Sometimes called ‘boxing with the feet’, Taekwondo is a dynamic martial art offering tension, drama and non-stop action.
Taekwondo is a martial art created by Choi Hong Hi in the Republic of Korea in 1955. It is based on taekkyeon, a much older traditional martial art from the Korean peninsula, and Japanese Shotokan karate, and became Korea's national sport. There are an estimated 80 million enthusiasts worldwide.
Taekwondo appeared as a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Games, and was made an official sport at Sydney 2000. It is one of the two Asian martial arts included on the Olympic programme. Taekwondo originally had forms known as Kyorugi and Poomsae, with Kyorugi adopted for the Games.
Taekwondo is contested in a tournament format with four classes for both men and women, divided by weight. Matches are played out on an octagonal mat with a diameter of eight metres, over three two-minute rounds, with a one-minute interval between the rounds. The object of Taekwondo is to land kicks and punches on the opponent's scoring zones: a match can be won by knockout or by an aggregate of positive and negative points. Head and body protection is worn by the athletes.
International Federation:World Taekwondo
Full contact the key to success
The appeal of Taekwondo is the sheer diversity of full contact kicking techniques deployed, including the front kick, side kick, spinning kick or the reverse roundhouse kick, all delivered from a wide range of angles and directions and at high speed.
Attacks to the lower half of the body are prohibited, as are punches to the face. Some hand techniques exist, but these are to the body only.
Points are awarded for landing an attack to the protector. Three points are awarded for a straight kick to the head, and five points for a spinning kick to the head; two points are awarded for a straight kick to the torso, and four points for a spinning kick to the torso; and one point is awarded for a punch to the torso.
If an athlete falls and fails to take up a fighting pose after the count of eight, this is a knockout and the match ends there. A KO, however, is not common and most matches are determined on points. Negative points can also be incurred as a penalty for an evasive, passive stance.
To aid accurate judging in international events, protectors, headgear and socks with electronic sensors are worn to indicate the accuracy and strength of strikes.
A sport with growing global appeal
As the national sport of the Republic of Korea, it is natural that the country's athletes are traditionally strong. At the Rio 2016 Games, Kim So-hui and Oh Hye-ri won gold in the women's - 49kg and - 67kg events. In the men's competition, three Korean athletes took away bronze medals.
No male athlete has yet won gold at two successive Games, a reflection of the increasing standard of competition around the world. At the 2017 World Championships, in addition to the Republic of Korea, the People's Republic of China, Thailand, Turkey, the Russian Federation, Iran and Great Britain all won three or more medals. Azerbaijan also put in a good performance at Rio 2016, finishing with two medals.
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 medallist in 2010.
While the Republic of Korea remains a force to be reckoned with, the sport is now practised in more than 200 countries with many producing athletes with genuine medal potential.
- Makuhari Messe Hall A