This blog post is not about specific strategies or techniques. This, you will have to work on with your Sensei. However, we will look at the preparations for a tournament in broad and general terms. A “Master Plan” if you will.
1. Know the rules of the tournament
There is nothing worst that showing up to a tournament and have your opponent using a technique you thought illegal. One such cases, I was knee kicked in the face while my opponent grabbed my head and pulled it down. Although I won the fight (ahem agem), I was disconcerted by that fact. The knee kick was so quick that I thought he punched me in the face. Check it out in the video below. I’m the guy who got kicked in the face.
Some tournaments allow for sweeps, other allows for quick grabs, etc. Every time you add a new component to the fight, the fight dynamics change and in order to properly prepare, it is highly recommend that you are at least be aware of what the rules are, at best, adjust your training around these rules.
2. Have a plan of attack
For any martial arts tournament, you cannot prepare all potential techniques that you might need. Focus on the techniques you are powerful in with a couple of “fancy” ones you could resort to just in case.
With those technique, work on drilling a few basic and strong combinations. As an example, the one combination I’ve been taught for tournaments is “punch, punch then kick”. This basic 3 steps combo gives me a myriad of options I can resort to. But the main advantage is that it’s give me simple to focus on. Most Kyokushin fighters tend to use 1-step to 2-step combos and rarely go to 3 or 4. If you are conditions to do 3 techniques per combo, you could catch your opponent off guard and gain the upper hand. For me personally, this “punch-punch-kick” combo gave me a rhythm I could have in my head that helped me control and maintain the tempo of the fight. This works for me. What works for you?
3. Focus on you
In most sporting events, you usually know who your opponent is and you could have several weeks to prepare, see tapes, develop a specific strategy, etc. However, in Kyokushin tournaments, you only have 2 to 3 minutes per combat (if you don’t go to a second round) and you may fight several competitors on the day of the tournament. You won’t have a chance to study your opponents nor develop any strategies.
For this reason, you need to focus on your own abilities and not worry too much about what the other guy could do.
4. Your training plan must include strength and conditioning
Strength and conditioning are an important aspect of getting ready for a tournament. Strength, power, agility, conditioning, endurance, flexibility are all attributes we must pursue in order to become better martial artists. However, for competitors, it’s even more important. As “competitive Karate” becomes more of a sport, we need to understand sports science and include it in our plan. This can include and is not exclusive to powerlifting, kettlebell swinging, HIIT, roadwork, etc. Ignore this to your detriment.
5. Including Sparring Intelligently
We have a reputation in Kyokushin that we enjoy getting beat up. You know what I mean… However, when you are getting ready for a tournament, sparring becomes as important as the other aspects of your training plan. There is nothing that can help you be better at fighting than fighting. For this though, you need to be smart and avoid injury before the tournament. So, include sparring with partners that are there to help rather than simply hand your bum over to you at each session, use protective gear, be smart about it.
In sparring though, it’s not just a question of ramming into each other. Focus on specific strategies, techniques and combos. Have your partners vary the intensity of their resistance and intensity. Have your partners emulate different kinds of fighters, etc.
6. Don’t Ignore your Nutrition
Don’t ignore your nutrition. Develop a meal plan that will fuel your training. Don’t focus on muscle gain or fat loss when you are ramping up to the tournament. This should have been done in the “off-season”. Your focus should be on being ready for the tournament, losing weight while getting ready for a tournament will drain you and you will arrive weak and tired to the tournament – this comes from the voice of experience. If need be, have a nutritionist and experienced trainer to help you figure it out.
7. Select which tournaments to participate in
Although in some regions we do not have a lot of choices for tournaments, it is important to select which tournament to participate in. This will mainly depend on (1) the timing of the tournament, (2) the level of the tournament (regional, state, national, worlds, etc).
In regards to the timing, you need to ensure that you have enough time between tournaments to recover and peak again for the next tournament. This period will really depend on you, your fitness level and experience.
In regard to the level of the tournament, that is completely up to you which tournaments you think will be of benefit to you. By that I mean that each tournament should level you up in experience, knowledge and technical challenge.
Let’s use an example, if you want to participate in a world’s tournament a year from now, find out what tournaments will be organised in your region and adjacent regions. Find out who is organising the tournaments and who could potentially be your competition. Find out the dates of each and include them in your plan and try to plan your training cycles based on you’re the schedule and any other events you might have in your life.
Like I said, the goal is to gain from the tournaments and get you better prepared for the final challenge (the world tournament in this example).
8. Keep your focus on your goal
It is super easy to get distracted during your training and start focusing on things that might or might not be advantageous to your training.
For example, when preparing for an upcoming event, your focus should be on becoming a better fighter for the tournament and not on improving your 1-rep max in your Olympic lifts. Although increasing your 1-rep max will be advantageous in the long run, it might be the time to focus on it 6 weeks before the tournament.So, set a plan, focus on your goal and adjust according to your results and not because you read something online that might sound cool.
These are the main points I believe you should work on. They are not the only ones, of course. There are also more concepts to consider such as developing your macro and micro-cycles, which exercises to use, etc.
If you have an experienced coach, you can sit down and work on these different aspects with him. By the way, this Master Plan can also help you to get ready for an upcoming grading.
Please leave a comment below if you have any questions on this particular topic.