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Don't Forget! Master Your Memory to Power Your Performance

"Brain Fog" is one of the funny names we’ve created or when we can’t quite remember where we put our sunglasses or how our favorite song goes or what the whatchamacallit is actually called.  Yes, these things happen, and yes, we can laugh about it or brush it off.  But sometimes forgetfulness can be a struggle- like when you forget the next move of your form during competition!

The good news is that your memory is like a muscle.  The more you target and train it, the bigger, the better, the faster it gets.  That’s key for Taekwondo students, since training involves learning different drills, weapons and traditional forms. 

Master Tony Rosa is a 6th Degree Black Belt and chief instructor of Bartlett ATA in Tennessee.  In order to keep his students at the forefront of their training and at the top of their class, he emphasizes memory building in his classes. 

“There are some things you need to know in Taekwondo, and this skill is one of them,” Rosa says.  “How well you kick doesn’t matter if you can’t remember your form or deliver it with confidence.”

Kids from the 1980’s and 90’s likely remember learning grammar and geography by memorizing and reciting songs like “Fifty Nifty United States” and anything from the Shurley English catalogue.  Memorization was a common underlying theme in education during that time, and though it receives less focus in classrooms today, chances are you still remember those songs and facts because you put in the work to make sure the information stuck.

“I always tell my students to memorize your form just like you do your ABCs or your multiplication table,” Rosa says.  “It helps to say the name of every move out loud as you perform it.  This will help you get to where you know it all the way through, where you can spout it off just as easily as your phone number or address.”

And it’s not just a one-way street.  Whatever effort you put forth in your training to better your skillset will start to show itself in other areas of your life as well. Essentially, memorizing your forms and routines will help you perform better on an upcoming algebra test or stockholder presentation.

“The effects are real,” Rosa says.  “I’ve seen huge improvement outside the facility as a direct result of memorization practices we do in ATA.”

But as any martial artist will tell you, becoming a successful, healthy competitor is more than what happens on the mat.  The Taekwondo practices strengthen your mind, too.

A study by the University of British Columbia found that regular aerobic exercise grows the area of the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning:  the hippocampus.  And the effects aren’t purely reliant on brain cells.  Exercise is known to better your sleep patterns, stress levels and mood- all departments that, if impaired, also negatively affect your cognitive ability.  With benefits in both physical endurance and boosting brainpower, you now have even more cause to kick up the cardio you log in your personal training time. 

There is a reason that the adage, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste” has become a part of the American vernacular, just like there’s a reason Rosa highlights the importance of memory.  Martial artists must adjust their thinking and treat their memorization muscles just like any other part of their bodies.  Only then will they be fully able to achieve their goals.

Memory Tips

As a martial artist, you rely on your memory to help you demonstrate forms and perform routines, and keeping your memory sharp is paramount.  Here are a few quick tips for improving your memory outside of ATA:

  • Get a good night’s sleep
  • Exercise regularly and keep your heart rate up
  • Eat more fresh vegetables and vitamin D
  • Spend time with friends (it helps!)
  • Put a halt on your multi-tasking

Written by Jess Ardrey. Originally published in Vol. 23 no. 2 of the ATA World Magazine.

Jan. 08, 2018

Get Ready For 2022 Spring Nationals!

Spring Nationals will take place in Las Vegas, NV on April 13-16, 2022
at the Venetian Resort & Sands Expo Convention Center.