I'm currently a yellow belt but I'm sparring with brown, red and black belts. Of course I'm not as good as they are so during sparring I get emotional and frustrated very quickly... I know it's silly and I try to compose myself but I was wondering if there is an excersise Or some kind of meditation I can try out? or do I just have to be patience to get to the "Mushin" stage?

  • 1
    It sounds like this is the same question as this one. Anyone else think it's a duplicate?
    – user15
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 12:29
  • I think this is a different problem then that question.
    – Patricia
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 14:48
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    Sounds like a duplicate to me, too... Perhaps the OP can explain how this differs from that? Maybe a merge is in order?
    – stslavik
    Commented Mar 22, 2012 at 15:43
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    I read the linked one as using the adrenaline rush to one's advantage, while this one is asking for advice for keeping from getting frustrated. While they may seem the same, for those of us who get frustrated and turned off from an activity when we repeatedly get our ass handed to us, they are fundamentally different questions.
    – Shauna
    Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 16:49
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    Some of the answers are going to cover substantively similar material as they are related questions, but it doesn't change that the questions are still fundamentally different from the point of view of the asker and the nuances can be quite be different in terms of answers even if the core is similar. Commented Mar 26, 2012 at 18:40

11 Answers 11


First of all, ask yourself this - why are you getting frustrated?

Is it because you're getting your ass handed to you? Or is it because you find yourself almost getting something, but not quite?

If it's because you're getting your ass handed to you...well, that's what you get for sparring with the black belts. :P But seriously, though, even if they're holding back and sparring with you at your level, they're probably still doing things subconsciously that you don't know how to do or counter at all, or at the very least, they know the cues better than you and will react accordingly. If you don't want them to do this, find someone closer to your training level to spar with.

If you're finding yourself "beating yourself" (that is, it's your own mistakes that are getting you into those positions, and not an experience difference or lack of knowledge), then make a resolution to do something different next time. You can also ask the person you're sparring with if they see things you can improve or comment on your cues or patterns.

One thing I've found is that the martial arts are a lot like chess - you have to think three moves ahead, and until you can do that, it's frustrating as hell, because if your opponent is more experienced then you, they'll see a lot more than you.

When you find yourself getting frustrated, take a step back and take a few deep breaths. Force yourself to relax by concentrating on your breathing. Then talk either to yourself or with your sparring partner about what you could have done better/differently. Ultimately, it's the only way to learn.

Meditation will, of course, help you take longer to get to that frustration point, but it's a long-term solution, not a short-term one. That said, there are a number of different kinds of meditation. Yoga and Tai Chi are both meditative, but in different ways. You might want to start with them, if you can find a class that does them with a focus on meditation. You can also do visualizations, guided meditation, or just sit in silence. What one works best for you is ultimately going to be up to you, though, so in that case, Google will be your friend.

Finally, as Morpheus put it "stop trying to hit me and hit me!" In other words - stop thinking so damn hard about it. If you've trained enough, you have the muscle memory and the subconscious knowledge to do what you need to do, so stop thinking about the moves and trying to do them, and just do them. Relax, even while you're sparring.


As a yellow belt, you have to realize you are just beginning. The most dangerous time in a student's career is when they are between the yellow and green belt level. It's because they know more than most of their friends, and might even be able to win a fight or two. Part of your training is to learn how to deal with defeat and not let it defeat you. Another big part that will be with you always, is actively thinking about what you are going to do next. Your at a place where you can't help but think about the next move, and that's OK.

The things to focus on at this stage are:

  • Put the techniques and combinations you've learned to practice
  • Work on awareness (can you see the attack that is coming)
  • Work on timing
  • Work on control

The awareness, timing, and control are all fundamental aspects of martial arts. Control can be worked on every time you do your forms, or practice combinations in the air or on a target. However, the awareness and timing are only developed when you have an opponent. When you realize this, pay attention. Don't think of winning or losing, focus on the list I gave you. If you win against a brown belt it's probably because they dumbed down what they were doing too much and you got lucky. If you go into it with that attitude, it will help you keep your emotions in check.


I have had similar issues when training with more skilled/experience people than I am. These are some things that help me:

  1. Focus on relaxing my breathing. If my breathing is under control, so am I, mostly.
  2. Don't stare your opponent in the eyes. This is a big problem for most people and actually make your a worse fighter, since you it's harder to track what you opponent is doing. Focus your eyes on their torso area and let your peripheral vision do its thing.
  3. Train more. I find that the more I train, the more I learn from other people. If you're learning more during sparring, you probably won't be as frustrated (and your form should improve quickly)
  4. Realize that this isn't the end of the world. The more experienced students were where you are at one point in their lives. Getting frustrated is just you being impatient. Realize that the more frustrated you become, the more you're getting in the way of your own training.

