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Martial Arts: Science and the Martial Arts

The Mind and the Art of Ping Pong

By Christopher Caile

It was father's weekend at my boys' sleep away summer camp. It's a special time when a father gets to spend a whole weekend with his boy or boys, eating, playing sports, games, cards and of course sleeping overnight with them in a tent.

It is a time of special bonding, for my two ten year olds and me. Of course both sons were excited I was there and both wanted to show me their activities, meet their counselors and have me play sports with them.

One son was especially excited to play me in ping pong. Last year I had beaten him at the same Father's Weekend and this year he wanted to show me how much he had improved. He was much better I soon found out. I lost two games to five.

On Sunday mothers joined in and my wife arrived.  My son wanted to show her too how good he was.

But, everything did not follow his plan. He started out well, but soon missed a couple of shots. He was trying too hard.  He began to talk to himself.  What's wrong?," he would say, swinging his paddle harder at the ball. "That should have landed." At one point he even hit the table with the edge of his paddle between points, making angry gestures. He wanted so much to show off his skills.

I knew what was happening. He didn't. His emotions, were taking over, controlling his actions. Then it was almost then like he didn't care. He just swung wildly at all of the shots.

My wife and I told him to try to control himself, control is emotions and anger. He tried. He stopped and tried to quiet down, but by then his emotions wouldn't really listen. It to a week befor we could begin to discuss his anger at ping pong, and how athletes if they want to perform well have to control it.

It is the same for martial artists. You can use the emotion of anger as an empowering agent if you learn how to control it. But at the same time emotions and anger can control you. They can make you careless and over react. In sports this can affect how your play. But on the street this can get you seriously hurt. You can get caught up in anger, anger that can pump up the other guy or guys too. This can feed potential conflict. And if it starts this anger can make you vulnerable.  Your strike may be a powerful -- a "take his head off" haymaker -- but this type of attack is often wild and leaves you vulnerable to a counter.

In short, in any contest, sport as well as in self defense, learn to use your anger, use your  emotions as a powerful driver, but don't let emotions use you.

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About The Author:

Christopher Caile is the founder and Editor of

To find more articles of interest, search on one of these keywords:

self control, emotion and performance, Fudoshin

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