ORIGIN OF TAEKWONDO
Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art dating back more than 2000 years. Meaning the “way of kicking and punching”, it was initially viewed as a form of military training which varied considerably in form.
For some 2000 years, a range of martial arts were practiced on the Korean peninsula. During the early 20th century, taekwondo became the dominant form of martial arts practiced in Korea. Subsequently taekwondo was designated as the Korean national martial art to be promoted internationally.
In 1973, World Taekwondo (WT; formerly named the World Taekwondo Federation) was created as the sport’s global governing body. The first World Championships were held in Seoul, Korea, that year.
In 1980 it was recognised as a sport by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which fast-tracked taekwondo’s development from a Korean martial art to a global sport as it is today.
Two competitive formats exist for taekwondo: Poomsae and kyorugi. Only kyorugi is an Olympic event. There are a plethora of national, regional and global kyorugi championships, from Cadets and Juniors to Seniors and Masters; from Opens to Worlds. An invitational Grand Prix series was instituted in 2013 to create a regular circuit for the sport’s elite athletes, to develop stars and upgrade the sport’s media exposure. This was enhanced even further in December 2017 when the Grand Slam Champions Series was launched which is open to only the very best athletes and showcases the latest innovations in the sport and offers record prize money.
World Taekwondo also promotes team taekwondo which is a fast and dynamic discipline in the sport. World Championships are held in team taekwondo and the winners of the mixed-gender team category at the last edition in Wuxi will take part in a demonstration at Tokyo 2020.
In its basic form, taekwondo requires no real equipment other than the human body, making it economical and easy-to-deploy. Widely practiced in the developed world, taekwondo is also an especially ideal sport for developing countries, and is taught in many refugee camps.
Taekwondo develops flexibility, agility, speed, power, stamina, making it a 360-degree fitness regimen. Due to its roots in martial arts, it also demands discipline and courtesy, while offering practitioners self-defense and self-belief. And at Olympic level, taekwondo’s wide range of constantly evolving kicking techniques, challenges the limits of human athletic endeavor.
Today, taekwondo is practiced by an estimated 80 million people in 209 countries, administered by five Continental Unions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Pan America and Oceania) - making it one of the world’s most popular sports.
World Weight Categories
Olympic Weight Categories
How to Play the Game
The aim of taekwondo is for the athlete to kick and punch the opponent, while avoiding being kicked and punched. Points are calibrated: The most challenging techniques, such as spinning kicks to the head, score higher than punches and basic kicks to the trunk. Tactics also come into play, as penalties are awarded against those players who fall, or who exit the matted area.
Matches are fought on a matted, octagonal field of play, which encourages lively footwork and evasive movement, while demanding good use of peripheral vision. Matches consist of three rounds of two minutes each, with one-minute breaks between rounds.
Leveraging Technology for Olympic
Taekwondo’s Protector and Scoring System, or PSS, was first adopted for Olympic competition at the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
The PSS is a system of electronic impact sensors built into the protective gear of the taekwondo athlete - the sock, the trunk protector and the head protector - which is wirelessly linked to the electronic scoreboard. When impact is made with the correct parts of the foot to the opponent’s head or trunk, points flash up on the scoreboard automatically.
The PSS has been a major step forward for the transparency and fairness of taekwondo competition. In terms of transparency, it grants the audience an immediate view of who is scoring. In terms of fairness, it obviates human error: Previously, taekwondo had relied upon judges to score techniques.
However, the three corner judges, using hand-held scoring devices, still score punches to the trunk and add technical points scored by turning/spinning kicks (which earn extra points, compared to basic kicks).
Rio 2016 was the first Olympic competition to include PSS in the head protector. Kicks to the head do not need to be as powerful, in terms of impact, as kicks to the trunk to register on the PSS. Prior to matches beginning, athletes hold out their head gear for their opponent to lightly kick to ensure that the sensors are working correctly.
PSS was included in the trunk protector for the first time in London 2012.
There are proximity sensors in each sock that ensure that kicks using different parts of the foot score.
TAEKWONDO AT THE OLYMPIC GAMES
Taekwondo’s first appearance at the Summer Olympic Games was in Seoul, in 1988, as a demonstration event. It appeared, again as a demonstration sport at Barcelona 1992. There were no demonstration sports at the Atlanta Games in 1996, but taekwondo reappeared as an official medal sport at Sydney 2000, then at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016 and will be on the Olympic programme for Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.
Para Taekwondo will also be included for the first time at the Paralympic Games at Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.
While the sport was customarily dominated by Koreans, this is no longer the case. In London 2012, only one gold medal went to Korea; the eight gold medals on offer were awarded to athletes from eight different countries. Taekwondo now offers one of the widest medal distributions in the Games. In Rio 2016, it gave Jordan its first-ever Olympic gold medal, Iran its first-ever female Olympic medal and Cote d’Ivoire its first-ever Olympic gold medal.
No male athlete has yet won gold at two successive Olympic Games. In the women's events, some athletes have achieved greater dominance. Wu Jingyu of China won gold in the 49kg category at both the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Games, while Great Britain's Jade Jones did likewise at London 2012 and Rio 2016 in the – 57kg event, having been a Youth Olympic Games gold medalist in 2010. Jade wants to "become a legend" by winning a third consecutive Olympic gold at the Tokyo 2020.
Why Taekwondo Matters
In its basic form, taekwondo requires no real equipment other than the human body, making it an economical, democratic and easy-to-deploy sport. Widely practiced in the developed world, taekwondo is also an especially ideal sport for developing countries, and is taught in refugee camps.
Taekwondo develops flexibility, agility, speed, power, stamina, making it a 360-degree fitness regimen. Due to its roots in martial arts, it also demands discipline and courtesy, while offering practitioners self-defense and self-belief. And at its elite, Olympic level, taekwondo’s wide range of constantly evolving kicking techniques challenge the limits of human athletic endeavor.