The best solution for this is to gain experience. Experience is what teaches you to remain calm during contact sessions. There's no meditation mumbo-jumbo that will keep you calm when you get punched in the face. The only answer is to get used to it. And the only way to get used to it is to experience it. A lot.

It's utter horse-puckey to let a yellow belt spar full or semi-full contact against much more advanced students. Ideally, you won't go more than two or three ranks up. In Taekwondo, that would mean a yellow belt should never fight anyone above Green or Blue belt. And I think the rule holds for most traditional Karate styles too.

If you want to get better, the best is to face someone who is only slightly better than yourself. If they're too advanced, you won't see any benefit.

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    I actually believe the opposite: those with lesser experience should mostly be sparring with more-experienced partners so that pairs of novices don't hurt each other with technique-less brawling. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 15:42
  • That's sort of what I said. But you need to be realistic. Mike Tyson will knock you out before you've ever had a chance to learn anything. But you might learn a lot from fighting the guy who just went pro last weekend. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 19:13
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    +1, although I will say it's common karate for dan grades to spar white belts - the dan grade should spar to the capability of the white belt and push them a little further. Showing the right judgement and control in a situation like that is one of the parts of becoming a dan grade.
    – slugster
    Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 21:38

Whenever I've sparred with the advanced belts, I always come away with the opinion of "I could have WON if I had thrown that punch an instant sooner, or turned the other direction when that kick was coming in". This means that the blackbelt (and/or the Master) was sparring me at my level. I learned tons this way. Getting my behind kicked would have taught me nothing other than how to take a beating.

If you are getting frustrated because you keep getting close to connecting with punches/kicks, relax and let it happen, you will get some shots in sooner or later. If you are getting frustrated because you are in a no-win situation, then you need to figure out what's wrong. First ask one of the advanced belts you are sparring with after class why you can't seem to get ahead for all your trying. Maybe you do the same 3 moves in order over and over again, and they know what you are getting ready to do, and are prepared for it (then you need to mix up your sparring style, or plan that they know those moves are going to come in; since I stand backwards in fighting position, I became known to throw a round kick first thing. The guy I sparred with would start by taking a step back. I learned to then throw a back kick). If they are unhelpful, ask the class instructor if they can help you figure out why you are doing so poorly. S/He will either watch you and an advanced belt spar, or will spar with you and give you help directly.

This should calm you down enough that your emotions are cooler to start with, after that, you need to learn to deal with emotions. For that, meditate. Figure out how your mind wants to be calmed down if you start to get hot in the middle of sparring. For me, I remember the face of the kid who almost got really hurt when I once lost control on the school yard, and it reminds me of the consequences of losing control.


I agree with what's been said so far, but I'd like to add my 2 cents. One thing to keep in mind is that part of martial arts training, and an essential part of sparring, is controlling your emotions. This is not something that people do automatically, or it wouldn't take training. Keep in mind that, not only are you training your body to move correctly, but you are also training your emotions and ki. It's a small adjustment to the way you perceive yourself, but it will make a big difference. Every time your emotions start to well up, look at it as an opportunity to train yourself to control them, rather than just trying to suppress them.

And don't feel bad. This is something that we have ALL had to get our monkey brains wrapped around. You are not alone! :-)


Meditation is not going to help you in an immediate way with that problem. Your question is closely related to the previous question Harnessing emotion during sparring.

What may help immediately is a boost to your self confidence. When sparring against higher grades it can be difficult to measure your progress over time, especially if they are also progressing. They are also trying to not be beaten by you - as higher ranks they should be faster, more co-ordinated, know more moves and be able to hit more openings than you can. So instead why don't you try sparring with someone of equal or lower rank? You don't want to beat the snot out of them, it is simply so you can measure your progress. Once you have got an accurate idea of where you are at you can take that knowledge and work on it, use it to improve yourself. This understanding may also give you a new and improved attitude when sparring higher ranks.

Of course I'm not as good as they are

Turn that statement around and look at it this way: you get better by sparring them. So becoming frustrated or emotional is pointless, the sooner you recognise that then the sooner you can let it go.

or do I just have to be patience to get to the "Mushin" stage?

It can take years to get to that stage. Patience is important (not having it may get you hurt), but that alone will not get you to the stage where you experience mushin. Part of achieving mushin is recognising incoming attacks and having the proficiency to deal with them1, and this is built up by sparring thousands of times against people better than yourself, which takes.... patience.

