For years, the criticism of Rachel Tytler was that she lacked aggression. 

In a sport as brutal and cut-throat as judo, it’s certainly quite an issue to be missing such a component. 

But over the past year or two, Tytler’s aggression – although she doesn’t like to call it that – has risen to the surface and with it, the medals have started to flow. 

Confirmation of her shift came not only in the bronze medal she won at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham last summer but in people’s reaction to her demeanour. 

“It was funny, after the Commonwealths, so many people who’d watched me on the television said I looked really scary when I was getting ready to walk out for the bronze medal match,” the Glaswegian says.  

“Actually, the camera was right in my face so I was just trying not to trip over it but the fact I looked scary and aggressive to others means maybe I’m doing it right and eventually, I’ve ticked that box.” 

It’s not been an easy journey to this point. 

Manufacturing aggression is nigh on impossible and so Tytler was forced to work out how to improve. 

And after a lot of searching, she found it. 

“It’s taken me a long time to get to this point,” she says. 

“I don’t like even using the term aggression – for me, it’s been more about building the confidence, the belief and the focus on doing the small things right which then looks like aggression to other people. 

“I did some work with a sports psychologist and really broke down what makes others look aggressive and what I could add myself. For me, it was more about mental clarity and knowing what to do and how to deliver it. 

“So now, I am a different person when I step on the mat.” 

Tytler fights in the -78kgs category and after a much needed break at the end of last year, she’s rapidly back into the thick of things this year. 

Today, the Scottish Open, which is widely regarded as the UK’s premier judo event, begins in Inverclyde and as one of only two of Scotland’s medallists from last year’s Commonwealth Games competing this weekend, Tytler will be a particular attraction to many. 

Judoka from fifteen nations will take to the mat and Tytler’s success in 2022, and especially her Commonwealth medal, means she goes into her opening event of this year in an extremely positive frame of mind. 

“The whole of 2022 was great, with the Commonwealth’s the pinnacle,” the 25-year-old says.  

“More than anything, it just felt like a relief to have done so well. It validates the whole year of hard graft.  

“In judo, you literally get knocked down seven times and get up eight so it was a big sense of relief to know that I had done the work and got the reward. 

“Being able to take the feelings of Birmingham forward into both competition and training is so helpful.” 

Of Scotland’s Commonwealth Games medallists, only Tytler and Finlay Allen are in action this weekend and so there will be pressure for the Glasgow fighter to grab a step on the podium. 

However, there will be no premature thoughts of silverware from Tytler herself despite the fact she knows she is more than capable of emerging as a medallist. 

“I’m a bit of a weirdo in that I don’t like to know who I’ve got in the draw until very late on whereas I know a lot of the other athletes will look as soon as the draw’s out and start analysing it. But the sooner I know who I’ve got, the sooner I start stressing and overthinking things so I prefer leaving it until the night before or even the morning of the competition and do a bit of preparation then and that keeps me focusing on myself,” she says. 

“Before the pandemic, I’d work myself up for what I thought was the optimum feeling for fighting but I was completely over-stimulating myself so since coming back after the pandemic, I’ve been trying to stay much more relaxed and concentrating on myself and that seems to have a helped a lot. 

“I don’t like to focus on getting a medal even though I know it’s perfectly achievable but by focusing on myself, that’s hopefully the best way to produce a performance that’ll end with a medal.”