Olympic Taekwondo Competition Overview         Olympic Rule changes September 24th, 2003!

New WTF Rule Amendments April 12, 2005 *Gloves?*

Tae Kwon Do is a martial art form that evolved over many decades starting in Korea. It's method is primarily kicking, although various blows by hand, head, foot, knee, and elbow may also be applied. It has four main components of practice and demonstration: Form (Poomse), Sparring (Kyorugi), Self-Defense (Ho Shin Sool), Breaking (Kyukpa). Tae Kwon Do has developed into both a traditional Martial art and Olympic medal sport. Olympic sport rules limit blows by closed fore-fist and foot only. No punching above the throat base is allowed, although kicks to the face are legal. Today only sparring is demonstrated at the Olympic level.

Christened in 1955 as a new martial art, Tae Kwon Do eventually developed into an Olympic medal sport. The ITF (International Taekwon-Do Federation) had considerable success in bringing it to the world through the 60's and early 70's. They currently maintain millions of members in 112+ countries worldwide. Beginning in 1972-73, Kukkiwon and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) became the first  (1980) Tae Kwon Do organization recognized by the International Olympic Committee. In 1988 and 1992 Taekwondo appeared at the Olympics as a demonstration sport. Taekwondo was adopted as an official medal sport of the Sydney 2000 Olympics and is a confirmed participant in the 2004 Athens and 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.  At present Olympic rules for Taekwondo remain derived from the WTF, headquartered in Seoul Korea. For more details click here. Although WTF currently recognizes only Kukkiwon certification, events sanctioned by the BC Taekwondo Association do not discriminate nor restrict based on TKD style, focusing on access for all, introducing the Olympic rules to a larger audience. This concept is a constant in Olympic games and global sports in today's world.

Form (Poomse)
In general, events sanctioned by the BC Taekwondo Association will openly invite any style of Poomse (form) as long as it comes from a recognized body (for example ITF, Kukkiwon, ATA, etc.)  This page deals with sparring only.

Olympic Sparring Modified Rules
For purposes more suited to community events some minor variations are commonly adopted, these changes generally apply to non Black Belt competition or non Black Belt children, competitors under the age of 15. This does not effect scoring nor punitive deductions. These guidelines are at the discretion of the event host, set in advance. Below are a list of popular adjustments.

Recommended Divisions Generic Tournament App

Color Belts 2 rounds @ 1 minute each 1- 30 second break
Black Belts 2 rounds @ 2 minutes each 1- 60 second break
Black belt eliminations 3 rounds @ 2 minutes each 2- 60 second break
Olympic 3 rounds @ 3 minutes each 2- 60 second break
Olympic Female & World Game 3 rounds @ 2 minutes each 2- 60 second break

  • Kicking to the head eliminated in colour belt some categories.
  • Contest area may be reduced.6M x 6M (20'x20') should be considered a bare inner minimum. Recommend 8M x 8M minimum for color belt adult.
  • Categories may be restricted (Example, Light and Heavy or Light, Middle, Heavy) Categories may be re-assigned with consideration for height as well as weight. In some cases categories are created to fit the need (Example: a middle division, where only light and heavy were originally arranged.)

September 24th, 2003 ~ With little notice, some striking new changes have been introduced and will go into effect on this day. Although not impactful initially at the community level, this will affect Provincial class, National levels and above... highlights below...
¨       Four deduction points before being disqualified
¨       Gamjeom for crossing the boundary line
¨       Crossing the boundary line with two feet out instead of o­ne
¨       One hand signal for everything
¨       Ties decided by the judges
¨       Changes to the Kyongo and Gamjeom categories

WTF Website ~ Current Olympic Rules / Competition Rules

Competitors may register and compete in one rank category only. Players must supply their own suitable equipment, in good condition chest protector, head gear, groin guard, mouth guard, shin & instep. Forearm guards are also recommended. A proper martial arts uniform is required, ideally a white Taekwondo v-neck.

It may be arranged that an inspection table be setup. This is best, but the referee may still reject equipment or it's adjustments if he/she feels the competitor(s) is at risk.

