Preparing for Taekwon-Do tournaments - 'train hard fight easy' A Taekwon-Do sparring tournament is an energy drain like nothing else! You might be able to do a two hour sparring class no problem, but when you get in the ring in a competition your energy drains out of you and your legs feel like lead after half a minute!

Why's that? Adrenaline! It's your body's fight or flight response to stress. It makes your heart pound, it makes you kick hard, and it drains your energy reserves. You will cope much better with the stress of a Taekwon-Do sparring competition if you are fit. Start with a light warm up. Kick off with joint rotations. Working systematically from neck to toe. Also take time here to stretch any tight muscles.

On the day of the competition, make sure you pack the right gear. Here's some some advice on choosing and packing your Taekwon-Do gear bag. Don't forget: your sparring gear - shin and arm guards, head guard, groin guard, mouth guard, a towel, at least 2 uniforms, water bottle, snacks, and of course - your Taekwon-Do belt

For Taekwon-Do sparring tournaments you must be the right weight, and your weight is your responsibility. If you fail the weigh-in you won't be able to fight. Monitor your weight over the 2-3 weeks leading up to the competition. You know what foods you need to cut out if you need to lose a pound or 2! Do not leave it till the last minute then starve yourself to make a weigh-in. You'll have no energy left for the fight!

Be prepared to hang around for hours Taekwon-Do tournaments rarely start on time and sparring fights often last longer than they used to. You need to find a way to rest physically and mentally while you are waiting for your fight. Here's some tricks: Read a book or an listen to your i-pod and zone out, or find a quiet corner. Conserve your physical energy. Don't wander around too much or kick targets. Keep warm - wrap up well if it's cold. Don't consume high sugar foods and drinks. Stick to complex carbohydrates and protein. Drink lots of water. Conserve your mental energy. Try not to think about your match - try to relax and think about something else.

Some tips on sparring
  • Start sparring early in your training
  • Understand that fear is normal and don't let it stand in your way
  • Foot work, foot work, foot work: learn to slide forwards and backwards keeping your weight on both feet and your body over your legs.
  • Understand your kicking distance, learn where you can reach with a kick- and don't kick until you are at the right distance
  • Mistakes happen and when they do, take a deep but short breath in then a long breath out while you shake your shoulders
  • Train hard, fight easy: develop your overall fitness AND your ability to cope with short bursts of intense exercise
  • Don't get angry when your opponent scores - just shake it off and figure out how you're going to get the next point
  • Compete ASAP: it's a fantastic experience. You get to meet other students, see what other people achieve, and overcome a tough challenge
  • Injuries are inevitable, take care of them. Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate. Let your injuries heal. Then come back stronger!

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