Taekwondo first appeared in the Olympics as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. It is now also a Commonwealth Games sport.

It made its debut as an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. Since then it has also featured in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 and is one of the 26 sports in the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Taekwondo is certainly not limited to those in superb physical condition. Anyone can take advantage of its benefits when learning proper techniques.

The Match, The Rules

Taekwondo is characterised by the use of powerful kicks. Using the legs allows athletes to have a greater reach and power to disable the opponent from a distance. In sparring, turning and back kicks are most often used.

The competition is fought on a Contest Area that measures 8 m × 8 m with a safety area of at least 2 m around the Contest Area.

The contestants wear a red or blue trunk protector (hogu) and head protector, a groin guard, forearm guards, shin guards, hand protectors, and a mouth protector.

The duration of the contest is non-stop three rounds of two minutes each, with a one-minute rest period between rounds. In case of a draw after the completion of the third round, a fourth round of two minutes will be conducted as the ‘golden point’ overtime round.

In the event of a tied score, after the golden point round, the judging officials decide the match based on the initiative shown during the final round.

Foot techniques are only allowed by using the parts of the foot below the ankle bone. No shin or knee techniques are permitted.

Hand techniques only score with the front of the first two knuckles of the closed hand (fist), and only with the leading part of the hand.

Full force attack by fist and foot techniques is permitted on the areas covered by the trunk protector.

Only foot technique attacks to any part of the head are allowed. Hand techniques to the head are prohibited.

Points are awarded when permitted techniques deliver force. (Doesn’t have to be full force. Accurate and powerful, yes, but a balance of the two.) Points are awarded through the PSS electronic scoring system, with judges adding for a spin or back kick.  Points are therefore awarded as follows:

  1. One point for foot or fist attack that strikes trunk protector (fist awarded by corner judges).
  2. Three points for spinning or back kick that strikes the body.
  3. Three points for kick to the head
  4. Four points for a spinning kick to the head
  5. A player is declared winner if the referee stops the contest.

Two types of penalties may be assigned for prohibited acts, ‘kyong-go’ (warning penalty) and ‘gam-jum’ (deduction penalty). Two ‘kyong-go’ deduct one point and a ‘gam-jum’ deducts one full point.

Although only sparring is contested in the Olympics, breaking, poomsae and self-defense are also key parts of the martial art of taekwondo and contested frequently in other competitions.

Click below for a breakdown of weight categories:

UK Standardised Age and Weight Groups