Sparring>Attitude>Dealing with mistakes

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Dealing with mistakes


To be an effective fighter, you must deal with your own mistakes and take advantage of openings caused by your opponent’s mistakes. Both mental and physical mistakes cause openings. Mental mistakes include such things as under or overestimating your opponent’s fighting ability, lapses in concentration, and succumbing to distractions. Physical mistakes include such things as not extending a side thrust kick, not turning the hip over into a round kick, and letting the feet get to close together, resulting in a loss of balance.

Common sparring mistakes beginners make

  • Sparring people with the same skill level as yourself all the time. If you do this, you will not attain a higher skill level for yourself. You need to periodically test your abilities by competing against someone who can put pressure on you to perform. Sparring people of the same skill level will give you a false sense of security and make you complacent and too relaxed. Then, when you must step it up a notch against a tough fighter, you get stressed and find nothing seems to work. You do not improve by doing things you can already do; you improve by trying to do things you cannot currently do.
  • Not acknowledging good hits. During a training class, how many times have you sparred someone and caught him or her with a perfectly focused and controlled technique, and he or she keeps coming at you, punching and kicking as if nothing happened. They do not appreciate the hit they just took; they do not realize that the hit could have hurt them had it not been so well controlled. If you get used to ignoring good hits, you will get hurt when sparring a better fighter than yourself that has less than perfect control. When training, acknowledge a good hit against you. It’s good sportsmanship and it helps you remember to not let it happen again.
  • Avoiding sparring with the instructor. Some students think that sparring their instructor is counterproductive. They think they will not learn anything and that they will just be a live punching bag for the instructor to practice on. However, sparring your instructor is like getting one-on-one instruction. Your instructor will not hurt you or embarrass you, but, on the other hand, he or she will not show you any mercy. The instructor will test you, find your weaknesses, show you where the weaknesses are , and tell you how you can fix them.
  • Lower ranks consistently make the same mistakes. The most common penalties assessed against color belts are pushing, grabbing, and holding. To avoid these penalties, just keep the hands in tight fists. Tight fists cannot grab or hold and, if you do push, it looks more like a punch.
  • Low kicks. Another common warning in colored belt competition is for low kicks. This is a result of poor training. Most low kicks are the result of poor chambering. A tight high chamber will prevent low kicks and it is also a good fighting technique since the opponent does not know what type of kick is coming, it could be either a side, round, heel, or hook kick.

Common mental sparring mistakes

Mental mistakes you or your opponent may make:
  • Making the wrong attack.
  • Misreading a feint and overreacting to it.
  • Relaxing your guard because you think your opponent is also relaxing.
  • Being distracted or anticipating your opponent’s actions or reactions.
  • Worrying about the opponent’s intentions.
You may cause mental openings in your opponent by:
  • Enticing the opponent to make an unachievable attack.
  • Distracting the opponent by using a feint.
  • Causing the opponent to relax momentarily by making him or her think you are not ready to attack.
  • Keeping the opponent on defense.
  • Creating doubt or concern for safety. 

Common physical sparring mistakes

Physical mistakes you or your opponent may make:
  • Weaknesses in the guard.
  • Mistakes in attacks or defenses.
  • Failure to keep up with the pace of the fight.
You may cause your opponent to make physical mistakes by:
  • Using continuous attacks that overpower or overload the ability of the opponent to defend against them.
  • Using blocks to break the opponent’s concentration and then immediately attacking.
  • Attacking when the opponent is at a disadvantage.


  • Hanho. (1992). Combat Strategy: Junsado, the Way of the Warrior. Connecticut: Turtle Press
  • Hee, D. (1992). Tae Kwon Do Fighting Strategies: The Ring Tactics of an Olympic Gold Medalist. Black Belt Magazine, August 1992.
  • Prime, N. (2001). Bridging the gap. Niagara North Newsletter, Volume 30, July 2001. [Online]. Available: [2003, February 20].
  • Turtle Press. (2002). [Online], Available: [2002, October 21].
  • United States Taekwondo Union. (1999). [Online]. Available: [1999, December 4].
  • Verstappen, S. (2002). Fight Smart I & II Chinese Strategies For The Sparring Arena.
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