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Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.   Taekwondo was developed in post World War 2 Korea by various martial artists but is usually attributed to military general and martial artist Choi Hong Hi. Taekwondo is based on the native Korean martial arts of Taekkyeon, Subak and Gwonbeop but also has significant elements of other martial arts such as Japanese Karate and to a lesser extent Chinese Kung Fu. What we know for sure is that the name is derived from the Korean words Tae (meaning “foot”), Kwon (meaning “fist”), and Do (meaning “way of”). Therefore, the term literally means “the way of foot and fist.” Tae kwon do is characterized by the extensive use of high standing and jump kicks as well as punches and is practiced for sport, self-defense, and spiritual development.  

The oldest governing body for taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1959 through a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original Kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organizational bodies for taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the partnership of the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo Federation (WTF), founded in 1972 and 1973 respectively by the Korea Taekwondo Association. Since 2000, taekwondo has been one of only two Asian martial arts (the other being judo) that are included in the Olympic Games. In 2010, taekwondo was accepted as a Commonwealth Games sport.

In Taekwondo competition, the object is to land kicks and punches upon the scoring zones of your opponent. These are the the torso and the head and both kicks and punches must be accurate and powerful, as light tapping kicks are not counted by scorers (or electronic scoring systems in major competitions). At the end of the three rounds of the match, the player with the most points is declared the winner, but the match can end early by one player knocking the other player out.

Training in tae kwon do is carried out by learning individual techniques of kicking, punching, and blocking, which are practiced in combined series of techniques in traditional sets known as hyung. Students also practice basic sparring combinations (id-bo tueryon, “one-step sparring”); these are short, set sequences of attack and counter practiced between partners, after which the students may practice free sparring as opponents. In sparring, blows are stopped just short of contact.

Players & Equipment: In Taekwondo competition, fighters compete against other fighters of the same sex. They are also placed into weight categories to ensure that fights are as evenly matched as possible. In junior competitions, there may also be age categories. The white taekwondo uniform that competitors wear is often called a gi, but technically that is the Japanese name for a martial arts uniform and the proper Korean term is a dobok. A coloured belt is tied round the middle of the dobok and the colour signifies the grade of the practitioner. In a Taekwondo match, each competitor wears several pieces of protective equipment and these are:

  • Head guard
  • Chest (trunk) protector
  • Groin guard
  • Forearm guards
  • Hand protectors
  • Shin guards
  • Mouth guard

Rules of Taekwondo:

  • Taekwondo matches should be contested by competitors of the same sex and in the same classified weight category.
  • The competition area is a mat that measures 8 metres squared.
  • Taekwondo matches are contested over 3 x 2 minute rounds with a rest of 1 minute between rounds.
  • Each fighter attempts to knockout their opponent or score points by landing blows on their opponent’s torso or head. Kicks are allowed to both to the torso and head, whilst punches are only allowed to the body. Below the waist is not a permitted target.
  • If a fighter and their coach think that a point has been missed or that a mistake has been made, they can make a protest. A video replay is then looked at by judges and a decision is made.
  • The match is won by the fighter who knocks their opponent out or who has the greater number of points at the end of the three rounds.
  • If the match is a draw, a golden point round is fought, with the fighter landing the first scoring point being declared the winner.

The International Taekwon-Do Federation's sparring rules are similar to the WT's rules but differ in several aspects:

  • Hand attacks to the head are allowed.
  • The competition is not full contact, and excessive contact is not allowed.
  • Competitors are penalized with disqualification if they injure their opponent and he can no longer continue (knockout).
  • The scoring system is:
  1. One point for Punch to the body or head.
  2. Two points for Jumping kick to the body or kick to the head, or a jumping punch to the head
  3. Three points for Jumping kick to the head
  • The competition area is 9×9 meters for international events.

Penalties: Fighters can lose points by the way of penalties. These can be incurred by actions such as:

  • Punching to the face
  • Attacking with the knee
  • Attacking below the waist
  • Stepping out of the ring with both feet
  • Turning your back on your opponent
  • Pushing, holding or grabbing your opponent
  • Feigning injury

Competition: Taekwondo competition typically involves sparring, breaking, and patterns; some tournaments also include special events such as demonstration teams and self-defense. In Olympic taekwondo competition, however, only sparring (using WTF competition rules) is performed.

The World Taekwondo Federation directly sanctions the following competitions:

  1. World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships
  2. World Taekwondo Championships
  3. World Para Taekwondo Championships (since 2009)
  4. World Taekwondo Cadet Championships
  5. World Taekwondo Junior Championships
  6. World Taekwondo Team Championships
  7. World Taekwondo Para Championships
  8. World Taekwondo Grand Prix
  9. World Taekwondo Beach Championships
  10. Olympic Games
  11. Paralympic Games (debut in 2020 Tokyo Paralympics)

Other organizations: American Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) competitions are very similar, except that different styles of pads and gear are allowed. Apart from WTF and ITF tournaments, major taekwondo competitions (all featuring WTF taekwondo only) include:

  1. Universiade
  2. Asian Games
  3. African Games
  4. European Games
  5. Pan American Games
  6. Pacific Games
  7. Taekwondo is also an optional sport at the Commonwealth Games.

Taekwondo in India: Taekwondo is one of the most popular and practiced martial arts in India. Jimmy R. Jagtiani is considered one of the first people to have introduced taekwondo to the country and is sometimes referred to as the father of Indian taekwondo. In the year 1975, Taekwondo was introduced in India by Grand Master Jimmy R. Jagtiani. On 2nd Aug. 1976, the Taekwondo Federation of India (TFI) was formed and established as a National Body of Taekwondo in India. The World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) accorded affiliation to the Taekwondo Federation of India in 1978, the Asian Taekwondo Union (ATU) in 1982, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in 1985 and the South Asian Taekwondo Federation (SATF) in 1994 respectively. The Department of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India also granted recognition of the Taekwondo Federation of India as an apex judicial and autonomous National body of Taekwondo in India in 1988.

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