Sammy Smith

There's a famous quote from Benjamin Franklin that says, "If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail." This is true for everything within our lives. With the upcoming ISKA U.S. Open being held on July 2nd and 3rd (and after not competing for well over a year) I needed to make sure I left ample time to do just that, PLAN. MY. GAME. I knew that this year's perspective going into training would be different; it wasn't just about a tournament and competing. It was about mental fortitude, perseverance, out working everything I've done in the past, learning to become a better overall athlete, and within that would be personal triumph regardless of the actual outcome.

Through my years of training at LAW (Longo and Weidman) MMA with my Tae Kwon Do instructor, Sabumnim Eric San Jose, I have crossed paths many times with Mr. Ricci (who is now my professor for graduate studies). Mr. Tony Ricci (Dr. of Sport Psy/sci, Ed.D, MS, FISSN, CSCS, PES, CES, CNS) has become one of the biggest influences on my training leading into the U.S Open and will forever change my perspective on what it truly means to train like an athlete. Mr. Ricci (@fightshape_ricci) is a genius when it comes to anything sport science related. He has cultivated a 6-week training program that creatively mimics movement patterns that are done in sport karate routines into a strength and conditioning regimen. His dedication to my success by any means necessary is truly what everyone should look for in a mentor.

The modality of these training sessions has totally changed the game. We have measured body fat percentages three different times. Knowing how much body fat and where it accumulates is extremely important because it makes it easier to identify weaker parts of the body. We have also separated my strength and conditioning training sessions into three separate days: strength, power, and cardiovascular endurance. Each of these days serve a specific purpose and tax the body differently. On strength days we focus more on heavier lifting (which is something I wasn't too comfortable with until now), as well as isometric (keeping tension throughout the muscle) holds. On power days we combine weightlifting techniques with explosive movements (repetitive jumps, resistance bands). Cardiovascular endurance days, although the most "torture like" are my favorite. We have incorporated the use of a heart rate strap to monitor my max heart rate and recovery time while going through a circuit training which has several components including my forms.

Physicality is just one piece, mentality is the other part to the puzzle. To compete in one of the biggest tournaments in sport karate at such a high caliber is extremely nerve wracking to any serious competitor. Without mental strength it is very easy to crack under pressure and all the hard work put into weeks and months of training can be drained from just one unsettling thought. It is important to repetitively train the brain just as you would train the body. The key is to have the champion mindset and live by it like a lifestyle.

"Pressure is a privilege- it only comes to those who earn it." Billie Jean King

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Photo Courtesy: Dawson Holt via Instagram

The 2021 Diamond Nationals took place on October 8th and 9th, the first time the prestigious event has been hosted since 2019. World class competitors gathered in Minneapolis, Minnesota to test their skills in forms, weapons, point sparring, and more.

In the early 2010's, Ken Warner (otherwise known as ZenInc on YouTube) always shared his "Top Five" on Facebook after major sport karate events. Reflecting on these posts has inspired me to write a top five article of my own for the Diamond Nationals, and I plan to continue writing these articles after each tournament I attend. Special thanks to Ken Warner for his contributions to documenting sport karate history. Without further ado, here is Jackson's Five for the Diamond Nationals.

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You can be as prepared as ever and still not get the results you had wanted or expected. You can put your heart into every training session, just to lose. The truth is when you step onto the mat the numerical results are out of your control. Sometimes, as mentioned, you can train harder than you ever have, hit a "near perfect" form and still lose. Ironically other times, you can run a form that you didn't think was your strongest with a few slight missteps and still win. Part of having a competitor IQ means that you can assess yourself and your performances realistically and make the proper changes, if any, (but there always are) moving forward to the next tournament. I'm going to share my evaluation process between tournaments down below:
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