Some time back, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku wrote about his working methods, and in particular mentioned his practice of strongly visualizing equations, floating in imaginary space and brightly coloured. And when did you ever read a physics textbook that told you to hallucinate equations?

When NLPers talk about modelling, they look at these aspects of skills, and mimicking them. Deconstructing a person's unconscious processes takes some time and patience, and it can be very interesting to apply it to skills like, well, writing novels. When Stephen Pinker was analysing the brain's ability to generate language, he coined the term 'mentalese' for the complex patterns that are beneath the surface, not quite the natural language that finally comes out. Similar concepts hold true for visualisation, I'm sure... yet, when you bring subjective experience into conscious awareness, you can think of it as images and feelings and sounds (language or other), and as memory or newly imagined.

By the way, notice how, when someone visualizes something, their eyes focus on a point in space, even though the image is virtual, constructed inside their head. I believe this is due to a part of the brain called the entorhinal cortex, which contains a neural structure called the spatiotemporal grid, responsible for the geometric aspects of our cognitive maps of the world.

When I taught writing workshops at a local school, I worked with a little girl who had difficulty reading and spelling... but when I asked her questions about the story she was making up, she was making vivid mental images. It's well known (among those who model behaviour this way) that good spellers normally visualize the words, rather than using auditory strategies. So I took a word she had difficulty spelling, popped it up on my laptop with a massive font, and made each syllable a different colour. Then I held the laptop at the point in space where she'd been focusing on imaginary images, and asked questions about the colours of letters. Soon she could spell it. (Much to teachers' amazement.) And that's a strategy she can continue to use.

Had I researched dyslexia in advance, I'd have known to make the screen background pink, to make things even easier.

(Cognitive strategies consist of multiple stages, using a variety of senses, often in definite preferred sequences: formal modelling maps these in 'tuples'.)

Meanwhile, in my other subculture of martial arts, I've been trying to resolve the conflicts between classical martial arts, and in particular shotokan karate, with the excellent modern methods of MMA (mixed martial arts) as exemplified by the UFC.

So, nowadays we have an excellent undefeated UFC fighter called Lyoto Machida, Brazilian-Japanese, son of the Japan Karate Association's chief instructor to Brazil. Here's a man who doesn't just bring karate to the Octagon, but shotokan (of course adding BJJ grappling skills).

Now, I know a certain highly skilled hypnotist and NLP trainer who, modelling someone super-skilled, has taken to copying that person's hairstyle. The thing about this modelling process is to abstract out only the aspects of the person's skill that are required to help you, but sometimes it takes a while to know what they are. So doing everything you can to step into the other person's shoes can be useful... Think of Robert de Niro preparing for a challenging role.

My personal martial arts training includes MMA-style work, at a much lower intensity than pro fighters. With my shotokan background, perhaps I should be modelling Lyoto Machida.

Except that in a recent interview, Mr Machida has revealed that he follows a traditional training practice of, well, drinking his own urine every morning...

Any of you martial artists out there looking to take your training to the next level, let me know how you get on. (But I'll be sticking with my morning coffee, thanks.)

Fly straight, Pilots.


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