How to prepare for a martial arts tournament

Here’s a Martial Arts (Tae kwon-do) lesson plan for tournament training. This is planned to be a 2 hour session and is perfect for tournament preparation. In an ideal world,  you would have a partner of a similar height, weight, gender and age to yourself, and ideally your partner would be better than you. Training with and competing with people that are better than you will motivate you to up your game.

Warm up

With a partner, one person at each end of the sports hall, one person bounces on the spot whilst the other runs up half way does exercise A, runs to the end of the hall to the partner and does exercise B, run back and at half way do exercise C. Run back to your start point and your partner then completes the exercises. Repeat for 3 rounds:

Round 1 – A 10 scorpion press ups, B 30 partner arm rows, C 6 clap push ups

Round 2 – A 20 star jumps, B 10 tuck jumps, C 10 bounce squat jumps

Round 3 – A 20 crunches, B 20 partner crucifix leg raises, C 20 Russian twists

Dynamic stretching

Leg raises in front and to the side

Speed training

Lean against the wall with your hands, drive your legs up and down (bringing your knees as high as possible) continuously for 10 seconds.

Lying face down, when the coach shouts, spring to your feet and sprint to the end of the hall as fast as possible.

Drills (gloves and feet pads on)

The following drills are to be performed for 30 seconds per partner.

  1. One partner has their hand out whilst the other continuously does axe kicks (with the same leg) over their partners hand. Swap legs and let your partner have a go.
  2. One person holds a kick shield whilst the other partner performs alternating back kicks.
  3. One person holds their arms by their sides (alternatively, hold them up as targets) whilst the other partner does alternating turning kicks to the arms.
  4. One person holds their gloved hand up as a head section target. The partner will perform reverse turning kicks, alternating side/leg each time.

Partners stand one behind another. One person leads whilst the other follows. The lead partner practices their ring craft by moving dynamically around (shuffling forward, back, left, right, pivot, double step). Change over so your partner has a go.

Repeat the footwork exercise above, but face each other so you’re mirroring your partners footwork.

Partner sparring drills:

  1. Jab, cross, turning kick to head/body, disengage/move away from your partner
  2. Powerful sidekicks against your partner who has their gloves across their body
  3. Parry/Palm a side kick down and strike a powerful cross to the body

Free sparring

4 x 2 minute rounds (30 seconds rest between rounds)

Exhaustive sparring – one side is given extra exercises e.g. 20 burpees, while your partner rests, then spar. Adapt your sparring to your tired condition rather than trying to push harder and do the same thing as when you have energy.

Warm down 

Core strength work – lying on your back raise your feet six inches off the floor. Circles, v-ups, in and outs.

Leg conditioning – 20 slow side kicks, front kicks, turning kicks and hook kicks (use a wall for support if required).

Static stretching – box splits, hip flexors.

Full body workout with a partner

  1. Warm up with suicides – running from a base line to a line (5 metres away), back to base line, line (10 metres away), back to base line, line (15 metres away) and back to base line.  Repeat three times.
  2. Dynamic stretch from legs, mid and upper body.
  3. 30 arm rows.  With a partner, face each other and hold each other’s wrists.  Then push and pull hands rapidly backwards and forwards 30 times.
  4. Agility ladder (2minutes per bullet point)
    • Left foot out, right in, left in, right out, left forward in, right in, left out, right in, left in, right out etc
    • Jump two feet in, jump forward, two feet out, squat, jump two feet in, jump forward etc
    • One hand either side of a rung, press up and move laterally side-wards along the ladder, press up etc
    • Left foot in and right foot out, switch sides, switch sides and move laterally up the ladder
Agility ladder squats

Squats on the agility ladder

  1. Press up  (25 seconds per exercise, 5 seconds rest)
    • Scorpion press up – as you lower yourself down bring your knee to elbow, push up back to the normal press up position.  Repeat with your opposite knee.
    • Leg raise press up – as you lower yourself raise one leg (straight) as high as you can, push up back to the normal press up position.  Repeat with you opposite leg.
    • Wide press press up – lie flat on you front with your arms out in a crucifix position, bring your hands in a few inches either side and press up.
    • Wheel barrow press up – one person hold the feet/legs up of your partner, whilst they perform elevated press ups.
    • Diamond press up – put your hands together in a diamond formation and press up and down (this is to focus on the tricep).
    • Left/Right press up on a medicine ball – put one hand on a medicine ball so you’re lopsided, press up, roll the ball onto the opposite side and press up.
Partner press ups

