October 23, 2014

How Anger Distracts Us from Reaching our Goals.


Anger can be a tough monster to control. 

If you don’t learn to master your anger, inevitably someone will learn to use it against you. While this is an easy concept to understand, until you can apply it in your daily life, it’s just a bunch of words.

The first time I put this theory into application, I was 17 and fighting heavily in the local martial arts tournaments (think of the ones in The Karate Kid, not like the UFC, which wasn’t around back then).

Back then, the fighters used to watch each other’s matches, hoping to pick up on any weaknesses their opponents might show. While I was watching the other fighters, it became quickly apparent there was one man, let’s call him Jeff, who I just wasn’t going to be able to beat.

It wasn’t a lack of confidence on my part, but rather Jeff was just flat out better than I was in every way. He was bigger, stronger, faster, and seemed to be impervious to pain. However, while I was watching his match, I witnessed something that got the wheels inside my head spinning.

During a clash, Jeff’s opponent accidentally threw a kick that hit Jeff in the knee. It didn’t hurt Jeff, but knee contact was illegal and Jeff got angry about it. When this happened, all of Jeff’s technique and planning went right out the window. He became a berserker who attacked wildly and foolishly.

I realized that the only hope I had of beating Jeff, was to get him angry.

I hope you can understand that what happened next was extremely difficult for me because I am at heart, a nice person. It’s not in my nature to be mean to people, but it was the only thing I could think of.

“You probably shouldn’t block with your face, dickhead,” I said, as Jeff was stepping off the mat.

A few minutes later, I walked over to the bleachers where Jeff was sitting, and rifled through his gym bag, looking for a roll of trainers tape to re-tape my foot pad. When I was done, I kept the roll of tape and took a healthy swig from his water bottle for good measure.

Needless to say, Jeff was pretty upset with me by the time our match started, but then I threw him the ultimate sign of disrespect: I refused to bow to him at the beginning of the match.

When the match was over, I had beaten Jeff, 5-1.

After everything was over, I was in the locker room alone when Jeff walked in. My awesome skills at observation told me he was still bitter with me because he slammed me into the locker and asked me what my problem was. Because I didn’t want to spend the next few minutes eating Jeff’s knuckles, and because I actually respected Jeff as an athlete and as a martial artist, I told him.

I told him about witnessing him lose his composure in the previous match. I told him how I knew, all things being equal, I couldn’t beat him. I explained how I didn’t know anything about him personally, so how could I possibly have formed a negative opinion about him. I told him how my actions were nothing but a strategy, and the strategy paid off because I won and he lost.

I don’t think Jeff was expecting this. I think he was just expecting a fight and a chance to redeem himself. I could also tell he was struggling with having this flaw laid bare.

“Look Jeff,” I said, “I’ll prove it to you. Do you think you can take a few moments to let go of all the anger you feel towards me, and function from a calm and centered place?”

“I think I can do that,” he said after pondering the question for a moment or two.

“Great. Then let’s go back out there, no crowds, no judges, no trophies. Just you and I, and we can try it again.”

We did, and Jeff beat the living crap out of me, but he did it with a calm mind and without a trace of anger towards me.

About six months later, Jeff decided to graduate to professional kickboxing, and I went to see his first match. As he stepped into the ring, it was obvious that he was nervous and a little afraid. It’s scary stepping into the ring with someone who is trying to hurt you. As I made my way to my seat in the third row, I called out to Jeff.

“You suck Jeff! You’re ugly and you’ve got no talent!”

He turned to me and raised one glove either to wave to me or to give me the finger, I couldn’t tell which. But he was smiling when he did it.

Be calm buddy. You’ve got this,” I yelled.

He nodded, and then the bell rang.



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


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