In response to a piece I wrote for BJJ Eastern Europe on anger and jiu jitsu (see here)--where I suggested that anger is bad both for training and competing--I got a message from a reader who liked the article but pushed me to further explain my claim that anger is maladaptive on the mats. On his view, because jiu jitsu is a martial art and competing is a combat sport, anger and hostility seem appropriate emotional and motivational states in the context of competitions even if anger may not be appropriate in the training room. After all, my opponent is trying to harm me, so why wouldn’t anger and hostility be suitable emotional states under these circumstances? That’s a very good question. So before I write the third and final post in this series about anger—which will focus on anger management for jiu jitsukas—I thought I would further flesh out my view that anger is more likely to hinder (rather than foster) one’s development and progress in jiu jitsu.
The best place to begin this investigation is to explore some aspects of anger that I didn’t highlight in my earlier piece as much as I could (and should) have—namely, that anger is retaliatory and remedial in nature. When I am fearful or afraid, it engages my biological flight mechanism whereas when I am angry it triggers my fight mechanisms. So, when I am angry at someone (e.g., a friend who has betrayed me) or something (e.g., an unjust social arrangement or institution), one of the primary goals of this emotional state is getting payback. In this sense, anger is usually targeted at people or institutions that have unjustly or unfairly and intentionally harmed me or someone I care about. While we sometimes talk about being “angry at the world,” anger is not normally this diffuse in practice. Instead, it is narrowly directed at specific individuals and institutions that have intentionally harmed us in some way or another.