Contest Area
The contest is conducted on an ten meter by ten meter square, called the contest area. Twelve-meter surrounds this area by twelve-meter square called the competition area. The inside line is the ALERT LINE. The outside line is the BOUNDARY LINE. There are judges at ring edge and one center referee. The judge's job is to register the valid point when they see it. Penalties are indicated on the scoreboard as the center referee declares them. The referee's job is to open and close the match, declare penalties, declare the match results and in case of a tie score, declare the winner. The center referee also must ensure safety of the competitors, ensure a fair game and promote ideal technique by managing the match through application of the rules.

There are six ways to win
Taekwondo contests (this is a contest, not a fight:) have very specific and complex rules and regulations designed to ensure the safety of the competitors, to create a fair environment in which to compete and to promote ideal and appropriate technique. The object of the contest is to demonstrate technical superiority over ones opponent.

1. Win by K.O.
2. Win by Referee Stop Contest (RSC)
3. Win by score or superiority
4. Win by withdrawal
5. Win by disqualification
6. Win by Referee’s punitive declaration

Scoring, Permitted area & technique
The corner judges are looking for power, accuracy and permitted technique applied to the legal scoring area when determining the valid point.

The part of the body from the top of the hips to the collarbone that is covered by the chest protector is permitted are for hand (fore fist only) and foot (below the ankle) technique. The colored portions are the scoring areas. The head and face (including the throat) form approximately the ears forward and the top of the forehead down is a legal scoring area for foot technique only.

Hand signals are used as a universal way to indicate warnings and penalties to the competitors and judges. Solely the center referee performs these. The corner judges award points. At the ring head is a table where a score keeper records points and a timekeeper records and indicates round & break ends. (Time is shouted and in the case of a round end, a wrapped belt is tossed into the ring to attract the referee's attention)

Prohibited Acts
There are two kinds of prohibited acts, Kyong-Go (Warning) and Gam-Jeom (Deduction point). Two warnings equals one full minus point. If the competitor accumulates a total of three minus points he/she shall be disqualified. Prohibited acts are defined as follows: Please view the PFD document above or attend the WTF site
  for current details.



Article 14. Prohibited Acts WTF Competition Rules & Interpretation 2002

  1. Penalties on any prohibited acts shall be declared by the Referee.
  2. In the case of multiple penalties being committed simultaneously, the heavier penalty shall be declared.
  3. Penalties are divided into "Kyong-go" (warning penalty) and "Gam-jeom" (deduction penalty).
  4. Two "Kyong-gos" shall be counted as deduction of one (1) point. However, the odd "Kyong-go" shall not be counted in the
      grand total.
  5. A "Gam-jeom" shall be counted as minus one (-1) point.
  6. Prohibited acts: "Kyong-go" penalty
     1) Interference with the progress of the match
a. Crossing the Boundary Line
        b. Falling down
        c. Evading by turning the back to the opponent
     2) Undesirable acts
a. Grabbing the opponent
        b. Holding the opponent
        c. Touching the opponent with the hand or the trunk
        d. Pretending injury
        e. Butting or attacking with knee
        f. Attacking the groin
        g. Stamping or kicking any part of the leg or foot
        h. Hitting the opponent’s face with hands or fist
        i. Interrupting the progress of the match on the part of contestant or the coach
        j. Avoiding the match
  7. Prohibited acts: "Gam-jeom" penalty
    1) Interference with the progress of the match
a. Throwing down the opponent by grappling the opponent’s attacking foot inthe air with the arm or by pushing the opponent
             with the hand
        b. Intentionally attacking the fallen opponent after declaration of "Kal-yeo"
        c. Intentionally attacking the opponent’s face with fist
    2) Undesirable acts
a. Temporary suspension of the match due to violent remarks or behaviors on the part of the contestant or the coach
  8. When a contestant intentionally refuses to comply with the Competition Rules or the Referee’s order, the Referee may
      declare the contestant loser by penalty after 1 (one) minute.
  9. When the contestant receives minus three (-3) points, the Referee shall declare him/her loser by penalties.
10. "Kyong-go" and "Gam-jeom" shall be counted in the total score of the three rounds.
       Objectives in establishing the prohibited acts:
          1. To protect the competitor
          2. To ensure fair competition management  
          3. To encourage appropriate or ideal techniques
             (Explanation #1) Multiple penalties being committed simultaneously:
              In this instance, only the severer penalty may be assessed. For instance, if a "Kyong-go" penalty and a "Gam-jeom"
              occur simultaneously, the "Gam-jeom" must be assessed. If both violations are of equal severity, the Referee will use
              his/her own discretion in choosing which penalty to declare.
            (Explanation #2) Two "Kyong-gos" shall be counted as a deduction of one (1) point:
              However, the final odd "Kyong-go" shall have no value in the total score. Every two "Kyong-gos" shall count as minus
              one point regardless of whether the committed violations are the same or different acts, and regardless of the round in
              which they occur.
            (Explanation #3) Prohibited acts: Kyong-go

