The Mental Art of Competition: Part 8 FEAR

Some of my best performances have been against some of my most intimidating opponents. Why? Because I was scared of them, and thus was far more deliberate in my decisions during those matches. Fear can be both a mind killer and a match winner. Fear is perhaps one of the most important aspects to truly understand when it comes to the mental art of competition.

Most people I’ve seen freeze up when scared. They do not know how to channel their fear, and as a result it causes their failure. In my opinion, if you are one of those people you should focus on what is going on in the present; don’t worry about what might happen or what has already happened. Focus on that moment: you have one task beat the person you are scared of. For that reason it is important to focus entirely on them, not on what they may be capable of doing to you or what they’ve already done to other people.

Regardless of how I feel about an opponent before a match starts, I do my best to clear my mind before I get on the mat. I cannot win if I am thinking about things that are not going on in that moment. I may develop a game plan to pacify my fears, but really what it comes down to is presence. You must be entirely present to succeed against a worthy opponent or else you will surely fail.

Fear can ruin a match for you. If you do not have a handle on your fear you’ll be tense and stiff, and if you are tense and stiff your chances of success drop exponentially. Fear is tricky as it CAN be used successfully as fuel for success. But it depends on the individual’s reaction to it.

When you train, try rolling with the biggest guy in the room, try rolling with the “scariest” guy in the room. Be prepared to tap so that you don’t get hurt but the reality is that we face our potential fears in the gym so that we don’t have to in competition.

Fear is tricky. If you are not a person who can summon extra talent and technique when scared, you need to do your best to allay your fears. The mental art of competition is all about mastering your own emotions and reactions and using them as a tool. I for one would much rather strike fear in my opponent and make them uncertain of every movement than be fearful.




Emil Fischer is an active blue belt competitor under Pablo Angel Castro III training with Strong Style Brasa and is sponsored by Pony Club Grappling Gear and Cruz Combat. For more information, other articles, and competition videos check out his athlete pages at and



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