Thomas Auger: Effective Point Scoring Techniques for Taekwondo
Taekwondo in Australia is still a fairly marginal sport. The rise of MMA has definitely increased the popularity of combat sports and the more exotic styles that form well rounded champions.
Taekwondo originates from Korea and is a combination of Shotokan karate with the indigenous traditions of taekkyeon, gwonbeop and subak.
Competition matches allocate points based on where a fighter strikes an opponent. Body shots to the chest guard or ‘hogu’ are worth 1 point. 3 points are given for spinning kicks to the body. 3 points are awarded for standard head kicks and 4 for spinning variations. After 3 rounds the fighter with the most points wins.
Thomas Auger is a member of the Australian Taekwondo team and has competed at numerous world championship competitions. As a younger athlete Thomas is helping to push the level of competition to new heights and believes that Australia is well on it’s way to producing winning results at international events.
Watching some of your previous fights against Askin Ovali you maintain a lower stance before attacking is this a deliberate tactic to expose a vulnerable angle?
In most cases I would say that my lower stance is something more of a habit that comes naturally to my fighting style. It isn’t necessarily used as a tactic and I am trying to stay much taller and longer nowadays, particularly with a lot of my opponents being quite tall! The main reason I naturally stand in a lower stance is because I am able to move quicker from that position.
What are some ways up and coming fighters can use feints to score points?
One of the most important concepts I’ve become familiar with over the last year, particularly because of today’s fighting style, is changing the pace of your kicks. What this concept means, is not necessarily kicking your opponent at full speed.
This is because fighters are getting so good at blocking nowadays, you need to change the pace and speed of your kicks to break through your opponents guard, rather than being readable, predictable, and easy to time.
You have to hit the chest guard to score on the electronic systems, so it’s important to find different ways to get your feet to make contact with the hogu, rather than your opponent’s guards.
Multiple strikes at the trunk and head are risky but can be very rewarding on the scoreboard do you have any tips for identifying the best opportunity to use combinations?
It can be risky but most times I find that following up your kicks is the better option. And I am working to implement that into my game more often. Kicking with only one kick usually leaves me on the back foot and allows my opponent the room and distance to attack me and put me under pressure, which can be a weakness to give away points.
The best way to identify your opportunities is to use your footwork and motions to draw out your opponent and open up the play. Applying some front foot pressure can create opportunities, provided you maintain a strong guard.
On the flip side, is it best for a fighter to defend against multiple strikes by using front and axe kicks to shut down the momentum of an opponent?
There are many tactics and techniques different fighters use to shut down the momentum of an opponent. Provided your timing and distance is right, front foot axe kicks, hook kicks and round house kicks can be a great defensive tactic, especially if your opponent’s aggressive flurry of attacks allows them to run into it.
It may not work every time, but each situation is different. And that’s where a fighter’s decision-making and recognition of different situations comes into play. You see a lot of fighters commonly using the front-foot cut kick to hold an opponent away, keep them at a certain distance, or shut down their momentum, and it can also be a great way to score.
What is it like training in the AIS Combat Centre?
It’s tough. The training is very intense and demanding on your body. But it is definitely extremely beneficial and there are a lot of great resources available for athletes.
We usually train twice a day each day, with a conditioning session in the morning and a Taekwondo session in the afternoon. In addition to this, we also maintain a recovery program at the AIS Recovery Centre. Training at the AIS Combat Centre is an amazing experience and a great way to prepare for upcoming competition.
With your conditioning training what exercises do you use to maintain the right balance of speed and power in your legs?
For Taekwondo, I believe Plyometric training is very important. This is because Taekwondo requires a lot of actions that involve fast and explosive movements from one position to another, while also being able to exert power and force. Typical conditioning for my speed and power involves a lot of jumping movements followed by a fast and explosive action upon landing.
An example may be something as simple as jumping from a box and immediately kicking a target upon landing. Since my involvement at the AIS combat centre and from training in Sydney, I have learnt a lot of great plyometric and Taekwondo-specific conditioning exercises from Raul Landeo, a sports scientist a lot of the AIS Taekwondo athletes have been working with.
Plyometric training allows me to increase my speed and power, without gaining much muscle mass, which is important for athletes that need to maintain a certain body weight for their nominated sparring divisions.
How do you decide which weight division to compete in? Do you have to cut weight before fighting?
I fight in the -63kg category. This decision is based on the fact that my height and body type is more or less suited to the division, as I am too short for heavier divisions but also unable to lose any more weight to reach the division lower.
I usually have to drop about 3 or 4 kilos to reach -63kg as my natural body weight sits at about 66-67kg. The athletes in the division above (-68kg) are usually much stronger than I am, which can be challenging and physically demanding.
How do you feel Australia can improve its overall level of competition performance on the international stage?
I believe that Australia is heading in the right direction to improve international performance and develop a skilled breed of fighters with the new involvement with the AIS. The AIS camps are a great new way to build and develop fighters prepared for the international stage by providing the right environment and proper preparation for an international level athlete.
I also believe one of the most important factors to improve international performance is international exposure and experience. Unfortunately this is difficult for Australians because it is expensive to travel overseas to compete at international level. With the involvement from the AIS, opportunities to compete at international level are now becoming available and realistic for Australian athletes.
Do you face off against Safwan Khalil very often and being that he is the highest ranked Australian do you regard him as the benchmark for competition skill?
I don’t have to face Saf during competition but because our weight divisions are so close we pair up at training quite often so I do get the chance to mix and spar against him. He is a great training partner, helpful and motivating. He forces me to raise my standard and lift my intensity and really shows leadership as one of the most senior and most experienced athletes on the team.
I think that Safwan can definitely be regarded as a benchmark for competition skill on the international stage. His results speak for themselves with consistent podium performances at the Grand Prix series and, most recently, back-to-back-to-back medal performances at the Alexandria, Luxor and Swiss Opens during our preparation for the World Championships. I think that Safwan’s international standard is a reasonable level for myself and other Australian athletes to aim for.
How has the sport of Taekwondo evolved over the years you have been competing? Have their been any trends in technique that have become essential for victory?
The sport is constantly changing. Countries and teams are always coming up with new ideas and tactics that work for them and are constantly finding new ways to score on the electronic system.
But I think the biggest change I’ve noticed over the years is the effectiveness and importance of the cut kick. Due to the development of the electronic systems, the cut kick has become a staple in every athlete’s game. It has become a basic technique that all fighters should know. It provides a way to score, defend or open up play.
When I was a kid, you hardly saw anyone use the cut kick, because you never scored with it! Everyone used to pop a roundhouse or running kick to the flank, followed with a flurry of kick exchanges, and that was how you used to score. The sport has become much more dependent on opening up play and finding ways to work through your opponent’s guard.
The other big thing I’ve noticed change is the use of head kicks. When I was a kid, head kicks were only worth 2 points and were a rarity. If you received a face kick during a match, it seemed like a much bigger deal back then, because it didn’t happen as often as it happens now.
Now head kicks are worth 3 points and 4 for a spinning kick to the head, which has increased the amount of head kicks we see in each fight. Head kicks are now a common part of our sport and fighters have become so skilled at finding ways to score to the head.