Anxiety may affect sports performance positively or negatively. A 1995 study by Terry and Slade, Discriminant effectiveness of psychological state measures in predicting performance outcome in karate competition, found that anxiety is a multi-dimensional construct that includes both un-perceived and perceived components. Perceived anxiety has an inverse relationship with performance such that an increase in irrational thoughts related to anxiety will decrease performance whereas un-perceived anxiety has an inverted U relationship with performance such that an optimal level of anxiety improves performance whereas too much anxiety will decrease performance.
A 1996 study by Taylor, Intensity regulation and athletic performance, emphasizes the importance of conceptualizing anxiety as intensity, because competitors may misunderstand the terms anxiety, nervousness, or arousal. Each athlete needs to develop the ability to find and maintain their prime intensity level that is most optimal to performance. Research has found that not only can level of anxiety predict outcome of competition, but that martial arts training appears to decrease overall anxiety.
A 1995 study by Terry and Slade, Discriminant effectiveness of psychological state measures in predicting performance outcome in karate competition, found that:
- Athletes tend to have more positive moods than the general population.
- That mood seems to discriminate between winners and losers only when there is little difference in their ability.
- That pre-performance mood measures discriminate only when performance is of short duration.
- That individual sports may be more influenced by mood than team sports.
Using the Profile of Mood States and the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory 2 while examining with 104 brown belts and 104 black belts the researchers found that 92% of the winners could be predicted based on mood and 93.5% of winners could be predicted on the basis of mood and anxiety. In a 1997 study by Chapman, Lane, Brierly, and Terry, Anxiety, self-confidence and performance in Tae Kwon-do, the researches gave the Profile of Mood States and the Competitive State Anxiety Inventory 2 to 142 Taekwondo novices through black belts one hour prior to competition. They found that anxiety scores could predict 63% of winners and losers. The winners were lower on both somatic anxiety and cognitive anxiety.
This all shows that reducing anxiety will tend to increase performance. A 1981 study by Weinberg, Seabourne, and Jackson, Effects of visuo-motor behavior rehearsal, relaxation, and imagery on karate performance, found that imagery prepares the mind and body for competitive performance. Being in a relaxed state combined with the imagery of the competition appears to allow the athlete to develop a relaxed concentration and focus on the relevant cues in the sports environment.