(watch the 1 hr, 17 min video above)
This material has been made public in 2021, the full series with reading notes is here:
Read the introduction to the series here: Mental Training Reading Group - The Introduction (+Vipassana) - next week we meet at this link
Above is our conference call on Zoom discussing the 1st and 2nd chapter of the classic mental training book The Inner Game of Tennis which teaches how to turn off your inner coach, and access the deeper capabilities as an athlete. You can read along with us, as a patron you can also join us live for discussion. Next Thurs night/Friday morning (Oct 19) we'll be discussing Chapters 3 & 4 and how to apply them to our Muay Thai and lives.
Below is a summary of what we discussed in our meet up today:
Chapters 1 & 2 – Inner Game of Tennis Reading Group
Today was the first meeting for the reading group, focusing on chapters 1-2 of The Inner Game of Tennis. In short summary, the first chapter is about the revelations the author had as a tennis instructor, that he got more out of his students and they got far more out of his lessons when he gave less verbal instruction. Instead, he focused more on “showing and feeling” rather than telling.
The author admits this was a blow to his ego, as he felt the need to justify his authority (and likely his paycheck) as a “teacher,” and so he felt compelled and obligated to offer lots of verbal corrections. However, this tended to gum up his students. By observing and encouraging his students to feel their way through while imitating his example, everyone got a lot more out of each lesson. Kevin asked the group what they thought about this, as it seems that in western gyms the authority of a teacher is squarely in the position that the author finds himself at initially. Students expect and want lots of correction and instruction. Trainers want to have authority by giving and enforcing lots of correction and verbal instruction. It’s how we learn, so how do we “unlearn” this and move forward in a more natural way of learning, as the author discovered and ultimately wrote a now-classic book about?
Mary is a fighter and also a coach at VIII Limbs Academy in Philadelphia. She noted that when she is instructing her partner and roommate, she finds it hard to not over-coach. Her intentions are all good, just wanting to give more and offer shortcuts to realizations she’s had, but the dynamic between Mary and her partner makes this even more complicated than it would already be with just a clean-cut student/teacher dynamic. I can relate. I feel over-coached by my husband, because he’s my husband, even if he offers the same points that my trainer might, or even something I already know to be true. This is a good example of how over-thinking can be with the best intentions, as well as how our pre-existing emotions, relationships, thoughts, feelings, etc. influence our learning processes.
Casey and Yvonne are both dealing with long-term injury, so the relationship between mental and physical expression is poignant to their current experiences. Kevin had pointed out that how we feel about any given movement influences how it fits into our arsenal. I thought this was relevant to Casey and Yvonne’s injuries because, when injured, you end up feeling pretty pissed and sometimes depressed about what you can’t do, rather than focusing on what you can. Yvonne looked for examples of folks who couldn’t train with their feet, which she is experiencing with her injury, and replicated those examples to a positive outcome. Casey had a profound experience of “learning to walk again,” with her broken leg, looking around her at people just naturally walking to try to understand the mechanics because her body had “forgotten.” This is a great example of how the author of The Inner Game has developed his teaching – toward a natural process of watching and imitating. Believing that you already know how to walk is a good thing (she didn’t really forget), but when the mechanics offer new struggles, getting out of the mind-trap of thinking that you cannot walk anymore and just letting the body figure it out is what her doctor advised.
In chapter 2, the author introduces the concept of “two minds.” When you are talking to yourself, the statement, “I’m talking to myself,” introduces two separate subjects. The “I” is the mind, “myself” is the body: Self I and Self II. Self I loves to tell Self II what to do, and that’s how we get all gummed up in learning processes. Self I over-verbalizes and tries to control, as well as demanding trying harder. Self II is pretty sufficient and does all the actual doing of movements; once Self II has felt a movement, it remembers how to do it forever. Doesn’t need Self I directing. So, for example, Self II never forgot how to walk but Self I experienced new difficulties and told Self II that it had forgotten how to walk. The author argues that how we learn anything is by a good relationship and communication between these two selves, the mind and the body.
Mark asked a great question about focus. In the book the author talks about how great players can narrow their focus to just the seams on the tennis ball. By not focusing on all the mechanics involved in how to hit the ball “correctly” and rather just focusing on seeing the ball and letting Self II take care of the mechanics without conscious thought, these players are in the zone. Mark asked what the “seams on the ball” are for Muay Thai? Where do you look? Where do you center your focus? Casey offered that she looks in her training partner and opponent’s eyes, which many legends of Muay Thai have also instructed me to do. Some have also told me to look at a box that includes the jaw and collar of the shirt, others have said they watch the hips. But regardless of where they focus, all of them also add that by looking wherever they look, they can see the whole picture. Kevin pointed out that if you look at the leg when you want to kick the leg and the jaw when you want to punch the jaw, by “targeting,” your eyes are jetting around and you don’t have this same focus. By watching the seams, or the jaw, or the hips, or the eyes, you’re focusing here in order to see everything.
One of the things we’re going to do in the next week, while reading the next 2 chapters in the book, is try to work on this focus in our training. Where do you look, and what do you see? How does focusing here or there effect the whole picture? How does looking here or there impact quieting down Self I vs. opening up Self II?
Join us next week for chapters 3 & 4 with this link:
10:30 am Thai Time, October 19th
You can also follow our reading throughout the week in this Open Facebook Group. If you have questions or thoughts on the reading you please post them in the FB group linked above, or you can put them in comments below.