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Seeing Red
Rage and Anger in Combat, A Man Question from SidVic

I do have a man question for James, however. Sorry that I am off topic.

I have been curious about the role that rage/anger plays for the serious fighter types. When i was young i literally saw red on three occasions (yes Virginia it is real thing). It felt glorious. Does rage enter into the equation for boxers and MMA fighters during a match? Is anger the enemy, getting them to expend themselves too quickly? I apologize if you have covered this before.


Good question, SidVic.

Trainers and coaches in the combat arts distrust anger and work it and beat it out of their fighters in order to be able to train them up to the point where they can learn in contact situations. This is a huge issue in boxing. Angry fighters wash out early due to adrenaline and related bi-products fatiguing them and also making them easy to read and bait by a cagey fighter. I am the kind of fighter—or was—that was always good at beating up angry men, big angry men, by walking them into traps. Wisdom has it that the more small motor skill and precision required of the combat form the more bad effects anger cause.

That said, anger, for the untrained person who needs to be a threat "right now" is nature's method of giving you a burst of animal aggression—your very own Chimp Out button. It is not sustainabke by the normal person, highfunctioning while angry being the province of perhaps the rarest predatory head cases in the human family.

Some notable fighters of great ferocity who supposedly fought angry, were Jack Dempsey and Mike Tyson, both whirl winds of devastating aggression. The truth,however, is they fought scared. Dempsey and Tyson both admitted to fighting afraid. First, they had both been attacked by adults as youths and both fought men who were much larger than they, which brought back that fear. A trained guy that is afraid can have considerable gas in the tank because he is used to being afraid. Fear is a way of harboring and husbanding aggression, dispesnsing it in bursts of fury, that only functions among the insane and the highly trained without causing a cardio collapse.

I once fought the most skilled stick-fighter in the country and was unable to hit him the first two rounds. In the third round I smashed his collar bone and I saw his eyes widen in anger, and then smolder to dark slits as he brought the impulse under control to pay me back right then and instead used it as banked coal of the soul to fuel his diabolic payback, which consisted of getting me to block a descending stick stroke and then kicking me in half as I raised my guard. I folded around his foot and he felt pleasure [he later told me] as I was launched in perfect horizontal flight across the ring and into the third row.

This is how a trained fighter uses the bursts of anger that occur to him—largely consisting of being angry at himself for slipping up—and then tamp it down as emotional fuel for his clinical response.

The single boxer I know of who said that he fought angry was Marvin Hagler, second best middle weight of all time in my book. Look at film of Hagler stalking his foes and you will see in his eyes that banked fury, smoldering but not flaming out.

Thriving in Bad Places

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BobMarch 15, 2017 11:32 PM UTC

Not to flay the dead horse, but what about these speed/meth fiends and their freakish rage and strength? You know, you see six officers having difficulty restraining one addict (and these struggles seem to go on longer than mere seconds)? How come they're not getting adrenaline-induced torpor? Or are they so habituated to adrenaline that it doesn't affect them?
responds:March 16, 2017 3:02 PM UTC

These are one real good reason to stay calm. I spend a couple minutes getting beat up by two of these once until the guy who had a hold of me was sweaty enough to deal with.

Groups of cops, 2, 4 and 6 took along time taking down my friend rick by fighting in stages. If you are alone you need gas because you don't have partner. The Roman legionare, I think stayed in contact for 20 minutes before it was desirable to rotate him out.

Myth heads will get fatigued but its minutes down the road, which is a worst case scenario and a recommendation for a sustainable defense.
Jeremy BenthamMarch 12, 2017 3:52 PM UTC

Interesting. Middleweight Champ Stanley Ketchell was said to fight angry. He would motivate himself to fight by imagining that the other boxer had made a nasty remark about his mother and would thus work himself into a rage before he got in the ring. Most of the time though, as James alludes, fighters would just try make other fighters angry in order to provoke them to recklessness. This strategy backfired severely in a heavyweight championship match when British Champ Charley Mitchell met American Champ James J. Corbett in 1894. Mitchell decided his only way to win against the younger stronger Corbett would be to make him so mad that he'd lose his head and leave himself open for a knockout punch. So Mitchell trash talked and played the clown incessantly before and during the fight. He succeeded in enraging Corbett who came after him with a vengeance. Corbett beat Mitchell bloody, knocking him out in the third round. In discussing the fight afterward with former western marshal and sports reporter William "Bat" Masterson, Mitchell revealed his strategy. Bat said. "Well, you got him mad all right, Charley." Charley replied , "I bloomin' well succeeded, but I didn't mean to get him THAT mad."
responds:March 13, 2017 3:16 PM UTC

These are great cases, Jeremy.

Note how poorly anger worked for Ketchell against the Bigger Jackson [who showed a diabolic flash of it himself when he took Ketchell's teeth out] and how well it worked for Corbett against the slightly smaller Mitchell, which John L. called, "That bombastic sprinter."

To use anger, the two things you want is to be stronger and to be trained, so you ca mange the anger, use it like a boaster rocket when needed. At a novice level anger retards efforts against any foe that could be considered an equal. What I tried to do with this article is convince untrained fighters to get some training rather than rely on the powerful feeling one gets from anger, which, without an actual powerful frame of skill set or applicable conditioning will not get you far in combat sports or against the mobs of larger younger humanoids we ae likely to be attacked by.

In any case, Corbett, had a huge anger issue in his personal life, something he eventually overcame, partially through boxing. So Mitchell was really playing with fire. This was such a sweet victory considering Mitchell's previous behavior!

Thanks, Jeremy
BobMarch 11, 2017 10:08 PM UTC

This is a fascinating topic. Reading your books I seem to recall that most serious attacks are decided in seconds or - at the limit - a few minutes, with the first strike more often than not determining the final outcome. Given that in a life/death struggle strategy should be to disable/maim/kill your enemy ASAP by attacking vulnerable, potentially life-threatening targets (unlike the sporting bout), isn't the adrenaline drain a secondary issue?
responds:March 13, 2017 2:42 PM UTC

Great point, Bob.

The typical one-on-one encounter is over in 3-10 seconds.

An untrained fighter who is angry and suffers an adrenaline dump will freeze up and be paralyzed like the tiger tanks at the end of the Battle of the Bulge—out of gas—in one minute of inactivity. He will usually just wind down and be incapable of vigorous action.

An untrained fighter who suffers an adrenaline dump and fights is out of gas in 3-10 seconds.

We have a big problem when we consider the fact that the typical adversary numbers 4 attackers in Baltimore, as I write. That means you need between 12-40 seconds to defeat them and Joe Angry is out of gas in 3-10 seconds.

Everyone that I have known who has successfully fought angry against a formidable individual or a mob has had above average to freakish physical conditioning.

Hey, if you are out of shape and untrained you are better off getting angry than getting scared. At least give a few lumps before your cardio caves and you are fetal and being stomped by the whole troupe of baboons.
IshmaelMarch 11, 2017 1:25 PM UTC

To come from another angle at this age old problem, had a great deal of rage to deal with in my life. A man noticed and pulled me out of the fire,

taught me to channel it, first into training, then how to handle it, before it takes its toll on you.

I can never repay the lessons learned, other than to assist and try to pass some forward, was worked to exhaustion until I would listen, performed my best, when I had the beast under control! James is a great teacher, he and others like him, helped me improve, that's what I have always craved!