Don't You Just Hate Random Competition Advice?

I've recently responded to an email inquiry from a Tang Soo Do instructor who's a member of IAOMAS asking me to provide help on creating a training program for some of his guys attempting a competition. I did not get very much more information, so couldn't respond more intelligently, the following is my 'tips and tricks' email in response. Contact details blocked out.


From: Colin Wee

Dear ,

It is extremely difficult for me to provide substantial advice without knowing much more of each individual player, the nature of the competition, and your time frame.

If you have plenty of time to prepare, you should produce a training plan for each individual focusing on enhancing their strengths, reducing their weaknesses, and creating an individual competition plan which each should become familiar with. Oftentimes, instructors will only focus on major issues and might forget a diet plan, visualisation training, pre-competition scheduling, etc. This approach will help you overview many issues and keep you on track with each participant. It will also put you, as the coach, in a 'tour operator' role to guide your team members through what can be a sometimes overwhelming and unpredictable journey from your own doorstep to stepping on the mat.

I used to be an Asst National Coach for archery, and wrote a short article for my father's archery website a couple of years ago. You can check it out at That page covers a high level approach to doing well from a participan'ts point of view. You can also download a visualisation tool from which deals with visualisation as a tool for self defence - visualisation is a very powerful tool to allow the competitor to mentally create the competition environment, establishing 'the zone' - an enhanced maximum mental/physical readiness for the event. (Also there is - a learning tool to generally discuss sporting performance problems for intermediate and senior students. This is a good tool if you have to deal with participants who may have issues that need to be dealt with before they attempt high level competition.)

A number of years ago I learned that for sports-specific training one needs to recreate the ultimate competitive environment and physical output ... and multiply it by 10. So if you are anticipating that your students need to face 3min x 3 rounds, they need to maintain the same cardio output over 3 min x 10 or 30 minutes. There are many exercises you can use aside from sprinting to get you to this point - plyometrics, circuit training, caveman training, etc. There are also other exercises to support dynamic strength training like yoga, dynamic stretching, weights, etc. You should work towards varying the workouts and making sure martial arts are the predominant training activity in order not to confuse less experienced participants with what your objectives are (and how their body mechanics should work during competition).

Kata: I am not an expert on competition training for kata. Here is an overview of what I understand:
1. Stances need to be totally uniform and adhere to traditional standards - so distances covered has to be exactly the same for each step in the same stance. This is something that needs to to be focused on by the instructor or assistant instructor.
2. Linear motion has got to be powerful and stable. For those participants who think moving from one low stance to another is like walking, they need to revisit proper muscle dynamics and learn how to generate the right contraction and expansion of their legs. A good book featuring this concept is Karate Kinematics and Dynamics
3. Look before you turn.
4. Punches need to be at specific and identifiable spots according to kata. Centreline needs to be maintained.
5. Kime or focus needs to occur. The muscle lock up needs to be done on impact and is supported by the body's skeletal structure.
6. Breathing needs to support the type of technique being performed.
7. Don't race through the kata. It's not a sprint.

Kumite: I am not an expert on competition training for kumite. Here is an overview of what I understand based off sporting information and my own training approach, but needs to be taken in perspective dependant on how points are scored during sparring:
1. The front leg will reach the target sooner, but will not land with the same force as the back leg, so needs to be thought of as a jab. Given distancing, my own estimation is that the front kick for an averagely skilled, conservative, and tactical kicker will land on some decent target around 30-40% of the time. The back leg will reach the target slower than a front kick will and with much more force. But it will be blocked most of the time, meaning that it will land on some decent target around 5-10% of the time. This will increase if the back kick is used in combination with feints and deception, which will increase the probability of a good score to about 15-20%. As a coach you should modify these percentages for each of your competitors and know how effective they are dependant on the type of opponent they face (taller, same height, or shorter).
2. Irrespective of what kind of fight the participant should seek for each opponent, kicks can be extremely tactical. In a three round fight, aside from trying to score points or trying to wear down the opponent, kicks are also good to 'teach' the opponent what kind of combinations your fighter may use within the fight. I suspect that in a 3x3 minute fight, you can 'teach' your opponent a total of maybe 3-5 'telegraphed' moves for anticipated kicking-punching combinations. This means by round two your fighter could make use of variations to catch the opponent off-guard. Again you need to first set up this line of thinking for your fighters, make sure they can pull it off, and you need to rate effectiveness of each combo and when they've got to pull their trick out of their hats.
3. I am a major fan of long range punching - this depends a lot on gap closing strategies and how good your fighters are at faking their way closer to their opponents. Also once up close, your fighters need to learn how to cover up and fight close range. Heavy gloves and body work will help here so that they know how to cover their heads and body with their arms and gloves.

I have a seminar I video-ed a couple of years ago dealing with making techniques 'invisible' to opponents. If you are interested, and if it will help you, send me your address and I'll forward it to you.

Hope that helps.


Colin Wee
Chief Instructor 5th Dan
----- Original Message -----
To: Colin Wee

I m sorry for not responding to your letter.My guys are in tang soo do and they are a team that includes white to back belts.We want to attend championships,please advise how we can design or train for it.Sparring tips are also appreciated.I know you are a tkd master and tand soo is also a korean style.


A related post at MarksTraining talks about training for a specific type of fight: Cro Cops Training Methods. It's a worthwhile read.


Colin Wee said…
His response ...

Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2008 12:15 AM

Thanks a mil for the info .Its so helpful and I have started to implement your ideas in my training as well.Will be off for the african champs next week.Not much time left but I will make the best of it.
I would love to have the video ,my address is

I will be in touch.What are your favourite sparring techniques for use in a piont sparring match and any tips .

Take care
Colin Wee said…
My response ...

I hate firing off advice from the hip when I'm not provided any information. I feel like I'm concocting up some snake oil. If you really want good advice, don't you think it's wiser to explain what it is you're facing??? Hmmm.


It would be helpful if you provide me more feedback on each individual participant (strengths and weakness), your training plan, the kind of tournament, and any specifics on what they are competing within the tournament.

What are my favourite sparring techniques for use in point sparring match and any tips???

Go no sen - response to an attack
1. Wait for a big technique from the opponent (a LR roundhouse for instance), and fire off a kick to the nuts or the head just as his leg is being retracted.
2. Grab on to the striking limb and perform a takedown or a sweep of front or support leg.

Sen no sen - simultaneous response
1. I like firing off this impossible hook kick to the head when the opponent is trying to engage at mid to short range. It's not for everyone - nor is it for more practical purposes.
2. Perform low level strikes to knee or groin if their kick is at mid height or higher.
3. Do a double kick - one low and another to mid/high level.

Sen sen no sen - preemptive movement
1. Gap close and perform trap and lunge punch simultaneously.
2. If hands on both sides are engaged, pull one hand back and fire punch from over the shoulder.
3. Drop and perform a sweeping takedown. Gimmicky crowd pleaser warning.


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