Affect of Training Area and Sparring Partners in Taekwondo


Changing the spatial characteristics of a sporting environment may change the demands on the athlete, and potentially influence the outcome of the competition. Specific reduced competition size training drills (i.e. small-sided games in soccer) have long been utilized as a training means in other sports.

Researchers in Italy compared the physiological (heart rate, blood lactate) and psychological (mood states questionnaire, RPE) responses of match-simulation sparring sessions between 24 competitive junior taekwondo athletes, in a standard 8x8m fighting area to 6x6m and 4x4m fighting areas. A second aspect of the study compared the same responses in matches with 1 sparring partner compared to alternating partners.

Although heart rate was lower in the 2-1 condition, blood lactate levels were higher. These physiological measures were not, however, dependent on fight area size. 

Scores of tension and fatigue were higher for 6 × 6 m compared with 8 × 8 m, and anger was higher in 6 × 6 m and 8 × 8 m compared with 4 × 4 m. 

Coaches can utilise the differences in response to both training area and partner change to elicit a different physiological response, or to help recreate a similar mood state to that encountered in competition.

  1. Ouergui I, Ardigò L, Selmi O, Chtourou H, Bouassida A, Franchini E, et al. Psycho-physiological aspects of small combats in taekwondo: impact of area size and within-round sparring partners. Biol Sport. 38(2):157–164.

About the author

Sam Gilbert

Sam Gilbert is a registered physiotherapist with the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA) and certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). He holds a bachelor’s degree in Physiotherapy from Latrobe university (Melbourne, Australia) and a master’s degree in Exercise Science (Strength and Conditioning) from Edith Cowan University (Perth, Australia).

A 3rd Dan black belt in Shinkyokushinkai Karate under the World Karate Organisation (WKO), Sam participated for over 20 years in full contact competition, winning multiple state and national titles, and culminating in a 4th place in the heavyweight division of the Shinkyokushinkai World Cup in 2009.

As the co-founder and clinical director of Club 360, the premier multi-disciplinary health and fitness center in Tokyo, Japan, Sam has combined his practical experience with an in-depth study of sports performance in relation to combat sports, and strives to help other combat athletes reach their full competitive potential, whilst at the same time decreasing injury risk and increasing competition and training potential.

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By Sam Gilbert