The 5 Biggest Mistakes Seen in TKD Sparring, and How to Fix Them
TKD Sparring is a sport of agility, speed, and most of all, mind. Most mistakes that are made in TKD sparring are those of experience, and while sometimes it is a result of muscle memory or bad habit, these mistakes really have little or nothing to do with the quality of their techniques. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes in TKD sparring that can actually be applied to all sport martial arts, and how to fix them.
- Telegraphing – Just like in a card game, where there are bluffs and tells, TKD sparring is very delicate. Something as simple as turning your foot before you kick, changing pace, going flat footed, or changing your level can tell your opponent that you are going to attack. Even worse, it can tell them exactly what you are going to do, leading them to a counter attack. Also, try to avoid developing patterns, using the same technique over and over again, or favoring a certain combination of attacks. Be mindful of telegraphing your attacks. Video record yourself and examine it, ask your sparring partners if they notice any patterns, or ask your coaches where you think these fatal flaws may be in your TKD sparring strategy. You may even be able to use these telegraphs to your advantage to fake or feint your opponent.
- Distance – Managing your distance is important in TKD sparring and in any sport martial arts in general. Too far away and you’ll never hit your target. You’re just wasting energy, or opening yourself for a counter attack. Too close and your attacks won’t have the full power they need to score a point. Learn to not only judge your distance, but also to control it. If you’re too close for a kick to score, punching can still score a point and create the space you need for a follow up attack. Just be very careful, as your opponent will also be looking for this space to attack as well.
- Anticipating the attack – When you wait for a specific attack, you are putting yourself in a position to get yourself hurt. If you expect your opponent to react a certain way, and you have the perfect counter planned out, then you can have a good point scored. However, if you guess wrong, and you counter incorrectly then you can put yourself in a world of hurt. The best thing you can do is have a number of different TKD sparring counter attacks planned. Drill for this. Have your partner attack a specific way over and over again. Switch the attack and learn to counter it. Repeat the process until you feel you have all bases covered. Then have your TKD sparring partner on the offensive constantly and learn to react on the spot, rather than to expect a specific attack. When you know your opponent better, you can even use THEIR anticipations against them to open them up for an attack.
- Positioning – Not knowing where the edge of the ring is can be fatal for you. In TKD sparring, going out of bounds repeatedly can result in point deductions that can cost you a match. In other sport martial arts, poor ring awareness can stick you in a corner getting wailed on with no way out. Focus on different drills for footwork and positioning control. Learn different ways to escape from a corner and take back the ring.
- Know the Rules – TKD sparring rules changed recently. It used to be that a strike to the body with the hand or foot scored 1 point, and a kick to the head scored 2. Well those rules are still in place, but now a jumping kick to the head scores 3 points and a knock down kick scores 3 as well. Many fighters went into TKD sparring tournaments without knowing these changes and their opponents’ strategies had completely changed because of the different scoring. Also, local tournaments have different rules on scoring, excessive force, etc. Before you enter any competition, and especially if you plan to branch out into other sport martial arts such as ITF TKD sparring or kickboxing, it is in your best interest to always read the rules thoroughly to understand what attacks are legal, and what are not. If you aren’t ready for kicks to the legs or punches to the head, then you’re not ready to compete.
While TKD sparring is a very sophisticated and energetic martial art to watch, it has often gotten a bad rap as being impractical in a self defense situation, or against other martial arts styles. This is not entirely true. If you follow these 5 guidelines and adapt yourself properly, TKD sparring strategies can be very effective in a number of situations. After all, it was developed by the Korean Military for combat purposes, and the sport developed later.