In my years of competition, when I was a serious competitor and youth and fitness were more on my side, I have trained up seriously for some events and done well, consequently I have hardly trained up for some other events and still done well. This competition, but rather that my mind set for each was different. When I trained really hard, it was with a ‘do or die’ attitude, I had photos of certain opponents on my garage wall to make me train harder, I did round after round of bag work, loads of roadwork (up and down hills – and I hate running), I punished myself to make myself faster, fitter and stronger and thus my personal expectations of myself were high, I step onto that tournament arena feeling (in my mind) like I couldn’t be beaten. When I hardly trained and did well it’s because I went into a tournament with no expectations, no cares. If I won I won, if I lost I lost. And with no expectations of yourself, there’s a lot less pressure to perform and sometimes this can work in your favour as well.
If you’re a Taekwon-do student, then entering competition is like practicing your art and as such I personally dislike those that only compete in sparring or patterns, as personally I feel all areas are part of the same coin and even if you aren’t the most technical person at patterns, or the most confident of sparrers, or the best at destruction, you should still have a go at them, if only as a learning experience. Being ‘top dog’ at one area doesn’t relate to being good at Taekwon-do it just means you can spar well, or perform well or break some boards, being competent at all areas, rather than specialising in one is the sign of a good Taekwon-do competitor.
Regarding sparring, it’s more than a good idea to be able to spar at different contact levels. You should be able to spar with controlled techniques, but also be able to step up a level if required, as ‘light continuous’ contact levels can vary dramatically and although no one likes getting thumped, we are doing a martial art, not ballet, so consider it good training. Remember, even the toughest of bouts end eventually and it’s better to work with heavier contact at a competition, with first aid and referees than learn outside that you can’t take a hit!
For me, competition has always been more about testing myself than winning medals. It was more about having the guts to step up there than being the all out champion. Sometimes (especially now) if I haven’t been feeling the greatest or lacked confidence, I will still step up there, as winning is less important to me than knowing I still have the guts to get up and give it a go and believe me, even in the veteran divisions there are some great opponents. I have only sat out of a two tournaments in my entire martial arts life, one because I was very unwell and the other because I had an injury and didn’t feel I could give my best, so didn’t want to go in half prepared. At both of them I felt the ‘itch’ of wanting to be up there with the rest of the guys, however one I know it would have been the wrong choice to compete, where as the other I still regret not stepping on that mat as I felt I let myself down – I’ll leave you to decide which one is which. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes that relate to competition:
“If you want to be a winner, all you have to give, is everything you got!”
This article was written especially for Totally Tae Kwon do magazine (issue 3 / May 2009). Stuart Anslow is now a 5th degree Instructor and has retired fully from active competition. Click here to see his achievements during his competitive years. A video of his competitive career can also be viewed at the bottom of Mr Anslows profile page.
11 of Mr Anslow students have gone on to achive World Gold medals, with two of them becoming double gold medallists.
Top Tips for Successful Competition
by Stuart Anslow