How to train like a real-life Karate Kid with World Champion Jordan Thomas

Earlier this year, the classic 1980s movie, “The Karate Kid,” got a reboot with the original cast members coming together in the YouTube Red series, “Cobra Kai”. The result it would appear, an instant success, with a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes!

With that in mind, here at TRAIN magazine, we thought, what better reason to find out from Britain’s very own karate World Champion, Jordan Thomas, how you can also train like a real-life karate kid…

Here Jordan exclusively breaks down all you need to know:

Speed

Speed is very important in karate as you must be able to get there first before your opponent. Don’t have it and you could be in trouble.

TRAIN like me: To hone this, think of yourself as a sprinter. Lots of quick, explosive sprinting drills are a staple part of my daily training regime.

Agility

Agility is another absolute must in karate, with the confined space of an 8x8m mat all you have as your playground. You need agility to be able to take advantage of the whole area fully – don’t have it and you simply won’t be competitive at the top level.

TRAIN like me: You want to offset your opponent and make them miss. For me, I play basketball to develop my agility. As athletes, it’s absolutely paramount. I played at Oaklands College in St Albans for 2 years – transfer these skills and you’re on to a winning formula.

Balance & Core Stability

If you haven’t got core strength, you won’t be able to punch. If you haven’t got balance, you won’t be able to kick. It’s very important to know how your body works – having control over your body is a difficult thing, but it means everything in karate.

TRAIN like me: In my everyday core training there are a lot of twists and turns involved. Think Russian-twists and twist sit-ups. Throw in some jackknifes and planks and you’ll be on your way to developing abs of steel. I’ll include all these as part of a circuit-training regime which is also great for injury prevention. Make it harder and work on that balance and stability by doing conditioning drills standing on one leg. I do a lot of stuff with medicine balls – having them thrown at your stomach to mimic the impact of the punches and the kicks in reality is a must try!

Reaction and Timing

This is a fundamental thing in karate as you have to react to your opponent and what’s going on around you. Timing is vital in trying to catch your opponent unawares. It all comes down to knowing when to go and when to react. Sometimes you have to catch them out!

TRAIN like me: In my training, we do a lot of bean bag drills – think lots of catching with barely a split second to react! We’ll do sprints on a whistle too, practising reacting to that whistle…getting off the line as fast as you can. It all comes into play when you need to find that target at the most opportune time as quickly as possible.

Rhythm

You need to be able to change this at any time in karate. If you can find a way to move differently to everybody else, then you’re going to be harder to beat.

TRAIN like me: For me, I found this unique style through dance and specifically salsa. I’ve always found you can relate dance to a fighting sport because of this ‘edge’ it gives you – to move differently to everybody else. I’ve been doing it since I was 16 or 17 and have found the foot patterns allow you to pick up skills faster, giving you a greater chance of offsetting your opponent. I’ve also brought in ballet which has taught me to achieve even greater control over my body!

Mindset & Focus

This is one thing that I’ve focused on a lot in the past and is vital if you’re to go the distance in any martial arts contest. Being in an adrenaline state of mind 100% of the time can be quite tiring – you have to sustain focus throughout a tournament, able to switch off and switch on at the right times not wasting any mental energy.

TRAIN like me: I do a lot of neurofeedback drills with my coach to maintain my focus. This could relate to something as simple as a game of FIFA on your PS4! You have to be able to maintain that focus through the 90 minutes. Before and in between my fights, I’ll practise going into a meditation state of mind using the app ‘Headspace’ too. Take FIFA again, for example – you have to be able to deal with the pressures of going 1-0 down and come back from that! It’s the same in karate. When your opponent is coming at you, if you can bring everything together – the physical, the mental – that’s when you have your perfect day.

Kit Bag Must

To fail to prepare, is to prepare to fail. With that in mind, making sure you have all the tools to win is just as important as anything. For me, if you look the part, too, then you’re only going to feel better!

TRAIN like me: Personally, I’ve always had a relationship with my mouthguard and for that reason it’s the most important thing in my kit bag! You can get new hand pads or a new karate suit, but the one thing you cannot replace is a mouthguard. I believe that OPRO’s power-fit mouthguard is the best there is – I certainly haven’t had a better one and it looks great too!

Ultimate Move

If you can’t kill a fight off, then there’s no doubt you’re going to leave yourself vulnerable to that killer blow that can end your hopes at ANY time. When gold medals are on the line, that’s just not a risk you want to run.

TRAIN like me: A hook kick, or “Ura Mawashi Geri”, for me, is the best move in karate. It comes outside the eye line and hooks right back onto your head! You won’t be able to learn it overnight, that’s for sure. It’s not hours of practise that make you better, but hours of ‘perfect practise’ which make you perfect! If you want to try and pull it off, you’ve got to do the drills – think flexion, extension, time and time again trying to get that knee as high as possible when you kick. It will get tiring, but you have to persevere through that pain barrier. Without pain and without pressure, you will have no champion!

TRAIN

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