Rats, I posted a reply yesterday, but it seems to be gone. Oh well, I'll try again:
Chris, you said that you are helped by remembering to fight with "angry eyes." Could you tell me what you mean by that and how you pull yourself back into the fight situation?
I'll try to explain: I sometimes feel very small and weak when I'm fighting. It's like the urge to flee or hide kicks in making it difficult to confront the threat. I'm sure we all feel this way from time to time (when having a bad day, or working with a parntner/opponent who ouclasses you, or whatever) and it probably springs from any number of different sources - we can leave that to more qualified thinkers.
The key is, I find, to recognize I'm allowing myself to be small and then to use my imagination to fill myself up. I start at my centre/dantien and imagine energy coursing up through my body and out my eyes. Very much like preparing for Sanchin testing, but on the move. The sensation that follows is one of immense strength and capability and while it doesn't always win the fight the effect is, well.....um, effective: I have noticed that my opponent often notices it - like a switch has been turned on and they had better watch -out.
An excercise I like to do with my class is to have one person stand in a fixed position with angry eyes while their attacker/partner targets/flicks/slaps/pats/pushes/punches(lightly) the face. if the subject can maintain their energy they seem to experience a clarity and aren't put off by the attack. Likewise, if the subject lets the energy drop they tend to flinch. I've got no empirical evidence here, but I've often wondered if there is some kind of balace between the effort invested by the subject and the energy of the attack.
I'm no master, but I'm certain this excersice helps because I've seen improvement in students who perform it - both male and female. It also seems to help the class to discuss what they do with their energy/effort, especially when the discussion is held in the framework of energy as an imangined material they can manipulate with their thoughts - like a theatre/acting excercise instead of a martial arts excercise (not that there necessarily needs to be a difference).
That exercise works great. It's a test of courage and self-discipline.