Sparring is similar to an old west gunfight. The one with the fastest draw and best accuracy wins. To have effective kicks in sparring, you must draw quickly and hit the target. To get within range to attack, you must close the gap between you and your opponent. Most people cross the gap like old folks make love, they start slow, then taper off. To score with a kick, you must move your body quickly as well as kick quickly. To score with a punch, you also must move your body quickly. Moving and kicking both require powerful legs. The following techniques help build powerful legs.
Stretch the muscle groups that receive the most stress during explosive movements: hamstrings, hip extensors, hip flexors, groin muscles, thigh, and calf muscles. See the Stretching topic for more information.
Use weight training! The same muscle groups that need to be stretched need to be made stronger. Strength and flexibility must be equal partners in order to maximize power and prevent injuries.
The following exercises, and the muscle groups they affect, should be included:
- Knee lifts (hip flexors)
- Kickbacks (hip extensors)
- Hamstring curls (hamstrings)
- Parallel squats (hip extensors, thighs)
- Sissy squats (thighs)
- Calf raises (calf muscles)
- Sit-ups (abdominal muscles)
- Back extensions (lower back)
Hill training is designed to shock the muscles and central nervous by overloading them. The body will respond to a reasonable overload of this sort with faster leg movement and longer steps. A slope of ten to fifteen degrees is sufficient. Hill training consists of three phases: the run up, the run down, and the sprint at the bottom.
During the run up, run uphill 50 to 75 yards, while picking the knees up high and concentrating on a powerful feeling of bounding up the hill, pushing off with the toes with each stride. Strength and anaerobic, muscular endurance (the ability to perform at full speed, without rest) will be improved.
The run down is easier and quicker. The length of each stride increases, while at the same time forcing the legs to move faster. The central nervous system is overloaded by having to deal with the fact that you are "running faster than you can run," which resets its upper limits as far as speed is concerned. Relax and let gravity do the work but concentrate, it is easy to exceed your limits and fall.
During the bottom sprint, as you reach the bottom flat, carry your speed and even increase it for another 50 yards. Then gradually slow down to a slow jog. The bottom sprint convinces the body that it can go just as fast on level ground.
The purpose of power training is to help the body learn to improve nerve-muscle reactions and explosiveness. There are many drills of this kind, and they should all be entered into gradually. Also see Plyometrics topic.
Some general exercises are:
- Bounding. Take really long, springy, bounding steps.
- Ground-to-Box Jumps. Jump off both feet up onto a box.
- Box-to-Ground Jumps. Jump off box and bounce up immediately, taking advantage of the stretch reflex.
- Some Taekwondo specific exercises are:
- Bounce back, then explode forward with a technique
- Drop, then explode forward
Resistance and Assistance Training
Use a partner or piece of equipment to either help or hinder your initial starting motion. The first few inches of movement are what counts. Concentrate on exploding forward as quickly and explosively as possible.
- Explode forward into a technique while wearing a weighted belt.
- Practice attacking while a partner resists by means of a belt around your abdomen.
- Step forward while your partner tugs you forward during your starting motion. Partner may also push from behind.
- With a partner holding a belt around your abdomen from the front, bounce back against the resistance and immediately spring forward while partner pulls you forward.