A good kicker is hard to score on with kicks and a good puncher seldom loses by being out punched. This is because each fighter has a deep understanding of his specialty and, therefore, knows all the tricks that may be used against him or her. For example, after having practiced thousands of repetitions of, say a back fist, a puncher knows what an opponent looks like when he or she is setting up to attack with a back fist. Whatever your specialty, you should train hard to develop every facet of it.
Mental preparation prior to competing is a vital link between the physical and the psychological side of free-sparring. Remove all thoughts of self-doubt, but be realistic within your capabilities. Visualize scoring on a superior fighter using your favorite technique; this is the first step to actually achieving the desired result. If you do not believe that you can do it, there is little chance of it ever happening. Use this strategy as often as possible; raising your objectives as each success is achieved. The positive images will be self-fulfilling and the mental conditioning will become an integral part of your training. Cultivate a strong, determined attitude prior to competing. Do not concentrate on using a specific technique or think about the outcome of the match, this distracts the mind. Respond intuitively and simply aim to do your best.
Avoid preliminary movements or actions that may be read by opponent, such as a big breath prior to attack or tugging on pants leg before a kick. This contradicts fundamental bio-mechanics (human movement) that dictate that basic techniques require preparatory movements. There is no time to “prepare” in free-sparring, develop an explosive start to all techniques. Learn to interpret the opponent’s intentions, such as feet in line may indicate a sliding side kick is coming. Learn to read the hips. Whenever a hip comes toward you, that is advance notice to you that something is coming from that side. Some also telegraph with their shoulders, but this is overt and amateurish. Also, try to read loading up in the hips in preparation for an attack. You can use telegraphing yourself to make your opponent think you are going to attack one way while you actually attack another way.