John, as a former Olympic coach and a onetime WTF World silver medallist from Spain, has all the experience to teach at the highest level, something that was put to good use at this seminar with one of the participants being none other than the current WTF -80kg world number one and European champion, Aaron Cook.
Aaron spent a good part of the day paired up with Arron Jennings, a 4th Dan former ITF European champion and current ITF bronze medallist who runs Senshi Martial Arts in Kings Lynn. He is also the current ITF team captain. They both receive a lot of help and support from Kicksport with Mr Cook, now fighting for the Isle of Man receiving most of his funding from Creechurch Capital ltd.
Both of these guys worked very well together during the afternoon and it was very useful for the world number one to have a sparring partner from the ITF who had a very good front leg attack ability, something that is now very useful for WTF fighters as the front leg is now used frequently to score to the head. Even a slight touch to the head from the foot now scores several points and is often hard to deal with. Strong front leg players can also make it very difficult for fighters to defend against, something that John addressed several times throughout the day with several methods for dealing with these situations.
John opened the day by explaining that he was there to share and wanted to encourage people to ask questions and discuss techniques. This was because he was also there to learn from them; so sharing was important.
The warm up took everybody through a series of running and stretching drills intermixed with footwork and dynamic leg stretching with the odd timing exercise in pairs thrown in which also developed reaction capabilities.
On each exercise, Aaron Cook always wanted to know if it was competitive. If the answer came back "yes", that winning streak he has pushed him to finish first each time. That might have surprised some, especially as they were only doing running games, but as John later pointed out, players should train as if they were competing. It gets them into the right frame of mind as attitude is everything - as is having the tools to get the job done using timing and distancing to good effect.
The day basically followed a set pattern of warm up, pairs training, pad kicking combinations and full contact WTF style sparring with participants wearing full protective equipment.
During the pairs training, a lot of emphasis was put on counter attacking and correct ways to either check an opponent as he or she comes in to attack (mainly by using your front leg), followed by a kicking technique or how to move back from an opponent with various ways of stepping, including moving off the line as you retreat before counterattacking.
John explained the need to go fishing when up against an opponent. By that he meant there was a need to test your opponent to establish if he or she was ready to attack, how they would attack and having a good understanding of when the opponent is really coming in as opposed to faking an attack.
It was also explained that when an opponent commits to an attack from a good distance away that a good option is to perform an immediate kicking technique without first retreating, such as a reverse turn kick, although shorter attacks should often be met with an evasive manoeuvre before counterattacking with techniques such as doubling up the turn kicks.
John was also keen to point out that in his opinion, in respect of these double turn kicks, it was more powerful and faster to completely turn the hip into the first turning kick before kicking with the other leg as the leading leg returns to the ground.
He stated that for it to be faster than just doubling the kick up by only half turning the hip, it was necessary to use the instep of the first kick to push the kick away from the opponent's body, thus helping the other hip to rotate for the second kick.
The importance of not wasting energy by having too long a stance and bouncing too often was also mentioned as it can tire the leg muscles unnecessarily and in respect of using a correct stance it was important to not stand square-on as not only did it make you vulnerable to attack but also made it obvious that you would be unlikely to use a rear leg back kick from that stance, giving opponents valuable information about your possible intentions and any such spinning kick from a square-on position would require you to turn the body first giving the opponent a heads up on what is coming, negatively affecting the element of surprise.
Recovering into perfect positions after each kicking technique was mentioned on more than one occasion as it allowed you to easily kick again regardless of whether your first technique was successful or not. The importance of not opening your chest to a front-on position when moving forward to attack was also discussed, as was the need to be able to successfully still kick an opponent when close in, something that is being perfected by many a top player these days as the more flexible players find more interesting and unusual ways to still kick to the face when almost on top of the opponent.
During the sparring sessions, John was assisted by Taekwondo England's Chairman, Mr Seelan Rengasamy, who has recently spent some considerable time helping Aaron with his preparations for major events.
Each round was followed by a brief discussion and question and answer session to evaluate the good and bad aspects of the round in question.
In particular, John stated that players should not rush into attacks to regain lost points as it often results in falling further behind so it is often better to go into another round 2-1 down than rushing in to try to even up the scores only to find yourself 3-1 down or worse. The break in the round often gives you the opportunity to discuss options with a coach to better manage the situation ready for the next round.
It was also noticed that some of the participants favoured certain kicks with a particular leg so emphasis was placed on training both legs equally. If for example an individual favoured a right leg back kick an opponent may work out a method with his coach for dealing with it only to then find out that said individual's left leg is equally as good. This often also then has a detrimental psychological effect on an opponent who is then not sure how to deal with you!
It's like being an actor, John explained: don't let your opponent know the real you. Let them find out the hard way.
With the next World Grand Prix coming up in June; Aaron certainly benefitted from the advice given to him during the break while working on strategies to beat front leg fighters.
Aaron lost his last grand prix semi final to Russia but told me his Russian opponent was lighter and faster at the time and that he had felt tired during that competition although he now felt ready to deal with anyone "as they come" when he attempts his first Grand Prix win next month in China.
These Grand Prix events are invitation only and comprise of just 32 payers in each of the Olympic weight categories.
Aaron was disappointed to have lost out to a final showdown at the last one as it would have meant him meeting Lutalo Muhammad from the GB Academy who went on to win it and with Lutalo representing GB again and Aaron representing the Isle of White a final between the two would be something to watch for sure.
After the seminar, T.K.D. England's chairman, Mr Seelan Rengasamy, stated: "John Wright Diaz has put on an amazing seminar for us today and we will be having further talks to discuss future seminars that could also involve our T.K.D England coaching staff. We had hundreds of competitors at our recent open championships and students are keen to learn and improve. Sessions like this give our members just the opportunity they need to do that and I'm sure we will be seeing John again very soon."
AARON COOK'S GRAND PRIX UPDATE
We are pleased to announce that after this seminar, Aaron went on to take Gold in China on 5th July 2014, making it his first WTF Grand Prix win in the -80kg category, beating his Russian rival, Albert Gaun 4-3 in the final.
Aaron lost to this guy in the semis of the inaugural WTF Grand Prix held in Manchester last year.
Lutalo Muhammad from the GB Academy also fought in this event in the -80kg category but went out in the quarter final against the Olympic Champion Sebastian Crismanich of Argentina, losing 7-5, while another Academy player, Damon Sansum, also competing in the -80kg division, lost his first round 9-8 to US player, Steven Lopez.
Aarons emphatic win has secured his world number one ranking putting him well on course for selection to represent GB in Rio 2016.
He currently fights for the Isle of Man but as they will not be represented at the next Olympics, Aaron will still be eligible for selection on his home soil for Team GB.
Congratulations to Aaron and good luck to him and all our British players in their efforts to secure a place in Rio.
Chairman Taekwondo England Ltd