Please can you give us some background information about yourself ? including why you first started Taekwon- Do, some of your achievements so far
28 yrs Experience in the Martial Arts
11 x World Champion & International Coach
Masters Degree in Sport Science from University of Auckland (1st Class Honours)
Post-Graduate Diploma in Exercise Rehabilitation
Film & TV Stunt Performer (‘The Hobbit’, ‘Power Rangers’ etc.)
5th Degree blackbelt in Karate
4rd Degree blackbelt in Taekwon-Do
2nd Degree blackbelt in WAKO Kickboxing
Grand Champion of the ITF World Championships 2009 & 2011
11 x ITF World Champion / World Cup Champion 2003 – 2017
ISKA Sport Karate World Champion 2010 & 2016
All Japan Seishinkan Karate Champion 2007
Former Captain of the NZ National WAKO Kickboxing team
Prime Minister’s Athlete Scholarship Recipient 2008, 2009
Halberg Awards Nominee 2011
Please can you describe your favourite sparring technique or combination?
Aesthetically I’ve always loved spinning kicks however I have no favourites or preferences.
Once you have a favourite technique you may become predictable and furthermore each situation requires the application of different weapons to be successful. Put it another way, a fighter who is adaptable to each situation is more dangerous than a fighter fixated on particular preferences or favourites.
In your opinion what is the main thing that a beginner should focus on to develop their sparring? How would you suggest that they do that?
The effective development of distance and timing, primarily controlled by footwork. In tandem to this the student should become conversant with basics, and make these the back bone of their training. Then as soon as possible these techniques should be applied in a semi-free environment with changes in distance, timing etc against a resisting opponent to add realism.
Do you have any martial arts idols who you have tried to base your own style on?
Too many to name however I wouldn’t refer to them as idols as I think this caps our own expression and elevates them to a realm towards which we cannot attempt to reach.
Can you give me some examples of mistakes that people make when sparring in competition?
Favouring form over function. Favouring pure athleticism over efficiency. Failing to understand the rules of the game. Giving inadequate time to training (10,000 hours). Misunderstanding sparring fundamental principles which are far more important than techniques and tactics that dictate the outcome of the engagement. Not taking the time to learn from the past, not reading up on strategy and tactics and deception etc etc.
When you are preparing for competition yourself can you give me an idea of your training schedule ?
6-7 days per week.
3-4 hours per day.
Actual Martial Arts training takes precedence before secondary training which people confuse for the actual goal. Everything should contribute to making you a better martial artist, not for vanity or as a distraction from the goal, this includes your mindset training, nutrition, biomechanics etc it needs to be streamlined to be effective, not simply junk training.
Is there any particular technique that you feel is under used and under practiced in ITF sparring? What would you like to see more of?
Techniques go in cycles of usage. If the general competitor is fixated on a certain set of techniques and tactics, the way to victory will certainly be in a realm that is less explored in the current game. Trying to beat everyone at their own game isn’t intelligent or effective. An example from this in the world of economics would be blue oceans versus red oceans.
Do you feel that ITF fighters concentrate enough on their punching technique? Or maybe too much?
Most fighters would do well to spend more time understanding basic boxing mechanics and adapt this to the game and rules of TKD. This particularly applies to amateur boxing (Olympic boxing) which is also based on a point system rather than a 10-8 must system (as per Pro boxing).
What advice would you give to a student who is entering a competition for the first time?
Entirely depends on the student and my relationship to them however I might remind them that their worth as a human (if they choose for it to be so) doesn’t have to depend on those things outside of their control such as whether they win or lose. Instead, I’d encourage them to foster self-worth based on their own choices (internal validation) such as being willing to compete in the first place which is a win for someone who may be quite intimidated their first time.
What do you enjoy most about Taekwon-Do?
Helping people transform and unlock their potential. (This applies to all the Martial Arts I coach).
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in Taekwon-do so far?
Same as above.
With regards to sparring what is the main top attribute that helps to make a good fighter?
Carl van Roon, MSc