Taekwondo is hard, but you can get on the fast track to skill mastery – and your black belt – by following these 8 insider tips.
You stepped on the training mat. You put on a white belt. You’re sticking it out. Most people NEVER even get to the “step on the mat” part. So, pat yourself on the back! You decided to do something hard, something amazing.
But, as you’ve figured out, this is going to be an uphill climb. Taekwondo is hard. You might feel lost…and you might feel silly floundering around imitating these outlandish moves as your more senior classmates dance around gracefully with fancy footwork and spin hook kicks.
You’ve probably asked yourself this already: “Is there an easier way to get good at Taekwondo?”
Or perhaps more specifically, “Can I get good at Taekwondo faster?”
The answer is YES.
This doesn’t make TKD easy — just easier. And it is certainly much faster than going at it like I did. All you need to do is keep these tips in mind as you train:
8 Tips to Get Good at Taekwondo FAST
- Relax. HAVE FUN! But no seriously, tense muscles work against you. It makes your punches and kicks weaker and slower, and it makes you gas out sooner during your workouts. So loosen up, literally. It’s essential to good technique. So practice throwing punches and kicks with completely relaxed limbs, tensing only right before you make contact with you target. Shadowbox with a focus on loose limbs and shoulders. The more you practice it, the more automatic it will become. Soon you won’t even have to think about relaxing.
- Practice regularly (at home). Go to class every week – that goes without saying. But you should also practice at home, whenever you can spare the time. My experience both as a student and an instructor is that people who practice their Taekwondo at home get better a lot faster than their TKD peers. Especially their cardio and flexibility.
- Spar A LOT. I know your instructor will say forms and one-steps will build your technique. In a way, they will. But science says that if you want to be good at performing and using a motor skill (like kicks), you need to practice it under the conditions that you will use it. You need it for self-defense or competition. So what’s the closest you can come to practicing under the conditions of a real-life fight? That’s right, sparring. (Just a warning: you might have to wait a couple belts before your instructor lets you spar. No worries. Just work on tips 1 & 2 in the meantime.)
- Stretch A LOT. This overlaps with tips 1 & 2, but it deserves its own point because there’s a special way you should stretch. Don’t do what everyone else does; don’t start stretching before your workout. Instead, do your workout and stretch at the end. This helps keep your muscles from getting tight, and will help increase your flexibility for your next practice. Studies show that stretching before a workout does not help flexibility and can even be harmful to your muscles. However, those studies indicated that stretching after a workout, when the muscles are warm and elastic, produced significant results. So if you’re going to do a pure stretching session at home, make sure you warm up thoroughly before starting.
- Strengthen your core and hammies. You’re going to be doing a lot of kicking. That means you need a strong core, and a strong posterior chain (glutes, hips, hamstrings, etc.). Bicycle crunches, side crunches, jack knives, hanging crunches, hindus squats, and mountain climbers are all excellent core workouts – some of which also work movements specific to TKD, namely the chamber. Good workouts for the posterior chain include sumo squats, dead lifts, pistol squats, and glute raises. (Also, don’t neglect your pushups and pullups — keep your punches strong while getting a bonus core workout!)
- Visualize. What if I told you that you can practice without moving a muscle? You can get better no matter where you are – the store, at church, a bake sale, even sick in bed. Here’s how: picture yourself practicing moves with perfect technique. This is what sports psychologists call visualization. Here’s why this works: research indicates that visualizing a move sparks up the same area of the brain that sparks up when you actually, physically perform that move. It’s not as good as doing the real thing, of course, but it still builds stronger neural pathways which helps you get better. It also helps keep your skills maintained if you’re sick or injured for a while. Don’t dismiss this as mumbo jumbo: it’s a powerful technique based firmly in science.
- Master the basics. Listen. Eyes over here. I know the spin hook kick is sexy. I know she’s trying really really hard to seduce you. But you must resist. Those techniques are for later. If you don’t have your basic kicks and punches down pat, then your more advanced variations won’t be very good. Plus, the basics are what win the most TKD matches…not to mention they are the most practical for self-defense. So if you want to be a black belt some day, you need to stick to the fundamentals. (Pro tip: focus on your side kick. Even masters are impressed by good side kicks.)
- Listen to your instructor the first time. Sorry, it has to be said. I see posts all of Reddit, Facebook, and YouTube about how to do this or that. Or complaints about not being advanced fast enough. Look, if you want to get good at Taekwondo – and you want to get good as fast as possible – then you need to do what your instructor tells you. Odds are in his favor his knows what he’s talking about, and he (or she) has been teaching students long before you came along. Have a little faith. Stay off the net. Don’t get ahead of the curriculum.
It’s hard to get good at Taekwondo, but the good news is there are ways to make it easier, simpler, and faster. Basically, relax, practice & stretch a lot at home, strengthen your core, visualize, master the basics, and listen to what your instructor suggests the first time around. If you keep these 8 tips in mind, you’ll be fast on your way to black belt.
Now go train!
Psssst. Hey! Do your friends want to get good at TKD, too? Do me a HUGE favor: share this article for everyone to see. Then leave me a comment below with your thoughts, or extra tips!