others in their journeys.

The bowing etc. that is demanded of us is not for the benefit of the instructor, but rather a method the instructor uses to help us become fully successful.  So the next time you enter the dojang and bow, shout out ‘yes, sir’ or ‘yes, ma’m’ when called to stand, remember that this practice is essential to your full development as Hapkido experts.  Without this we may be fit and know some nice techniques, but we will never totally be the best we can be.

Works Cited

Jones, G., Hanton, S., & Connaughton, D. (2007). A framework of mental toughness in the world’s best performers. Sports Psychologist, 21(2), 243-264.

Jones, H. G., & Connaughton, D. (2002). What is this thing called mental toughness? An investigation of elite sport performers. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 205-218.

Mentally tough Hapkido.
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