If your emotions are not in sync with the rest of your mental preparation, then you may not be as successful in effectively applying your game plan. In this chapter, we are going to study two critical emotions-anger and fear­-that often negatively impact a grappler’s or combats athlete’s performance, and we’ll look for ways to deal with these emotions.

How do these emotions become stumbling blocks?

  • Anger or fear can affect your concentration, since these emotions fill your mind, and you will be unable to maintain the high involvement necessary to play your game.
  • Anger can alter your attitude from being positive and assertive to being hostile and intimidating. If your emotion is fear, your approach may become distinctly diffident and hesitant.
  • Your judgment gets affected: You may not think clearly enough to use the right moves. Your game is now directed by your emotions instead of by your true motivators.

Triggers for anger

Anger is actually a form of stress and can result from any of the following in a grappler or combat athlete:

  • frustration with your performance
  • failure to win in recent matches
  • animosity built up in a previous encounter with the opponent-you believe that someone did not behave properly toward you.

Its expression

  • A negatively activated state-of-mind: aggravation, annoyance
  • Retaliation against opponent

Anger is an emotion that fills the mind with feelings of fury and rage. This fury translates into extreme antagonism toward the opponent. When a grappler or combat athlete feels angry, the power of the emotion can break concentration and cloud the mind with thoughts that hamper the effective use of game plan and strategy. Anger causes a shift in focus in the mind. Instead of concentrating on techniques and tactics, the mind is now filled with revenge and rage.

Impact of anger on you

Anger is something you can do without on the mat. Anger is an emotion that is completely counterproductive. Anger leads to:

  • loss of control
  • loss of concentration
  • inability to pay attention
  • inability to recall your strategies

Anger management

The break in concentration is one of the most significant harmful fallouts of anger during a game. The other unfortunate fallout is bad behavior. Grapplers and combat athletes, who make a conscious effort to overcome anger minimize this effect and instead play the game as the situation demands. To stay focused during a match, there are several anger-management techniques that can be applied by a grappler or combat athlete.

  • Refocus thoughts when concentration breaks: Regain concentration levels by replacing angry thoughts, with thoughts of giving a good performance
  • Use the cue technique: This is something you can do during the match to gain control and weed out anger from your mind. You can also use “word cues” to manage your anger. This method is based on the premise that you are aware of your uncontrolled anger that surfaces from time to time on the mat. When you begin to notice your anger growing during a match, give yourself the following cue word: “Replace:’ As soon as the cue “Replace” enters your mind, you have to actively intercept the angry thoughts and replace them with tactics that you can use in the moment. In other words, you refocus yourself on an immediate task and slowly move away from the anger. You are actually restoring and reinstating relevant thoughts and cutting off angry thoughts before they overwhelm you. Granted that there are times when your anger has been genuinely spurred by an injustice or unfair behavior toward you. But the time to show this anger is not on the mat, where you need to apply your judgment and use your strategies. Once you replace the unwelcome thoughts, you will again find yourself working at full potential.
  • Anger management through yoga – you can have control over yourself if you want to. And that’s an absolute fact! You can gain control of your emotions if you try, but there is help in the form of yoga techniques. Pursue specific yoga techniques with the help of an instructor in the days before a tournament. Specific yoga exercises can assist you in keeping your temper cool. It will help you control your thought processes and manage your anger.
  • Enlist the intervention of friend and well-wisher to talk about the anger that often builds up in you. When you have it out in the open, you begin to think about the basis or cause of your anger and can reason yourself out of it through discussion.
  • Don’t fret over failure: Losses and wins are part and parcel of being a grappler or combat athlete. Fretting or worrying over a lost game increases your disappointment and aggravates the senses to a state of frustration and annoyance. It is like letting a wound fester. The ultimately leads to anger building up. A better approach is to introspect about the match and look for reasons for failure. Here’s what NHB Champion Mike Easton had to say after he lost in the semifinal round of the Muay Thai Championships: I will think back a little bit about this match, but I’ve learned so much from it. I have to get back to the basics and not try things that aren’t a part of my game plan.”
  • Question the anger: When you find yourself getting angry, ask yourself why. This can momentarily arrest the angry thoughts and replace them with a more rational thought process of understanding your anger.


Lloyd Irvin is a martial arts coach. He holds the rank of 7th degree black belt in Thai Jitsu, 2nd degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, 1st degree black belt in judo. In 2002 he was named The United States Judo Federation International Coach of the year. Lloyd’s coaching experience includes having taught Secret Service, FBI & SWAT. Read more on: http://www.lloydirvin.com

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