Partner press ups in synch

  1. Crunches (50 seconds per exercise, 10 seconds rest)
    • Penguin sit ups – in a sit up position, lift your shoulder blades off the floor, bend round to the side and touch either heel and switch sides.
    • Crucifix – lie on your back in a crucifix position, keeping your legs straight raise them to the ceiling and to the floor (6 inches off the floor)
    • Russian twists – sit up to 45 degrees and twist your body either side from left to right.
  2. Static stretches to cool down

How to categorize a transgender competitor?

The title gives it away, but I received an interesting question recently about a transgender competitor: Can he/she compete and fight against men/women?

Transgender sign

Transgender sign

According to the International Athletics Committee, a transgender competitor who is now a man (from a woman) may compete against other men. However, a transgender competitor who is now a woman (from a man) must undergo a testosterone test which will determine how far along the transition she is. Apparently, this will then determine if she has an unfair advantage or not. This kind of makes sense but it assumes that men are “better” than women…

In most martial arts and combat sports, competitors are grouped by weight, age, gender and grade. This is to level the playing field so, for example, I (a black belt heavy weight adult male) am not fighting a little yellow belt girl. Obviously I have an advantage here. However, if most of those dimensions were equal bar gender, it could be argued this is a fair fight.

I know some may argue that men are just naturally stronger/faster than women – the 100m sprint is a good example of this:
100m sprint men’s world record 9.58 seconds
100m sprint women’s world record 10.49 seconds

Females have some attributes that are better than men, the first that comes to mind is flexibility. Women tend to be more subtle than men. Therefore, do women have an unfair advantage over men? Some sports may be more gender neutral e.g. darts, shooting and horse riding etc. Does Taekwondo or Martial Arts fall into this category? Probably not.

Back to the question in hand, which category can a transgender compete in? Was a woman, now a man – fine. Was a man, now a woman – questionable. This all comes down to is there an unfair advantage? There are parallels to Oscar Pistorious who was not allowed to compete in the able bodied Olympics as it was deemed his blades gave him an unfair advantage, despite the fact he is disabled (no legs).

On reflection, there is an unifying force here and that is how it feels, irrespective of gender, to compete with the natural attributes that are given to you or that you train so hard to improve. Personally, I think it’s great that we’re coming to the age where self-expression is less frowned upon and tabooed. No matter who you are, we all face our own challenges before we step into the ring.

Breaking my CrossFit virginity

I went to my first CrossFit class last month at Crossfit Shapesmiths (in Clapham, London).

Overall it was a pleasent experience but it didn’t blow me away.  The guys running it were nice and very enthusiastic.  As you can imagine, the gym owners really love crossfit – that fact made you want to support them.  It’s a brand new facility and during the taster session they were still constructing parts of it.

The owners brought a real sense of community – I think this is quite a common theme amongst other CrossFit gyms.  There was a post workout tea/coffee in a chill-out area next door to the gym where most people hung out after the workout.

The facilities were characteristically CrossFit and there were plans to put in a shower, changing rooms and physiotherapy.  The kit consisted of a big frame (for pull ups etc), bar bells and medicine balls.

CrossFit gym

There was quite a lot of time spent on technique, for the impatient it would probably be frustrating. The exercise itself consisted of 15 minutes of clean and jerk, wall ball, sit ups and 800m run. Repeated AMRAP (as many reps as possible). Overall a good test of fitness, however, over the next couple of days I noticed a twinge in my shoulder. This is nothing new as its something commonly said about crossfit. It is probably wise to exercise personal responsibility when training crossfit to avoid injury.

One of the things we did at the end of the session was to record the number of reps we had individually achieved. This is valuable practice as the saying goes, what gets measured gets done!

It was pretty pricey, which is the main turnoff at £112 a month for two sessions a week (unlimited access at £185 per month).  Compared to a Martial Arts club which ranges from £40 to £70 a month, or gym membership, I would prefer the latter two options.