I am 17 years old. Question 1: How can I improve my control when sparring? I keep hitting people when I don't mean to. Question 2: What is the best way to improve my flexibility? I have good flexibility and can kick very high, but I cannot do full splits and can only hold my leg out at a 90 degree angle. I see the fantastic kicks some martial artists do and I want to be that great. I have my first tournament coming up in June and I want to win.
Question 1: How can I improve my control when sparring?
In two words, practice and experience! To have good control, practice using good control. The first time you tried to touch your nose as a baby, you probably poked yourself in the eye. Now you can do it with the slightest touch, even in the dark or with your eyes closed.
Sport Taekwondo does not train for control as much as does traditional Taekwondo, so most sport students do not have much control. If you train for control, you may hit soft, or hit hard; whereas, if you only train to hit hard, you will have difficulty hitting soft.
To get better control, train everyday on a heavy bag striking with punches and kicks. Strike with full power and speed, but only touch the bag. Practice while moving and while using combinations. Stay relaxed as if you were a marionette being held up by strings and would collapse in a pile on the floor if the strings were released. As you move about your house, strike at various objects with focus and control (be careful however, I have broken various things, including my hands, while doing this in the past). Consider a perfect technique as one that is perfectly formed, is delivered with power and speed, and which stops at a precise point in space.
Plains Indians considered being touched with a coup stick during battle to be a fate worse than being bashed with a tomahawk. Opponents respect perfectly executed techniques that, although did not touch them, could have harmed them if you had so desired.
Question 2: What is the best way to improve my flexibility?
First, you have to decide what you want to be good at doing, Taekwondo, or yoga. If you want to have good overall flexibility, then practice yoga stretches and postures. If you want to be good at doing Taekwondo, practice kicking and the movements involved in kicking. Only people who are born with super flexible joints are able to do full 180-degree spits, everyone else should only expect about 160 degrees as a maximum. To kick effectively, you must have some joint flexibility for speed, muscle tone for power, proper technique, and enough training so that all movements are committed to muscle memory. Which would you rather be able to do, kick straight up, which is useless, or kick straight out with enough power to punch a hole in a brick wall?
To practice kicking movements, hold on to something and perform slow, perfect kicks. Put your foot on some high object, hold the foot, leg, and body in perfect position, and then bend the support leg to stretch the muscles. Perform slow kicks with leg weights. Do not kick at sparring speed with leg weights; you are then training your body to kick with weights so it will be learning incorrect movements.
To get ready for the tournament, train daily. This does not mean doing the same thing everyday or spending hours training everyday. It just means that each day you should repeat numerous times all the things that make you good at Taekwondo. Punch and kick on a bag for a few minutes with focus, power, and control; do some weight training or other strength building exercises, jump to strengthen the legs, do sprints (not distance running) to build endurance for fighting in spurts, practice your forms in the same way you want to perform them in competition, and, when not training, think about the motions you should do to perform perfect techniques.
For a person to be good at anything takes time and lot of work. To be great at something physical, you have to be born with the right physical makeup, and then you build upon it. If you do not have the genetic makeup needed for physical greatness, you may still work to become the best that you can be.
To be great at anything, you must have the ability to become great at it. Do not except to become great at something just because you want to great at it. Find out what you are good at, and then work to become great at it. You may become great at Taekwondo, or, due to your physical makeup, you may never become great at Taekwondo, but could have been great at some other martial art, such as Judo.
Work hard at Taekwondo but keep your priorities straight. Work harder at what will make you successful in life more than you work at something that merely gives you pleasure.