In summary: people react in many different ways when attacked or in a stressful situation. This is one reason why we train so much - it helps overcome those natural responses. While there are various little techniques or practices you can apply to the problem there is no quick fix for it. Training and patience.

1This recognition and reaction is something that happens subconciously, so it isn't something you can force yourself to do.


I had the same problem and I got to the bottom of it. I searched for what caused my frustation.

First I worked out my ego. During martial arts most of the frustration is caused by fear of humiliation. If you are stressed during sparring that is because your ego fights back. Deep inside you fear loosing against your spar partner. From puberty to adulthood you develop yourself a powerful ego, telling you that you are the best. When that sparring partner gets in front of you, even at the beginning you are stressed because your ego gets challenged by the idea of getting beaten. That guy is better than you. He is beating you in sparring. That is striking your personality more than your body. You feel your dominance, your manhood, your ego threatened.

There are many ways to fight back at this feeling. First of all, you have to accept the idea that you are not the best martial artist in the world. There is always, always someone better. And everybody in this world can get beaten by someone. This is mainly about getting over your ego. When you start not caring if you are beaten or not frustration will slip away.

Now some people might say getting lots of fight experience will help. I find this a wrong approach. Getting experience and training hard helps you to get over this feeling because now you are not getting beaten. Because you trained harder and had more experience you start not to loose so you are confident and not frustrated. But yet again when a better guy steps in you will start getting frustrated instantly. I actually think these kind of feelings are caused by movies and TV series. They shows us a -hero-, sometimes a CIA agent, sometimes a macho guy who beats everyone. Someone who always wins and never gets beaten or dumped to a garbage can. This creates a psychological pressure on men making them think they must always win and never get beaten just like that CIA agent.

So, the key concept of getting over this feeling is not being a better fighter. It is getting used to the idea of loosing. Since you can't be "the best" (there is no such thing).


Invest in loss.

My opinion may be of marginal value because I'm coming from a different art, but for what it is worth, I'd advise you invest in loss. When I push hands, I'm regularly working against people senior to me - people who have devoted a week to this art for every hour that I've practiced. I'm not there to win, I'm there to learn. I know I'm going to lose almost every time I line up. That doesn't mean I can't learn. By studying how they disrupt me. When do they control my center? How? Did it happen the same way twice? When did I lose control of my structure? What happened immediately before I lost?

In response to a comment, I'm making the assumption that what is engaging your emotion is the prospect of loss. If I am wrong, then my advice is off base, and should be ignored. For me, loss is frustrating because I expect/want to win. Once I shift that to no expectation of winning, I can disengage from that trap.

What do I do if I am invested in loss but am still frustrated? First step is to reset my investment - "I will count this match a success if I can keep my elbows below my shoulders" Narrow my investment to something that I can achieve. If I still get frustrated, then I'm going to step out for a day. In 20 years of training I've only been that frustrated once, but if I feel that I can't manage my emotions, then I have no business on the mat. Those are my rules for me - you have your own rules for you and I'm not going to judge them. But if I can't have fun on the mat (where "fun" is completely incompatible with "anger"), then I don't belong on the mat. The mat is where my friends and I refine one another's techniques; if "friendship" doesn't dominate any other emotion, then I need to leave.

Some of those are probably particular to Taiji and push hands, but I'm confident that you can translate them to investments you can make in your loss.

Loss is a dialogue with your bad habits, and your sparring partners are (or should be) helping you to attend to that dialogue.


it's hard to control your emotions (especially while your mind is busy helping you to fight), it could be somewhat easier to control your body; that would most likely help you to calm down:

  • keep your face relaxed (hard, but necessary)
  • keep your shoulders relaxed (even harder, but even more necessary)
  • try to unfocus your eyes, use peripheral vision - this will help you to stay relaxed, keep track of what is going on and increase your reaction speed
  • find some kind of an "anchor" to help you stay relaxed - for example, "mind like water" concept works for me.

Don't play their game. If they're not thinking of the sparring with you as an exercise, they're not learning anything, and neither are you. Talk to your instructor about it.

  • ... A downvote? Why?
    – Anon
    Commented Mar 24, 2012 at 21:43
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    You tell the person to go talk to an instructor which is fine in itself, but it's a very simple and short-sighted answer that doesn't provide any insight to the question (especially when you compare it to the other answers that are here now). I didn't downvote you, but that's my guess why it was.
    – user15
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 19:20
  • Shauna's answer is possibly the best. The others are giving too much information for a low-ranked student. This information will not be processed and the student will end up more confused. People are just showing off their knowledge instead of tailoring the answer to the student's best interest.
    – Anon
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 20:30

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