No matter what belt you are, each testing cycle at our school begins the same way. The first week of the cycle we always focus on the basics – after all, how can you hope to properly execute a jump spin hook kick if you don’t understand the principles behind a plain hook kick? Improving your basic skills is the easiest way to improve your overall taekwondo skills, and the good news is that everyone can improve upon their basics. By the way, for everyone who has ever asked, improving on the basics is the main purpose behind the existence of senior ranks, so make good use of this time.
This testing cycle I’d like to ask you to do things a bit differently. For most people, their routine is to cram in all of the information (sometimes in the first week and sometimes in the last two weeks) and then start working on what they need to improve. Right now I want you to come up with at least one thing that you want to do better on than you did at your last testing. Don’t be vague. You’ve got the next 8 weeks to work on getting it just right, so really think about it. I don’t want to see any “I’m going to break my boards”. Why didn’t you break? Did you completely miss the board? Did you hit with your entire foot? No “better stances” either! What is wrong with your stances? Are they too short? Too long? Not wide enough? Too wide? Wrong weight distribution? If you’re having trouble, ask one of your instructors and they will be happy to help you out. Have you figured it out? Good. Now, write it down and keep it handy. Each week I want you to figure out a way that the week’s theme can help you improve on your goal.
Phase One is the basics, and it’s actually a lot more work than it sounds like. This phase covers memorization *and* comprehension. To use a very basic example, it’s not enough to be able to recite back that on a spin side kick your back foot picks up, you spin backwards, and side kick – you also have to know which foot is your front foot, which foot is your back foot, and that if your feet are side by side you cannot possibly have a front and back foot. If you have questions about how the basics apply, or what the proper basic technique is, leave a comment, or ask your instructor. The student manual is also a great tool for refreshing the basic information. You can get a copy from your instructor, and if you do I encourage you to keep it in your gear bag with a pen so that you can make notes as you learn, or if you prefer an online version you can purchase it through iTunes here.
Remember, your goals can be anything you want. Look back at what had you the most worried going into your last testing, or ask your instructor what feedback the judges had on your performance. Maybe you need to work on your technique, maybe you need to incorporate a better variety of techniques into your sparring, maybe you need to work on your stamina, or maybe you just need to get a little stronger. Now is the time to start. You don’t want to worry about unlearning bad habits three days before testing, so take the time to figure out how you can improve on your basics. Good things don’t always come to those who wait, but they do come to those who work hard and never give up!