Gary 'Smiler' Turner's Blog

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Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Magic, Mentalism and Fighting

One of the things I love about fight sports is that you get to meet some very interesting people. The fight game is actually very friendly, particularly the higher up into the professional ranks you go. And with this comes opportunities to learn.

Recently I’ve been working with a few new training partners for some hard sparring sessions. Chatting after training I mentioned I was a hypnotist and one of their ears lit up, and a conversation (and much ongoing dialogue!) has continued. It turns out he is a mentalist and close-up magician, with a great depth of knowledge on the subject. And, through the learnings of our chats, I’ve come to realise that magic, mentalism and fighting actually cross over quite nicely.

My main interest area is with the psychology behind the performances and of course the hypnosis elements, rather than the sleight of hands and illusions. Initially I was interested as to how this performance knowledge can help with my hypnotherapy clients, and already have some great insights. And at the same time I am looking to see how this knowledge can cross over to other areas such as fighting.

I’ve been fortunate to gain access to much classic material in respect to these performances, including early notes by Derren Brown and the like. I’m constantly amazed at the simplicity of the approaches used yet at the same time how elegant and practiced you must be to apply them, and how much depends on the element of showmanship around the technique.

There are three regular elements to mentalism tricks – slight of hand, forces, and distractions. Sleights of hands are the small movements, the dexterity, swapping cards, making coins disappear and the like. These are the movements that require months and years to practice to achieve effectiveness. Often these slights take full advantage of gaps in our own sensory perceptions such as carrying out the switches in our visual blind spots – we literally can’t see the sleight taking place! Forces are the psychological direction where a subject is guided to make the choice that the mentalist wants them to take. The bombardment of senses uses a whole host of psychological practices to ensure that this is successful and so little left to chance. Distractions are pretty straight forward. Change the attentional focus of the subject and make the switch elsewhere.

Last night at training I realised that my clients and myself already use these approaches. I watched with realisation as one of my clients last night repeatedly struck another with a hook that wasn’t recognised. He ‘blind-sided’ his opponent by making the path of his hook behind his opponent’s glove, with it ‘breaking cover’ right at the end to strike. A classic ‘reveal’ in the magic sense I guess! The trick definitely hit home……and I noticed several other sleights observing the sparring.

Forces are what I love to do when sparring and fighting. Forcing the opponent to position themselves and actually take the shot that you intend is a big part of my game. To do this I use my techniques and feints to set them up, as well as psychological approaches, and playing on their strengths amongst many others. I literally allow them to position themselves in the way of my shots.

Distractions are fun, and are used all the time in fighting. From feinting to acting, all fighters use them. Distract from one area and hit in the other, or combine a distraction with a force to really set the opponent up.

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