Exercise Your Mind When You Can’t Exercise Your Body

You’re injured, you’re sick, you’re exhausted. Does this mean that practicing the art you are passionate about is out for today? Not necessarily. There are many ways to explore a physical skill without twitching a muscle… well, perhaps a little muscle twitching.

1. Read
Reading a book on swordplay can expand your theoretical knowledge, challenge your strategic skill set, and inspire you for your next physical training session. So much of martial arts is in your head, so why not exercise your brain directly? There is much media beyond books, as well — resources such as videos and blogs.

2. Write
Especially if you’re following the advice to “read”. Knowledge is processed much more thoroughly when you reflect on it and then produce your own creative work based on that reflection. Write your own notes based on what you are learning, create a list of strengths and weaknesses you want to build on and improve respectively, or share your thoughts with an instructor or peers who will help you clarify your thinking or expand your knowledge.

3. Converse
Engaging in a thoughtful dialogue about strategy, tactics, interpretation, or even mechanics, can be a valuable mental exercise. Speak with a mentor who can challenge your thinking, or a less experienced friend, who can help you explore the fullness of what you know and don’t know by asking insightful questions.

4. Visualize
Building your mind is excellent and necessary, however you do not want to avoid physical practice for too prolonged a period. If that appears to be unavoidable, don’t overlook the power of visualizing for not only training your mind but, research has shown, your body as well. A good visualization routine requires discipline and should follow a similar pattern to your physical training session: imagine doing a certain number of reps of an exercise, use a timer as you might in physical practice, or follow a certain number of reps. Vary exercises at a frequency that helps you stay focused and train in a quiet place with no outside interruptions.

Hopefully these tips can help you stay on top of your training regimen even when you’re battling a winter cold or rehab process.

Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
Read more from Devon Boorman.