A Primer for Newbies


Are you about to compete for the first time?

Not sure where to start?

Short on time to train?

If so, panic might be starting to creep in.  Never fear!  Today we will discuss as few mistakes to avoid while preparing for your first tournament as well as some good starting points.

Mistake #1 – Not leaving enough time to prepare

OK, so this one won’t really help you this time around.  Ideally, you shouldn’t be waiting until last minute to decide if you’re going to compete.  Training should begin many months in advance if you even think you MIGHT compete.  Reasons will range from procrastination to simply not knowing the option to compete is available to you.  Regardless of your reasons (or excuses) you can still take steps to prepare.

Mistake #2 – Trying to incorporate a full-fledged conditioning program

You’re in crunch mode!  There’s no time to implement a complete conditioning program. For your situations, it’s best to put the complex workout routines to the side for next season and focus on the biggest bang for your buck exercises.

Let’s use Taekwondo as an example.  The first drill would simply be bouncing in a fighting stance for the duration of a match.  A flat-footed fighter is a slow fighter.  While bouncing, stay light and quick.  Bounce around a little bit, but focus on staying low and not bouncing high up.

Secondly, I would make sure they’re incorporating some cardio that somewhat resembles a match.  My favorite two options are jogging and jumping rope.  Here’s how it would look for a TKD fighter:

  • Perform your cardio for 2:00
  • Rest for 00:30
  • Perform your cardio for 2:00

That’s one match.  Repeat this pattern for as many matches as you realistically think you would fight in for your competition.  Each time you perform this cardio routine, try to work a little harder during the cardio portions.

Why do I suggest this over simply jogging on the treadmill for 30-45 minutes?

Because it more closely resembles the actual activity you’re performing.  A sparring match isn’t 45 minutes of constant, low-level activity so why would you train like it is?

Mistake #3 – Over-complicating 

Many competition newbies work on a slew of techniques when they’d be better served focusing their energy on mastering a few key strikes.  Again, let’s use TKD as an example:

The #1 technique for TKD competitive sparring is the roundhouse kick.  There’s simply no competition (no pun intended).  You should be practicing this kick, and its variations, every single day.

  • Throw it from the left leg
  • Throw it from the right leg
  • Throw it from the rear leg
  • Throw it from the front leg
  • Throw it to the body
  • Throw it to the head

You get the picture?  Just make sure to throw them with good technique.  This is important for creating the neural pathways so you can effectively throw a roundhouse (or any other strike for that matter) regardless of the circumstances.

mistake #4 – Having the wrong mindset

This might surprise you, but the wrong mindset I’m referring to is the light-hearted, “I’m just doing this for fun” outlook.

Why is this wrong?

Because it fosters a lackadaisical attitude.  I don’t care what age, gender, weight, or belt division you’re in, there’s someone there that’s taking it seriously and would love nothing more than to knock your head off in the first round to conserve their energy.  I’ve seen little green belt girls that look like they’d rip boys twice their size in half.  If you come into a match with them thinking it’s all fun and games, you’re going to have a bad time.

Now I’m not saying that competing can’t be fun, but its serious fun.  Being a rag doll for someone that has been training intensely all year isn’t fun.  You need to train and fight like it’s serious.  It’s just something serious that you can also enjoy.

It’s all about having the proper level of respect for the situation.  A dog is fun, but you don’t pull its tail.  Sparring is fun, but you don’t drop your guard (physically or mentally) or you’re gonna get bit.

Deciding to compete with only a month or two to prepare is not ideal.  If you are competing in the advanced divisions, it can be downright dangerous.  Take the time you DO have and utilize it to the best of your ability.  If you want more tips, visit my post 11 Rules for Competitive Success.


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