Today begins the second full week of the testing cycle. By this time all colored belts should be familiar with at least the first half of their new form. I realize it’s a busy time with the start of the school year and trying to get back into a set routine for a lot of people, but be sure you don’t let your training fall by the wayside. “We’ll be back to class as soon as things settle down a bit” can very easily turn into a month or more off. If you make room for at least one weekday class and a Friday or Saturday class in your schedule now, it’s much easier to rearrange your class days once things settle down – plus, kids get discouraged trying to play catch-up when they start back halfway through the testing cycle. Making sure you get your two classes in each week will help keep them motivated and on track with the rest of their classmates.
This week we are taking extra time to focus on the new kicks introduced at each rank. All of the new kicks are in some way closely related to the three basic White belt kicks – the front, side, and crescent kicks, so you’ve already got the foundations. Just like with a form, instructors will work on breaking down the new kicks so you can fully understand them, but be sure to keep in mind that each kick is designed to be one fluid motion. For instance, a spin side kick is a combination of a spin and a side kick. It is not supposed to be a spin, stop to look at the target, then side kick. Likewise, jump spin kicks were not created with bunny rabbits in mind. Not only should the jump and spin be executed together, they should not be made up of 12 consecutive jumps with 2 inch turns, followed by the kick.
Ok, now it’s time to take a look at that testing goal we created last week. Be sure you take a minute to write down on your goal sheet what you did last week to help improve your technique and work towards your goal. Now is also a good time to start taking weekly pictures or videos so you can actually watch your progress over the course of the testing cycle. At the start of each week you should write down things you can do to improve, but I also want to make sure you write down what you actually did at the end of the week as well. (If you are a little lost right now, go back to Week 1’s post on goals so you can figure out where to start with charting your goals for the upcoming testing along with us).
So, how can focusing on kicks help you get closer to your goals? Maybe you need to go back and review all the kicks up to and including the ones at your belt level. It’s amazing how many Brown, Red, and Black belts get so focused on doing 360 kicks using their front leg that they have to go back and re-learn how to do a plain spin kick with their back leg. You might need to work on throwing a wider variety of kicks, or you may need to vary your combinations if you’re stuck in a front kick/round kick/spin side kick rut. Perhaps you just need to work on throwing combinations instead of single technique after single technique. All of these things can be practiced using a target or two before you jump into trying them out during sparring.
What other ways can kick focus help your taekwondo training? Try using a body shield or a wavemaster to practice the kicks in your form if you need more power – don’t cheat by pushing it though, you still have to kick out and pull back! If your focus this testing cycle is on stances, spend extra time practicing performing each kick in your form and then landing in the correct stance for the next move. Do you need to work on getting those kicks up above your belt? Be sure to incorporate extra stretching at least once a day into your workout or pre-bedime routine if flexibility is the culprit. You can also practice kicking over a fixed object, such as a small ottoman or the seat of a chair for a child, or the back of the chair or top of the couch for an adult. Finally, if your goal is to focus your aim better (i.e. you sometimes miss not just the center, but the whole board), it’s time to downsize your target. Using a small wiffle ball tied to a string, have someone hold your new “target”, and be sure you are hitting with the correct striking area of your foot. The key is not to slow the technique down – it’s still got to be fast and powerful to break the board.
Anyone who has ever gone to a conference, camp, or regional workout has heard instructors say “find a partner *NOT* from your school. In honor of back to school day for public schools across the great state of Texas, this week I want you to try and find a new partner in class. That same old partner you always grab may be holding the target in a way that allows you to cheat a little bit so things are easier, or they may just be so comfortable that they’re not pushing you to work just a little bit harder. Pick someone different and ask them if they notice anything you can improve with your kicks. Last but not least, if you need just a little more guidance, ask! We’re here to help you succeed.