“The Martial Arts Athlete: Mental and Physical Conditioning for Peak Performance” by Tom Seabourne, Ph.D. is a short book (150 pages with many photographs), but a book that has many useful ideas and sound information for the martial artist of any style. I enjoyed the book and discovered within it’s pages some sound advice on peak performance and suggestions on how to train for peak martial arts performance for both competition and daily practice. It’s a motivating quick read.
After a short Foreword by 1992 Taekwondo Olympic Gold Medalist Herb Perez, there’s a quick preface and then six chapters. The first chapter is on The Martial Arts Athlete and focuses on the present being rooted in the past, how to use the book, and individual choice. It’s only four pages long.
Chapter two is on mastering basics of strength, speed, flexibility and power. It begins by emphasizing the importance of training your abdominals and core. Many ab exercises are listed with pictures to illustrate, the chapter also covers having a strong back, increasing your flexibility, plyometrics for power, and balance. The chapter is about 68 pages long, with a lot of pictures. One thing I didn’t like as much was that for many exercises or stretches, the description and accompanying photograph were not on the same page, so you had to turn the page and look for the picture that went with the description. (They were numbered, so you could find them.)
Chapter three is on Mental Skills for Martial Artists, and this was my favorite chapter of the book. It focuses on your mind and covers topics such as competition jitters, focus, self-talk, pain management, rhythm, discipline, desire, and overtraining. The chapter had some great tips.
The next chapter, chapter four, Relaxation, Meditation, & Imagery for Peak Performance also provides some great advice and tips on breathing, relaxation, meditation, imagery, and mind and body. All important aspects of the martial artists training.
Chapter five is on Training Outside Your Martial Arts School. I liked the parts about training solo, because I think all martial artists need to train by themselves at times. It had some basics on weight training, something you can get much more from other texts, and some exercises using a partner and a bar. (Personally, this was my least favorite part of the book, and I don’t see me doing these partner/bar exercises as part of my training. However, some might like them.) I liked the discussion on cross training, another thing I think benefits the martial artist. There are a few pages on basic nutrition and a short conclusion in chapter six that puts everything together.
Overall, it is a good book for any martial artist’s bookshelf, regardless of the style trained in. Some of the information is found in more depth in other resources, but this short, motivating book is a good read to get the basics and get you incorporating them into your training.