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I've been actively practising Tae-Kwon-Do for some years, but I had to stop recently for several reasons.

I'd like to try and maintain my skills, so I keep on training at home from time to time. I'm mostly "shadow fighting" but I have a Body Opponent Bag that I can use during summer (winters are too cold here to practise outside and I can't fit "him" inside).

Are there any ways I can "measure" my improvements without a training partner? I feel like it was easier to know when I was improving when I was coached, but now that's not possible.

If that's not possible, is it possible for me to make sure I don't start making wrong movements and mess up my actual form?

I should've mentioned that I'm a WTF red belt.

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As you have correctly guessed, it will be difficult to monitor your progress (or potential back-sliding) without feedback from partners and instructors. This is why Martial Arts are practiced in group environments (man sharpens upon man). Nevertheless, solo practice is vital, even when you have a regular class that you attend.

My advice for you would be similar in some respects to that I would give to someone not yet able to join a MA class: focus on fitness. Get your cardio and strength training up. Then you'll be in a better position to return to TKD when you are able. Since you have some training already, you can add basic movements to your training, e.g. increasing reps of punches or kicks of each type that you know.

Likewise, you can practice each of your forms. I recommend you devote as much or more time to slow, deliberate forms practice, really hammering on the stances, as you do fast, dynamic forms practice. When form goes bad, it's the stance that is first to go.

As far as making sure you don't go astray, you're in luck since you do TKD. Every ITF form (assuming you're not doing ATA or some other association) is available for viewing on Youtube (in both Shotokan-style and Sine-Wave style), not to mention handy-dandy charts like this one Dan Gun which you can find by doing a Google image search for the form you want.

I advise you to practice your movements in front of a mirror, at least once per practice session. You'll monitor yourself in the mirror for two things:

  1. Misalignment of your posture (e.g. leaning forward or backward, knees not in the same direction as the toes, fists not properly chambered on hips, chin not tucked, shoulders too high and tense, etc...)
  2. Extraneous movements that will become obvious tells in sparring. You won't be able to detect the subtleties--you need an instructor for that--but you should be able to see any obvious, unnecessary movements.

Make no mistake, however. You're not going to get much better than you are now practicing alone. My intent was to help you not get much worse. Hopefully you'll only be slightly rusty when you can go back to training.

  • Thank you! I indeed expected not being able to keep on progressing. I'll hope I don't loose too much! – IEatBagels Nov 16 '15 at 22:00
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    While the mirror is good, it can also promote bad positioning as you try to look at the mirror while doing various techniques. I've found that video is much better, and readily available on most smartphones now. – JohnP Nov 16 '15 at 22:56
  • Video is a great idea. Should've mentioned that. – The Wudang Kid Nov 17 '15 at 13:09
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Taekwon-do comprises of

  1. Fundamental Movements
  2. Dallyon (Maintenance of equipment, conditioning)
  3. Patterns
  4. Sparring
  5. Self-defence

You can certainly work on 1, 2, and 3 on your own. Sparring is possible, but only Shadowing works because you don't have a partner.

If you know how to correct yourself (and all Black Belts should be able to do so), check your movements as you practice them. Things to look out for are stances and target points.

To measure your improvement, take a video of yourself now performing a basic pattern (Tul or Hyung, depending on which side of the coin you subscribe to). You should be able to see any mistakes done in the pattern, if any. Train for a couple of weeks. Correct any wrong stances or moves, and get used to performing the movements correctly. Take another video then, and compare the videos to see if you had performed correctly a movement previously done incorrectly, or improved on your technique.

Conditioning can be done via exercises such as knuckle push-ups and pull-ups. Planks work very well too. These exercises will condition your knuckles and grip for better effect. One thing I usually do is to lightly knock my forearms together to condition my forearms for blocking. You can do the same for legs. If you want to condition your legs for range then a lot of stretching is needed. There are many ways to stretch without a partner, but you may need to use some tools available in the market such as resistance bands.

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Video yourself.

Its amazing how different you look to yourself on screen than your brain says youre doing. You can learn so much about what you are doing that way

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