11 Rules for Competitive Success

TKD Champ

Welcome back ladies and germs.  Today we are going to focus on some of my top guidelines for achieving success in your training, competition, and general butt kicking.  Many of these points should be simple, common sense rules to follow, but they often get overlooked in favor of “hacks”, secret complex training principles, and super supplemental herbs from Cambodia.  So without further ado, let’s delve in!

Optimize Your Diet

Put junk in and you’ll get junk out.  Getting your diet in check should be your top priority.  Failing to do so will result in reduced energy levels, poor body composition (more fat and less muscle), and increased recovery times.  Personally, I’m a big believer of the Primal Blueprint created by Mark Sisson.  Its focus is on eating high quality, nutrient-dense foods and it is flexible enough to fit almost any athlete’s needs.  As always we’ll discuss diet in more detail in future posts.

Minimize/Eliminate Toxins

Again, if you put junk in you’ll get junk out.

If you regularly drink, cut it down to once a week.

If you eat processed/junk food, throw it out of the pantry.

If you smoke, for the love of all things good and holy, STOP!

All this stuff decreases performance, increases recovery times, increases your chances of getting sick, and is just a general waste of money.  You want to be top notch?  Do yourself a favor and don’t add extra hurdles to overcome.


The general rule is 8×8 ounce cups of water (64 fl oz), but as much as you’ll be sweating you’ll need to double that.  That’s right, drink a gallon of water everyday.  The added benefit is drinking plenty of water helps your body flush out toxins…not that you have any since you don’t drink, smoke, or eat garbage….right?

And skip the Gatorade.  Just….no….

Eliminate Stress

Excess stress, be it physical or emotional, causes your body to pump out tons of cortisol.  Chronic, high levels of cortisol impairs mental function, decreases bone density & muscle tissue, increases fat storage, and lowers your immune response.  Give your adrenal glands a rest and look into ways to de-stress daily.

Get Plenty of Sleep

7-9 hours is best.  Any less and your body will not be able to fully recover from the intense training you’re undergoing.  Sure you might be able to “get by” on less, but we’re talking about optimization, dang it!  Turn off the electronics a half hour before bed, get the room nice and cool, drink some chamomile tea, and get to bed on time.  Plenty of sleep also helps your body deal with stress.

Go Soak Up the Sun

When exposed to sunlight, your body produces Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is actually a hormone responsible for the growth of bone as well as regulating calcium absorption.  A lack of Vitamin D can cause some pretty nasty side effects and that will shut your training down faster than Speedy Gonzales after a double-shot espresso.  So don your shorts and tank top and take a half hour stroll.  Noon will provide the strongest rays and therefore the strongest effect.  If daily sunbathing is not an option you should look into taking a quality Vitamin D supplement which brings us to our next point…

Supplement Wisely

A dedicated athlete will have higher nutritional demands than your average Joe, but there’s no need to buy out the local GNC.  Your diet should be your first and primary method of obtaining your nutrition.  After analyzing your diet, you should see if there are any holes and use supplements to fill the gaps.  I typically stick to a high quality multivitamin, a Vitamin D pill, and the occasional protein shake.  Liver tabs is an old-school supplement that is regaining popularity.  I don’t see any reason why not to take them and plan to experiment with them sometime in the near future.  Everything I’ve heard from them is good.  Just remember, supplements are just that….supplements to your diet.  They’re not meant to be the foundation.

Train With Purpose

You know the saying “An unaimed arrow always hits its mark”?  You need to have a plan laid out months in advance as to when you will train, what you will train, and how you will train.  List the weaknesses you want to shore up and the strengths you want to capitalize on.  From there, prioritize this list and work on the top couple of priorities.  Once you’ve made significant progress in them, move down to the next few.

Train Effectively

Keep it simple.  Focus on the most effective drills and exercises and continue to progress in them.  The conundrum with competing in martial arts is that there are so many techniques and strategies that it can overwhelm a new competitor.  Focus on a few bread and butter techniques and master executing them in a variety of situations.  For Taekwondo, the #1 bread and butter attack is the roundhouse kick.  If you haven’t mastered the roundhouse, you probably won’t last long on the competitive circuit.

Identify your martial art’s primary attacks and drill, drill, drill.  Also, focus on a few strength training exercises to supplement your training (hint: you can’t go wrong with squats and deadlifts).

Develop the Winner’s Mindset

There’s nothing wrong with competing in local tournaments just for fun and doing your best, but we’re focused on serious competition.  You need to be hungry to compete and WIN.  Read that again…you NEED to be HUNGRY to COMPETE AND WIN.  Training has got to be always on your mind.  You should be anticipating hitting the gym/dojo for your next session.  You need to be constantly critiquing yourself and improving areas that you are lagging in.  You need to videotape your sparring sessions so you can go back and analyze your mistakes.  This might be fun but it’s also work!  That’s what it takes to be a winner.

Know the Rules

The only martial art I’ve competed in is Taekwondo, but I’m sure this is commonplace among all martial arts.  Every year we have coach clinics all over the country so people can become certified AAU coaches.  In these clinics, we go over the rules and any changes from last year.  Without fail there’s always at least one guy who asks all these little nit-picky questions that annoys everyone else and is a general waste of time…so it would seem.  What these guys are doing is finding all the little hidden areas in the rules that they can bend and exploit.  Is it cheating?  Technically no, although some coaches do learn all the little holes in order to cheat.  Most however, are learning all the little nuances in the rules in order to give their fighters every edge available.  If you’re just starting your fighting career, learn enough so you won’t get disqualified, and slowly progress from there.

And there you have it.  While all the concepts are simple, diligent application will be much trickier.

Got any rules you you think I’m missing?  Let me know!



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