Homework - Many taekwondo students only have time to study while they’re actually in class, but if you have an extra time during your days — even just a few minutes — you can make a lot of progress at home. One caveat: be careful not to overdo it at home without good stretching and warmup first.
- Stretching - in fact, stretching at home is a great way to improve your performance in class. Stretching every day (instead of just in class) is the most rapid way to improve your limberness. Don’t overdo it though: light stretching every day is much better than heavy stretching that results in an injury!
- Forms memorization - without warmup and stretching, you shouldn’t try your forms “full force” …that doesn’t mean you can’t do “relaxed” forms though to improve your memory of the forms. Keep the arms loose, keep the kicks low, and just repeat some forms whenever you have a few minutes to spare.
Study Notes - Many students take study notes. In fact, much of the material on this wiki started as people’s study notes. If you’re trying to learn a new form, for example, you can either make good notes to help you remember, or print out the forms diagrams on this wiki and keep them in your hip-pocket to review whenever you have a few free minutes to spare.
Stretching - As previously mentioned, unless you’re taking taekwondo class every day, the amount of stretching you do during class probably won’t be enough to rapidly improve your limberness. Try to make time to stretch every day if you can.
Don’t “bounce” on your stretches. Keep your stretches slow and steady. Hold them for at least 10 seconds more more if you can. Relax your body and focus on your breathing as you stretch.
Frequency of Classes - Of course you'll make faster progress if you take more frequent classes. There's another reason to go with some frequency though: you'll avoid injuries. Sometimes students who attend classes too infrequently will lose the limberness and strength need to practice more complicated techniques (like jumping and spinning kicks) and thereby increase the opportunity for injury.
Focus on the Basics - Most forms and most sparring require just the most basic of techniques: basic blocks, basic punches, basic kicks, etc. It's true that Black Belts can often perform impressive gymnastic feats, but what make their taekwondo really good is that their basics are so perfect. Don't rush through learning the basics as well as you can; they're the foundation that's going to serve you best no matter how far you advance.
The Off-Hand, the Off-leg - When doing a taekwondo block, it’s often what’s happening with the non-blocking hand that’ll diminish your technique. Same goes for kicks: it’s often what’s happening with the non-kicking leg that’ll diminish your technique. For instance, you can’t do a great side kick without pivoting all the way around on the supporting foot. Remember to pay attention to your off-hands and off-legs when practicing techniques.
Right Repetition - Muscle-memory is a key part of most sports. If you repeat a movement incorrectly, you’ll develop a bad habit that’s hard to break. In many instances it’s better to repeat a movement slowly rather than quickly, if that will help your muscles remember the subtleties of the movement. Some students can get a movement right quickly the first time, but for other students, repeating the movement slowly, and then slowly speeding up the technique is a better way to build good muscle memory. Just make sure you make it fast eventually! Taekwondo gets its power from speed.
Sparring - Many students love sparring, some students avoid it. In fact, sparring practice improves all your taekwondo, including your forms, and it’s a fantastic aerobic workout. It doesn’t matter if you’re not great at sparring, even when you lose you’re getting something out of it: exercise, increased stamina, better speed and snap, etc.
Keep your Eye on the Target - This can be hard especially for jumping and spinning kicks, but it’s really difficult to hit a target you’re not looking at.
Kihap - Some students are embarrassed to “yell forcefully” during class. In fact though, a good kihap can go a long way toward improving technique. It may not seem like the two ought to be related, but they often seem to be.
Injuries - As with any sport, you’re almost certainly going to experience some small injuries. Let your injuries heal completely before resuming taekwondo.
Tips for Older Students
Learning taekwondo when you're older is harder, but lots of people still do it. People successfully learn taekwondo even when they haven't started until their 50s and 60s.
It's harder because you won't be as strong (as you get older, your muscle mass decreases even if your exercise level remains constant), you won't have as much stamina, and you'll have to work on your stretching more.
Ankle, Knee, and Hip Support: Your most likely injuries are going to be your ankles and your knees, and you're much more likely to injure these than younger students are. If you do injure them, that could set you back weeks. Even if you're not sure you need to, consider wrapping your lower joints with Kinetic Tape or wear neoprene braces.
If you have problems with your hips, get yourself a good pair of compression shorts to wear under your uniform. In fact, the longer-style of compression shorts may help with the upper part of your knees as well.