You’re focussed on your training partner and suddenly they throw a jab at your head, your eyes follow the punch in, your hands come up and make contact with the striking arm and for a moment your brain celebrates. Then you feel their other hand bash into you, you never saw it coming.
What just happened?
Well according to science the two systems of selective attention or focus just had a tug-of-war in your brain. Decades of research have now shown that while focusing on relevant information is of course critical to accomplishing goals, ignoring irrelevant information is just as important. And it turns out that suppresion or the ingoring of that irrelevant information is an essential ingredient in selective attention.
What makes this even more challenging is that the brain has limited cognitive resources and these two aspects of selective attention are not just two sides of the same coin. They are two distinct systems in the brain and despite what people believe about multi-tasking (like texting and driving…) your brain can’t do it!
So while meditation and focus drills are incredibly important for our needs in self-protection we also need to practice ignoring irrelevant information. In our training example from above as the jab goes by you want to cover it but you don’t want to follow it with your eyes because once you do you have lost focus on the person attacking.
If you’re interested in a way to do this look up the difference between overt focus and covert focus on Google. And if you would like drills that help with this we covered this subject in one of my courses on Ninja Self Defense call Nose Tag.