Modern sports psychology focuses on the correlation between winning and the ability to relax, concentrate, and play one’s best game under the pressures of competition. This often involves quieting the mind and increasing awareness, so that the body is free to do the things that it does so well when we allow it to act spontaneously.
Sports mental toughness is known by immensely increasing the performance level of athletes. This kind of training or program involves a different kind of approach in sports. For example, in pool billiards and in archery or “kyudo” in Japanese, mental toughness is widely used here. These sports require a lot of concentration, in result, the way that the pool billiard players and archers train includes a great amount of exercising the mind as well.
Different schools of archery emphasize different things. For example, some traditions place a great deal of emphasis on breathing in at the beginning of an action and breathing out at its conclusion, while others do not. However, they all agree on the fundamental requirements of the stance and need to quiet the mind so that action will be spontaneous and fluid.
Pool demands an exceptionally wide range of mental skills. You must make all of your decisions about what shot to play and how to play it before you step up to the table to begin the sequence of actions that will roll the object ball into a pocket.
Every shot requires you to:
Approach the table and examine the pattern of the balls to determine what opportunities and problems the layout offers you.
Decide if an offensive or defensive strategy is called for. Then, plan ahead to a pot, safety, hook or difficult shot – i.e., any shot where you are not sure that you will pocket a ball or obtain position on a subsequent ball. Work backwards from the final ball in your sequence to determine your first shot. In formulating your plan, be aware of opportunities to maximize your chances of winning or minimize your opponent’s chances.
After selecting your shot, confirm that it is possible and that you can make it.
Resolve to play the shot to the best of your ability. In archery or “kyudo”, the maxim, “One shot, one life,” reminds us that every moment of every life is a precious gift. We must not squander it, for it will never come again.
1. the required point of contact on the object ball.
2. your point of aim.
3. the natural path and destination of the cue ball.
4. exactly where, at what angle and how hard the tip of your cue must contact the cue ball to create the shot you want.
Picture yourself making the shot successfully. This bolsters your confidence and gives your body a clear, vivid image to follow. It also allows you to shoot every shot twice, which doubles your chances of success.
It is now time to shift gears from thinking to a combination of thinking and doing.
Similarities of pool and archery or “kyudo”
Archery is similar to pool in important ways. Both disciplines demand a straight, solid, still stance, and place a premium on relaxation and concentration. Although accuracy is important, archery makes a distinction between shooting that is technically correct and shots that have “spirit.” An ancient maxim maintains that:
“Shooting with technique improves the shooting, but shooting with spirit improves the man.”
To be straight, a shot must be technically sound. To be smooth, it must be delivered it in a relaxed, calm and confident manner. In both pool and archery, the final part of the action is done as softly as possible, but the shot is charged with power. A proper henare is force of nature. It is as smooth and unstoppable as a wave. Perhaps this is what Steve Mizerak meant when he said:
“The pool stroke is so simple, in fact, that hardly anybody can do it.”
How “illusions” in martial arts can help your game
The martial arts call the past and future “illusions.” This does not mean that they are not real, but they are less important than what is happening here and now. In order to play our best game, we must overcome inappropriate or non-productive behavior and surrender to the joys and sorrows of playing in the present. The player who can do this wins the game before the balls have been broken. In reality, we can never be certain that we will make a shot, win a game or be victorious in a match.
The only thing we can control is the “effort” we put into every shot. Instead of worrying about the results of our actions, we need only be concerned with doing our best. When rational thinking gives way to intuition, our actions become instinctive and spontaneous. In this state, there is no distinction between the shooter, the target and the universe – everything is in harmony.
In both pool and archery or “kyudo”, your most important target may be your inmost self.
Joe Davis claimed that:
“The reason I play better snooker than you do is because I strike the cue ball where I intend to and you don’t.”
Copyright © 2000 by Robert Eighteen-Bisang