1. Interference with the progress of the match
                  1) Crossing the Boundary Line
                      When both feet of a contestant move out of the Boundary Line, the Referee shall give a "Kyung-go" penalty
                  2) Falling down
                      In case a contestant falls down due to the opponent’s prohibited acts, "Kyong-go" penalty shall not be given to the
                      contestant, and penalty shall be given to the opponent. Although a contestant falls down while performing a
                      technique or attacking, "Kyong-go" shall be given. In case both contestants fall down, the one who falls
                      down intentionally or falls down first will be given the penalty.
                  3) Evading by turning the back to the opponent
                     This act involves turning the back to avoid the opponent’s attack and this act should be punished as it expresses
                      the lack of fair play spirit and may cause a serious injury. Same penalty should also be given to evading the
                     opponent’s attacks by bending down the waist level or crouching.

2. Undesirable acts
                   1) Grabbing the opponent
                       This includes grabbing any part of the opponent’s body, uniform or protective equipment with the hands. Also
                       included is the act of grabbing the foot or leg or hooking either one on top of the forearm.
                   2) Holding the opponent with the hand or arm
                       Pressing the opponent’s shoulder with the hand or arm, hooking the opponent’s body with the arm with the
                       intention of hindering the opponent’s motion. If during the competition the arm passes beyond the opponent’s
                       shoulder or armpit for the abovementioned purpose, a penalty must be declared.
                   3) Touching the opponent with the hand or the trunk
                       Pushing the opponent with the hand, or stretches the arms and takes down.
                   4) Pretending injury
                       Punishing the absence of the spirit of fair play is the intention of this sub-article. This means exaggerating injury
                       or indicating pain in a body part not subjected to a blow for the purpose of demonstrating the opponent’s action
                       as a violation, and also exaggerating pain for the purpose of elapsing the game time. In this case, the Referee
                       shall give the indication to continue the match to the contestant two times with five (5) seconds interval, and then
                       shall give "Kyong-go" penalty unless the contestant follows the instruction of the Referee.
                   5) Butting or attacking with the knee or forehead
                       This article refers to an intentional butting or attacking with the knee when in close proximity to the opponent,
                       However, actions of attacking with the knee that happen in the following situations cannot be punished by this
                       a. When the opponent rushes in abruptly at the moment of performing foot techniques.
                       b. Inadvertently, or as the result of a discrepancy in distance in attacking.
                   6) Attacking the groin
                       This article applies to an intentional attack to the groin. When a blow to the groin is caused by the recipient of the
                       blow or occurs in the course of an exchange of techniques, no penalty is given.
                   7) Stamping or kicking any part of the leg or foot
                       This article applies to strong kicking or stamping actions to any part of the thigh, knee or shin for the purpose of
                       interfering with the opponent’s technique. No penalty will be given to those actions that occur through inadvertent
                       contacts or normal technical exchanges.
                   8) Hitting the opponent’s face with the hands or fist
                       This article includes hitting the opponent’s face with the hand (fist), wrist, arm, or elbow. However, unavoidable
                       actions due to the opponent’s carelessness such as excessively lowering the head or carelessly turning the body
                       cannot be punished by this article.
                   9) Interrupting the progress of the match on the part of the contestant or the coach
                       This includes:
                        - When a coach leaves the designated Coach’s Mark during the match creating a disturbance or intentionally
                           leaving the Competition Area.
                        - When a coach goes around the Competition Area with a purpose of interfering with the progress of the match or
                           making a protest against the Referee’s decision.
                        - When a coach or contestant gestures to indicate scoring or deduction of points.
                 10) Avoiding the match
                       - In case a contestant avoids the fighting with no intention to attack. The penalty shall be given to the one more
                         defensive and steps back more frequently.
                        (Explanation #4) When both contestants get too close, it is permitted to push the opponent with the fist.
                         However, the use of the hands on the purpose to fall the opponent down is prohibited and penalty shall be
                        (Explanation #5) The Referee may use his/her own discretion to give "Joo-eui" (Caution) before giving "Kyong-go"
                         penalty to a contestant for his/her undesirable acts. However, the use of "Jooeui" shall be permitted twice at the
                         maximum, and "Kyong-go" penalty shall be declared for the third commitment. If the act is considered
                         intentional, "Kyong-go" shall be declared without prior "Joo-eui". "Joo-eui" shall not be used for the act of 
                         "Interference with the progress of the match."
                        (Explanation #6) Prohibited acts: "Gam-jeom" penalty

