In both sparring and forms competition, there is one area that many don’t really pay attention to–Taekwondo gear. The gear or equipment can have a significant impact on one’s performance on the competition floor. For sparring, competitors are required to have World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) certified equipment. In forms (or poomsae) it is rarely checked, but it is a requirement to wear the proper Taekwondo uniform; if you get one that is WTF certified, you won’t have any issues with not having the right uniform at all.
Now, can sparring gear impact your sparring performance? Most certainly!
First, in order to compete in a Tae Kwon Do (or Taekwondo) sparring tournament that is endorsed by USAT (USA Taekwondo), your sparring gear must meet the following:
- be WTF certified gear
- head protection must be white, red, or blue
- chest protector must have red or blue sides
- note: more and more competitions are now using equipment with built-in electronic sensors for automatic scoring; if this is the case, you might not need your equipment, but don’t compete in one without your own set, just in case.
Your gear must have the following qualities in order to help you perform better:
- they must fit you well; it fits well when you don’t even notice you have them on.
- they must provide the right amount of protection–probably means you have to have the right size
You equipment can certainly impact your performance if it didn’t fit or feel right. That’s because your mind will be pre-occupied with equipmnet distractions.
One of the key pieces of equipment, for instance, is the cup (or groin protector). If this piece of gear feels wrong, you would probably be constantly bothered by the crotch discomfort. Remember, attempting to keep up with your opponent is difficult enough, and your constant preoccupation with fixing your cup will not help the situation any, but would certainly give the other guy at an advantage!
The bottom line: make sure you have the right approved gear, and that they have the proper protection coverage, color, and, most importantly, fit.
Eventhough you might think you have an awesome form, knowing that you can use your uniform to your advantage can help give you a little bit of edge compared to someone with the same exact ability as you. Thus, in forms competition, having the right gear is just as crucial.
For the uninformed, having the right uniform for forms competition may seem unimportant, but it can definitely improve your form execution–at least on how it looks and sound.
Judges generally look for these qualities when observing forms:
- Technique snappiness–can they hear the uniform snap?
- Performer’s balance–is the competitor able to maintain balance during form execution?
- Correctness of the form–is the competitor doing the form correctly?
- Delivery of form–how did the form look? Was it pleasing to the eyes?
Judges want to hear snap from forms competitors. It tells them that the competitor is executing with speed and power. A properly fitting uniform can enhance the snappiness of your move. In general, clothing that is heavy will promote more snap (that’s assuming there is snap in the technique to begin with). Look at and try different uniforms. You’ll find out that the ones that are heavier and have been washed at least a couple of times will bring the strongest snap.
I’ve seen poomsae performers having to fiddle with their pants or top because the uniform was too long or big. When your foot ends up stepping on your pants, you can slip or just show a hint of imbalance. That is enough to cause point deductions that may be crucial in a tight forms match. Double-check that your clothing has good fit, especially the length of your pants. The last thing you want to worry about is slipping on your own pants, as this can definitely cause you to lose points for poor balance during form execution.
Correctness of the Form
In conjunction with losing balance, having improperly fitted Taekwondo uniform can detract from your form precision and sharpness. Picture having to adjust the pants or the top in the middle of competition because they slipping or are bothersome. You can lose your focus and lose your place in the form if there are too many distractions.
Judges are human and thus can make mistakes. Everyone are subjective to some degree, and despite how they try to be objective, certain things can sway them to be more favorable when judging you. So, if you are wearing a uniform that makes you look sharp, this can already add to the bias that your uniform can introduce into the competition. However, you still have to keep this in mind–you’ll have to bolster that look with your strong and confident presence in coming up, executing, and exiting the competition floor.
In Taekwondo sparring, the right gear can help in competition, especially if they fit right and provide the proper protection coverage. Let the other guy have bad fitting gear so that he can get distracted instead of you. Then you can focus on winning instead of adjusting.
In forms competition, the proper uniform can bolster your form presentation. If you are already adept in forms, a better uniform should be able to enhance your snap. Additionally, a good fitting uniform can help prevent balance and form preciseness issues caused poor fitting uniform. Lastly, a nice looking uniform can help accentuate your presentation–i.e. it makes you look awesome.
In competition, take advantage of anything, including those available through the proper Taekwondo gear or equipment.