I am learning things from a new school that I've never been exposed to before, such specific one-step sparring techniques. I haven't done specific one-steps like this before. Is there a book or reference manual I can purchase for self study at home? I recognized some of the knife and gun one-step techniques from Krav Maga, so I am assuming this might be because my instructor may have some experience in this art. Also, I've been away from the art as there hasn't been a school in the places I've lived for the last 7 years. I am finding my condition to be less than optimal as my sport of choice has been sailing. Do you have a recommended conditioning program other than the running that I may use?
Reply: Most Taekwondo instructors have trained in, or at least been exposed to, other martial arts at some point during their martial arts formative years. They usually incorporate these arts into their Taekwondo curriculum. This may be good if the other art compliments Taekwondo (such as grappling) or it may be bad if the other art is contrary to Taekwondo’s methods (such as teaching the yielding art of Aikido to students who are trying to learn the resisting art of Taekwondo).
Most martial arts use one-step two-step, three-step, etc. sparring and self-defense sequences as a part of their curriculum. It is an easy way to teach a large group of students safely, it helps, students learn to interact physically with other students, and it is an easily graded standard to use during rank promotion testings. Each organization, and sometimes reach school and instructor has its own step sequences that it uses. You will have to find a book, web site, or video that specializes in your particular step sequences.
I am of the school of thought that that believes that teaching specific reactions to specific actions is counterproductive. In a step sequence, you learn to do “this” in response to “that.” If “that” does not occur or “this” does not work, then you are bewildered. If you use knife defense # 3 and you miss grabbing the attacker’s arm, now what do you do. People do not have the time learn and become proficient at specific responses to every type of attack.
A better way is to teach basic concepts (such as which bodily weapons are best against each body target, which ways you may bend a foot, wrist, or arm to cause pain, how to create openings in the opponent’s defenses, etc.). Then these basic concepts are used in an instinctive response to the opponent’s actions and reactions. Instead of using a specific action in response to a specific attack, you use whatever response may be best for the situation. Other instructors have different opinions on the subject.
One may be an all-around good athlete and still not be good at Taekwondo. It is okay to be good at many sports, but it you want to excel in a particular sport, you must be good in things that help you achieve excellence in that sport. To excel in Taekwondo you need to do things that better your ability to perform Taekwondo techniques and movements. Running and swimming a lot will have some beneficial effect on your Taekwondo training, but they mostly make you better at the motions needed in running and swimming, neither of which is particularly useful in Taekwondo, except running when it is used to exit a self-defense situation. Performing a lot of Taekwondo techniques and movements will make you better at Taekwondo. Training in the bodily motions that are specifically used in Taekwondo will make you better at Taekwondo.
Here are some training methods I have found to work:
- Jump rope, using all types of jumping variations, to better your footwork skills.
- Shadowbox to you favorite music to learn to move gracefully with relaxed movements.
- Perform slow motion kicks using exaggerated, full-motion (full chamber and re-chamber) movements, and using perfect techniques. Adding leg weights may make the exercise more beneficial, however, do not spar or do full- speed kicks using the leg weights. Your body learns to compensate for the extra weight at the ankle and, when you remove the weights, although you may kick quicker, your body will have to learn to re-compensate for the lack of added weight. In addition, there is also the increased chance of injury when kicking with full-speed and power while wearing leg weights.
- - Instead of running over level ground, run cross-county, up steps or stairs, or a use a climber exercise machine. These motions more closely duplicates the movements used in kicking and sparring and helps build leg muscles. Perform plyometric jumping exercises to build explosive strength in the legs.
- Do daily stretching exercises that duplicate the movements used in Taekwondo. A Yoga practitioner may be very flexible in all aspects of movement but still not excel in Taekwondo. To perform a perfect kick with speed and power, you need to be flexible in the body movements required for that kick and be strong in the muscles used to perform the kick. Strength and flexibility in other areas are superfluous to the kick itself.
- Perform kicks, jump kicks, spin kicks, and jump-spin kick while standing in the shallow end of a swimming pool in mid-chest deep water. The water adds resistance to the movements, which help build strength without out causing injury, and the buoyancy of the water makes it easier to learn complicated movements and takes the jolt out of landing. You can perform many more repetitions of a kick while in water than you can while on dry land.
- Play sports that require a lot of quick footwork and precise eye-hand coordination, such as tennis, ping-pong, hand ball, or basketball. Play other sports for fun and relaxation but do not be too concerned with being good at them. All doctors are MD’s but the best doctors in a particular field of medicine are the ones who specialize in that field and only practice in it.
- Do many repetitions of your patterns while concentrating on precise movements and stances, prefect technique, and maximum power. Quickness and the height of kicks should not be of concern while performing the patterns. If you concentrate on the movements, stances, technique, and power, other aspects will get better on their own.
- Perform patterns and techniques at inopportune times. For example, after sitting at the computer for awhile, get up and perform a pattern, it only takes a couple of minutes.
- When not performing Taekwondo, think about Taekwondo. Thinking about movements is the next best thing to performing them.
- Spar a lot and spar frequently. The best way to get better at something is to do it.