Pro Gamers Are Keeping Hush About Their Secret Meditation Practice

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  • Professional gamers are using meditation to prepare their minds for competition.
  • Meditation increases awareness and concentration, helping you in the most intense gaming moments.
  • Global esports ambassador Daigo Umehara has been meditating for years and is one of the best gamers in the world.

 

This weekend, professional gamers Daigo Umehara and Hajime “Tokido” Taniguch are at Red Bull Battlegrounds, the North American regional finals tournament for Street Fighter V, one of the most popular esports games in the world.

The seats are lined with wide-eyed gamers watching their favorite pros battling it out in grueling matches of Street Fighter V. A row of speakers blasts electronica around the auditorium.

But at the front of the stage, Street Fighter V pro Daigo Umehara is sitting with his eyes closed focusing on his breath. He’s meditating.

Daigo Umehara is famous for his calm persona in the heat of battle. As the world’s greatest Street Fighter player of all time, Daigo Umehara’s seen his fair share of competition. And through it all he’s maintain a zen-like level of composure and calm, a calmness he learnt as a youngster when his father taught him meditation.

Daigo Umehara’s father was a martial artist, a practitioner of the ancient Samurai technique Kendo.  A key element of Kendo is meditation, which Kendo practitioners call Mokuso.

Mukoso is similar to the more famous breathing meditations like anapanasati meditation, in which the practitioner sits on the floor with their legs crossed, focusing on their breath. You can read my complete guide to anapanasati meditation here.

By practicing mokuso meditation, Daigo has learned to calm him mind in the heat of battle, thereby giving himself an advantage in tournaments.

Playing Street Fighter is not so different to practicing martial arts. Both require focus and concentration. True, martial arts require much more physical skill than video games are ever likely to (though gaming itself does require a level of physical heath, which is why professional gamers often practice quite strenuous workout routines). But the mental challenge of gaming is every bit as real as the mental challenge of other sports, even martial arts.

Like martial arts, video games require absolute focus and concentration if you’re to master them. The sheer rate of information that flows through a gamer’s mind while playing is quite staggering. In Street Fighter V, for instance, players are constantly analysing “frame data”, which is essentially the number of animation frames that moves take to start, hit, and recover from.

If you’ve never played Street Fighter at a high level, imagine an entire database of information flowing through your mind and you having to make snap-second decisions based on that information. It’s like working on the stock market but at ten times the speed.

Analysing this level of information requires constant awareness and a near superhuman level of concentration. And that, perhaps, is why Daigo Umehara has been meditating for so many years.

There are over 100 scientifically proven benefits of meditation. Among those benefits are the fact that meditation makes you more intelligent, improves your focus and concentration, and helps you to remain calm under stress. By practicing meditation, Daigo allows himself to relax in the heat of battle and to keep all that data flowing through his mind freely in an effective way. All Street Fighter players know what it’s like to lose your focus for a few seconds and watch your health bar dissipate. Meditation prevents that from happening.

 

 

Could meditation be the reason why Daigo is so good at Street Fighter?

Daigo is one of very few gamers to have begun meditating as a child. Research shows that meditating while young will train your mind to remain calm. So, by the time Daigo began playing Street Fighter tournaments in Super Street Fighter II Turbo (released 1994), his mind was more prepared for battle than the vast majority of his competitors. Perhaps that’s why he has won more major tournaments than any other player in history.

Daigo Umehara is not the only pro player to meditate. Daigo’s close friend, training partner, and competitor Tokido also meditates, and he is currently the second highest ranked player on the Capcom Pro Tour. Daigo and Tokido have been friends for years and not too many years ago Daigo was considered Tokido’s “sensei”. Whether it was Daigo who introduced Tokido to meditation or not we can only guess, but it seems a fair bet.

Daigo and Tokido are two of the most famous gamers who meditate. But they are not alone. As both a meditation teacher and fighting game commentator, I’ve been watching with intrigue as more and more pro gamers meditate on the big stage.

Last weekend my good friend Van Nyugen, who was recently sponsored by STDX, attended Canada Cup. I had the pleasure of commentating the event.  Sitting up by the big stage, I clearly saw Van taking a few mindful breaths. Those few breaths only took a few seconds, but would have been enough to provide some mental space, to produce calm and focus.

Meditation is one of the fastest ways to calm and focus the mind. And it’s an absolute no-brainer for anyone competing in esports.

As esports grow in popularity and the prize pools escalate, pro gamers will begin to take training much more seriously. Not just in-game or physical training, either, but mental training. Video games are a mental challenge. Success requires a trained mind. And meditation is one of the most effective ways of training your mind.

I hope you’ve found this article insightful and helpful. If so, please share on Facebook and Twitter. And if you’d like to read more articles like this, like our meditation and gaming pages on Facebook. Thanks.

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