Taekwondo is a combat sport which means “the way of kicking and punching.”
Tokyo 2020 competition animation "One Minute, One Sport"
We will show you the rules and highlights of taekwondo in one minute. Whether you are familiar with taekwondo or want to know more about it, "One Minute, One Sport" explains the sport and how it works. Watch the video below.
For some 2,000 years, a range of martial arts were practised on the Korean peninsula. During the early 20th century, taekwondo became the dominant form of martial art practised in Korea. Subsequently, taekwondo was designated as Korea's national martial art to be promoted internationally.
Taekwondo's first appearance was as a demonstration event at the Summer Olympic Games at Seoul in 1988. It appeared again as a demonstration sport at Barcelona in 1992. There were no demonstration sports at Atlanta 1996, but taekwondo reappeared as a full medal sport at Sydney 2000 and has maintained its full medal sport status at Athens 2004, Beijing 2008, London 2012, Rio 2016, Tokyo 2020 and Paris 2024.
Today, taekwondo is practised by an estimated 80 million people in more than 200 countries and territories, administered by five Continental Unions (Africa, Asia, Europe, Pan America and Oceania), making it one of the world's most popular sports.
- Men -58kg
- Men -68kg
- Men -80kg
- Men +80kg
- Women -49kg
- Women -57kg
- Women -67kg
- Women +67kg
Essence of the Sport
Full contact — the key to success
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.
Taekwondo's Protector and Scoring System, or PSS, was first adopted for Olympic competition at London 2012.
The PSS is a system of electronic impact sensors built into the protective gear of the taekwondo athlete — the sock protector, 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.
However, the three corner judges, using handheld 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).
Outlook for the Tokyo 2020 Games
A sport with growing global appeal
While the sport was customarily dominated by Koreans, this is no longer the case. At the London 2012 Games, only one gold medal went to Korea, with the eight gold medals on offer awarded to athletes from eight different countries. Taekwondo now offers one of the widest medal distributions. At Rio 2016, it gave first-ever Olympic gold medals to Jordan and Cote d'Ivoire, and Iran its first-ever female Olympic medal.
As of today, no male athlete has 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 Beijing 2008 and London 2012, while in the -57kg event, Great Britain's Jade Jones won gold at London 2012 and Rio 2016. Jones has said she wants to "become a legend" by winning a third consecutive Olympic gold at the Tokyo 2020.
For the first time at the Olympic Games, a 4D camera will be set up on the taekwondo court to capture all matches. The system provides 360-degree scans of the action, enabling viewers to see every angle of the athletes' spectacular acrobatics. A new competition uniform using high-tech materials will also be introduced.
If the referee notices first and instructs the athlete to correct their protection.