1. Interference with the progress of the match
                             a) Intentionally throwing down the opponent by grappling the opponent’s attacking foot in the air with the arm
                                 or pushing the opponent with the hand.Action to interfere with the opponent’s attack by grappling the
                                 opponent’s foot in the air or pushing with the hand.
                             b) Attacking the fallen opponent after "Kal-yeo" This action is extremely dangerous due to the high probability
                                of injury to the opponent. The danger arises from:
                                 - The fallen opponent might be in a state of unprotectedness in that moment.
                                 - The impact of any technique which strikes a fallen contestant will be greater due to the contestant’s
                                   position. These types of aggressive actions toward a fallen opponent are not in accordance with the spirit
                                   of Taekwondo and so are not appropriate to Taekwondo competition. With this regard, penalties should
                                   be given on attacking the fallen opponent intentional or unintentional. "Gam-jeom" penalty should be
                                   given in case a contestant attacks or pretends to attack the fallen opponent intentionally.
                             c) Intentionally attacking the opponent’s face with fist. A "Gam-jeom" penalty shall be given to the one who
                                 has committed any of the following by the Referee’s own decision:
                                 - When the starting point of the fist attack was over the shoulder.
                                 - When the fist attack was made upward.
                                 - When the attack was made in a close distance for the purpose of causing an injury, not as a part of
                                   technical exchanges.

2. Undesirable acts
                              a) A temporary suspension of the match due to violent remarks or behaviors on the part of the contestant or
                                 the coach. In this instance, the undesirable behaviors include shouting, threatening the Referee, protesting
                                 against the Referee’s decision in an illegal way. When misconduct is committed by a contestant or coach
                                 during the rest period, the Referee can immediately declare the penalty and that penalty shall be recorded
                                 on the next round’s results.
                                (Explanation #7) The Referee may declare the competitor the loser by penalty:
                                 The Referee can declare a competitor loser without the accumulation of minus 3 (-3) penalty points when
                                 the competitor or coach ignores or violates the basic principles of conduct or fundamental principles of the
                                 Competition Rules or Referee’s directives. Particularly, if the competitor shows the intention to injure or
                                 commit a flagrant violation in spite of the Referee’s cautionary directives, such a competitor must
                                 immediately be declared loser by penalties.
                                (Explanation #8) When the contestant receives (-3) points the Referee shall declare him/her loser by
                                 penalties:  Minus three points means a total accumulation of -3 points, without regard to classification as
                                 to "Kyong-go" or "Gam-jeom." When a contestant accumulates -3 points, that contestant is automatically
                                 the loser. In this instance, the Referee must declare the other contestant winner unconditionally.

Q: How can one become an International Referee in Taekwondo?