Some ways to practice Taekwon-do

Attending class is the first step in learning to master taekwon-do. The instructor will tailor the class to the students in attendance in order to provide the best lessons for the day.

Class activities and exercises are the most important part of taekwon-do training because this is the way it has been handed down for generations. However, there are some other important ways that a student can practice taekwon-do which may not be obvious. White belt and yellow belt practitioners progress rapidly during the first few months as their bodies develop the strength to balance on one leg and stretching starts to shape the body for more powerful strikes and blocks. Eventually, students learn they must take control of their own practice in order to fully progress.

One of the most rewarding effects of being a student at Grandmaster Kim’s school is being surrounded by numerous high ranking black belts. How does a 3rd degree black belt practice? I used to attend classes at lunchtime and recall one day seeing a 3rd degree black belt practice by herself as I was putting my shoes on to leave. She stepped onto the mat, bowed to the flags, and began doing jumping jacks. She did her stretches, some sit-ups and pushups. She then stood at attention and began the first pattern – Chun-Ji. Upon completion, she stood a minute and thought. She turned around and assumed the position of the 13th or 14th movement. She repeated the same two movements a few times, each time with gradual speed and power. Finally, she lined up and started the entire pattern from the beginning and finished it through. This behavior is repeated in do-jangs across the world every day.

Taekwon-do is a very personal thing. Only by focusing on the movement of our own bodies can we improve. Only by trying to make each movement more balanced, focused, stronger, more accurate, more powerful and more purposeful can we be considered “mastering” them.

Below are some ways of practicing I feel are beneficial to students who want to practice on their own. As students progress above the yellow belt level, it becomes more appropriate and more necessary for them to take more initiative in learning to master the techniques. Not all techniques are taught during classes. Some movements in the pattern cannot be mastered if they are only practiced during class, during patterns. They must be isolated, deconstructed, and experimented with. Then, the movement can be fully understood and practiced in full speed with improved skill. These are some ways I have learned from my teachers and from my senior blackbelts.

  1. Practice in slow motion. One move or an entire pattern can be done in slow motion to explore a fuller understanding of the movement.
  2. Practice in “fast forward”. Perform an entire pattern in double-time to realize what is lost by moving too quickly.
  3. Practice with your eyes closed. This allows us to pay more attention to our balance by turning off the visual cues.
  4. Practice with your eyes closed, sitting still. Olympic athletes train using controlled daydreams. Stuck in a doctor’s office? Close your eyes and do chun-ji.
  5. Practice in place. When space is at a minimum, you can jump and switch feet instead of moving forward. Try performing your pattern within a 4×4 space.
  6. Practice on a trampoline.
  7. Isolate your purpose – do you want to improve your speed, power, accuracy, strength, balance, or automate your reactions? As practitioners, we want to improve all of these things. The best way to do that might be to perform an exercise specifically for power or specifically for speed. Isolate your purpose, improve it and move on.

I hope to expand on these topics in future writings. I hope these ideas are useful to you in life and in your taekwon-do practice.

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