Deconstructing Taekwon-Do

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone: Cross-Training for Taekwon-Do

Did you know that doing another activity besides taekwon-do—or even another martial art—can take your game to the next level? That’s the beauty of cross-training.

Cross-training means doing another sport or activity outside of the one that you usually practice, with the goal of improving your performance in some way. There are a bunch of benefits to cross-training for taekwon-do, depending on what activities you do. Those reasons include:

  • You can train other muscle groups, or train the same muscle groups in different ways. This can help you prevent injuries, fix muscle imbalances, or even just give your primary kicking muscles a break.
  • You can get stronger, fitter or faster.
  • You can improve your flexibility.
  • You can learn new skills, whether that’s to help with taekwon-do or just for fun.
  • If you’re a competitive athlete, you can take a mental break from TKD and relieve some of the stress of competition.
  • You can round out your self-defence skills.
  • Maybe you can even get a performance boost in your TKD training.

You can look at cross-training for taekwon-do in two ways:

  1. Doing activities that help you improve your taekwon-do.
  2. Doing other martial arts that complement your TKD training or address some weaknesses or gaps.

Cross-training to improve your taekwon-do

There are several non-TKD activities you can do to improve your taekwon-do. Many of them are the same activities that can be used to cross-train for other sports. Perhaps you’ve never thought of them as cross-training before. And perhaps you already do some of them. For example:

  • Strength training can improve your overall strength and explosive power, correct muscle imbalances, and help prevent injuries.
  • Yoga can improve your flexibility, improve your coordination and maybe even relieve some stress.
  • Circuit training can improve your muscular endurance and cardiovascular health.
  • Cycling, running, cross-country skiing or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve your cardio. Personally, I favour HIIT or middle-distance training over a long, slow, plodding run, as these things more closely mimic the types of intensity and duration that taekwon-do athletes deal with in competition.
  • Plyometrics can make you jump higher and improve your explosiveness.

Any of these improvements could help with sparring, patterns, destruction, or even just making it through a class.

An important thing to remember is to make sure the activity you pick and how you do it fits your training goals. For example, there’s no point in spending all your time doing a hypertrophy workout and getting jacked if your goal is to improve your explosive power.

Cross-training in other martial arts

I bet this is what a lot of martial artists think of when they hear the term “cross-training.” And if you’re cross-training for taekwon-do there’s no reason you can’t try another martial art to round out your game.

The art you cross-train in could fall into one of a few different camps, such as:

  • A grappling based-art like judo, Brazilian jiu-jitsu or wrestling to learn a skill that’s generally lacking in taekwon-do training.
  • Another kicking-based art like muay Thai or karate to learn different kicking techniques and ways to incorporate them with punches or other hand techniques.
  • Boxing, to perfect those hands.
  • Another patterns-heavy art like karate to gain a new perspective on patterns.
  • Reality-based self defence or a similar art to learn lots of ways to kick people in the groin.

I’m sure I could find others…

I regularly practice judo, and have done a few classes of boxing, muay Thai and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough time to dedicate my whole week to all of them, but they’re all tons of fun. Judo and BJJ are a completely different world from taekwon-do. Boxing will teach you to use your hands much more effectively. And the way that kicks are integrated into muay Thai sparring doesn’t feel like TKD kicking at all—they work at a different range and you have to worry about punching even more than in taekwon-do sparring.

They all teach valuable skills that I could never get from taekwon-do training alone.

So start cross-training for taekwon-do

There’s no reason that taekwon-do has to be your only activity. You can gain so much more by branching out.

But no matter what type of cross-training you do, if taekwon-do is your main activity, make sure your cross-training doesn’t come at the expense of TKD. It should be a side activity, done during the off-season or on other days of the week. And unless you’ve been doing taekwon-do for at least a couple of years, you may want to focus on taekwon-do before venturing into other things. Get a good grasp on your TKD training before taking on something else.

And if you are cross-training already, good for you! Let me know how it’s going.