Taekwondo first appeared in the Olympics as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.
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 will be one of the 26 sports in both the Beijing 2008 and 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, front, back kicks are most often used.
The competition is fought on a ring which measures 10m x 10m.
The contestants wear a red or blue trunk protector (hogu) and head protector, a groin guard, forearm guards, shin guards, hand protectors, and a mouthpiece.
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 3rd round, a 4th round of two minutes will be conducted as the sudden death overtime round.
In the event of a tied score after the sudden death 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.
Contestants are only allowed to strike with a closed hand, 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.
Attacks to the head are only allowed by foot techniques. Attacking the back of the head is prohibited, as are all hand techniques to the head.
Points are awarded when permitted techniques deliver full force (Doesn't have to be full force. Accurate and powerful, yes, but a balance of the two). Points may be awarded by judges for a successful technique as follows:
· One point for foot or fist attack that strikes the trunk protector.
· Two points for a turning kick that strikes the trunk Protector.
· Three points for a foot technique to the head guard
· Four points for a turning kick to the head guard
Declared winner if the opponent is knocked out or counted out.
Two types of penalties may be assigned for prohibited acts, "kyong-go" (warning penalty) and "geom-jum" (deduction penalty). Two "kyong-go" deduct one point and a "geom-jum" deducts one full point.
"Kyong-go" penalties include: evading by turning the back to the opponent; falling down; avoiding/stalling the match; grabbing, holding, or pushing; attacking below the waist; pretending injury; butting or attacking with knee; hitting the opponent’s face with the hand.
"Geom-jum" penalties include: attacking the opponent when the round has stopped; attacking a fallen opponent; intentionally attacking the opponent’s face with the hand.
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.