Taekwondo tournament presents an opportunity to improve sparring skills. It helps you gain valuable experience and break the monotonous pursuit for your next belt.
Most of the Taekwondo practitioners have questions such as “how do I prepare for a taekwondo competition?” or “how do I improve my sparring for competition?”.
This blog aims to answer both these questions and provide additional insights of how to prepare yourself for a Taekwondo bout physically, mentally and emotionally.
Make a proper plan towards the tournament
The general rule of thumb is that practising should start two months before a local tournament and about a year before any major competition. Based upon the time you have with you, preparations must flow through the following steps:
1. Pre-match preparation: Perhaps the most intriguing part in any bout be it local or at international level. Pre-match preparation is where the majority of the work is done. All the blood, sweat and tears pour in during this stage.
2. During the match: Once you’re through to the physical hard work and drills, it’s time for you to be mentally sharp. Matchday requires a lot of focus and mental stability. Herein, the instructions from your coach are pivotal and staying in control matters the most.
3. Post Bout: Do not get disheartened if you lose, similarly, do not get carried away with a win either. The moment the tournament is finished, regardless of the results, show up at training the very next day
Having summarised the stages of preparation for the bout, let us look into each of the phases in great detail:
Assessment before the tournament approaches
Preparation for competitions entirely depends upon the level at which you are competing. If you are at the top-level, everything will be laid out for you, and all you need to do is follow the plan designed by your coach or instructor.
However, if you’re on fringes like thousands of other competitors, you have to devise your training plan which keeps you in best shape leading up to the fight.
Strategies to prepare for successful competitive sparring:
1. Begin with training
The moment you learn about the date the tournament, let your trainer know about the desire to compete in it. As soon as you inform, start with the training. Remember, there’s no room for procrastination in here.
Most of the tournaments have bouts between yellow, blue, red and black belts. However, if you haven’t reached the level yet, don’t be disheartened; keep practising till you get there.
2. Start with the basics
A. Stamina: Often overlooked by the fighters, stamina is basic yet the most defining part of the pre-match preparation. Knowing that the fight will be for three rounds of 1-2 minutes session each, it’s crucial to build your stamina.
Taekwondo is explosive and it’s quick, you don’t want to watch your energy drain after the first round itself. Thus, work on your stamina. The best way to build your stamina is through sprints and keeping a tab on your heart rate.
B. Stretching: Stretching follows stamina and is pivotal in enabling you to kick faster and higher. Stretching prepares you for a bout in more than one way. It helps loosen up the muscles and prevent strains. However, do not stretch aggressively as it might lead to injuries.
If you are a beginner, the following stretching session might help you a lot:
1. Static Stretching
2. Dynamic Stretching
3. Training stretching using equipment
4. Resistance/Endurance training
5. Static Stretching (You should start and close your stretching schedule with static exercises).
3. Training with Equipment
Sparring sessions requires the fighter to wear the proper kit which includes hogu (body protector), gloves, guards, and a helmet. During this session, you should focus on striking the front and side area of hogu (body protector). Start easy and lenient but as you grow more into the training, make the sparring rules as hard as you can to improve speed, precision & power.
4. Practice the fight elements
Since no martial art is perfect, no fighter can be perfect either. A wise man once said, there’s always some room for improvement. All your efforts until now will be rendered ineffective if you do not realise the importance of the next five steps:
A. Kicking: Taekwondo is 70% kicking. Certain kicking rules depend upon the tournament, make sure to keep those in check. When practising kicking, ensure the usage of a bag of hand mitts. These gears will help develop strength, precision and accuracy. There are numerous kicks which you improvise; these include – Back thrust, sidekicks, turning kicks, axe kicks and jumping back kicks and hooks to name a few.
B. Punching: Punching in Taekwondo is often criticized as it doesn’t get as much credit as it should. Judges rarely count them which discourage the practitioners to pay attention to them. However, if you throw strong punches, you can make your opponent weak. (Practice your punches using a heavy bag)
C. Blocking: A great blocking sense helps you to wear down your opponent. Not only will it deprive them of points but will also give you the confidence to counter. For instance, if a fighter throws a sidekick and you block it, the moment he tries to get back into position, you can manoeuvre. Shield your body and head at all times. Apart from blocking, learning to evade the attempted kicks is a great way to frustrate your opponent.
D. Counter Attack: As mentioned above, when a fighter chooses his heart of his head, he is likely to leave more room to attack. This is an opportunity where you can counter and score many points. It all begins with identifying the kick, blocking or evading it and following It up with a quick strike of your own.
PREPARATION DURING THE MATCH
A. Mental State
Perhaps not as tedious as the pre-match, the most nerve-wracking moment is when you step out and face your opponent in the holding area. Once you get inside the ring, pay close attention to your coach’s calls. He/She will help you stay focused and stick to the strategies when you look to get ahead of yourself.
B. Pay attention to the calls
Here are the basic instructions if you do not have much idea:
1. ‘Chung, Hung’ – Indicates the blue and red corner.
2. Chareot – Attention
3. Kyueng-rye – Bow down to judges
4. Gyeorugi Choonbi – Get into the fighting stance
5. Shijak – Contest begins
6. Kuman/Kalyo – A call to stop
C. Point System
Point systems are explained along with point deductions. (1 point for a kick to the body, 2 for a kick to the head (if allowed and deductions in case of foul) Deductions might take place in either half or a full point. The best way to start the sparring is through gaining the first point – it gives you a psychological advantage over your opponent.
If you won the bout, remember, you’re only as good as your last bout, if you lost the bout, you have a long way to go.
Good practices before sparring in competition
- Eat healthy
- Keep working on your stamina
- Don’t act lazy while stretching
- Never underestimate your opponent
- Train regularly but do not overdo
- Focus on the fight & not the event you’re participating in
- Get proper rest before the matchday
- Keep your weight in-check throughout the training
- Devise a strategy & listen to trainer’s instruction
- Believe in yourself & do not stress about the event
Strategic Tips to gain an edge over your opponent
1. Counterattack is much effective in winning points than an all-out attack
2. Point system favours the fighter with a more attacking approach
3. Roundhouse kicks, axe kick and back kicks are quite favourable
4. However, if you practice well, you can easily counter these kicks
5. Refrain from front & side kick wouldn’t help you win as many points as you would like
6. Practice roundhouse kicks the most: it helps to win maximum points ahead of back and axe kick