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The origins of Taekwondo, which go back two thousand years, lie in Korea. During its history, this sport has been known by various names, like Taekyon or Subak. Its official name nowadays, Taekwondo, was announced in 1955; a year later, the first championships were held. The Korean Taekwondo Federation was founded in 1965, and the World Taekwondo Federation was founded in 1973. During the same year the first World Championship took place.

In recent years, taekwondo has become a modern amateur sport yet taekwondo has maintained its tradition and spirit of martial science. Today, taekwondo is one of the most popular international sports being practised in 157 countries with its population of more than 50 million throughout the world.


Olympic History

1980 was an important year for the sport, since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) acknowledged Taekwondo as an Olympic sport. It was included as a display event in two successive Olympic Games: in Seoul (1988) and Barcelona (1992). Taekwondo was included on the Olympic Games competition schedule for the first time at the Sydney Games in 2000.


Taekwondo is a defensive martial art that combines philosophy, mental discipline, physical exercise, and physical ability. It promotes a wide range of principles:

  • Self-defence (i.e. the apprentice’s ability to defend oneself against any form of violence;
  • Good physical condition;
  • Self-confidence, respect, and justice;
  • Good health, regardless of age, gender or physique;
  • Olympic-level competition Taekwondo today is considered one of the finest self-defence martial arts, and is practised at championship level in more than 150 countries.

In Taekwondo, the competitor tries to score the most points. If a competitor incurs three penalties then his or her opponent wins the match.

Competition Area - Field of Play

The Competition Area comprises of a Contest Area measuring 8x8m2, having a flat surface without any obstructing projections. The Contest Area, a 10 x 10 m surface, is covered with an elastic mat. The competition area will be raised onto a podium 50-60 cm from the base. The outer part of the boundary line must be over 2m wide, with an inclination of less than 30 degrees, for the safety of the contestants.


The Dobok – Taekwondo Uniform

The Taekwondo uniform is known as a dobok, and consists of white cotton trousers and a shirt (white symbolises purity). Both the trousers and shirt are roomy and very comfortable, allowing the bearer freedom of movement for his/her arms and legs.

Protective Equipment

As Taekwondo is a full contact sport, contestants are required to wear protective equipment before entering the competition area. Protective equipment used in Taekwondo competitions include headgear, a trunk (body) protector, forearm and shin guards and a groin guard.

Grades of Belts

The Taekwondo system of graded belts enables one to see at a glance what level of skill a taekwondoka (or Taekwondo athlete) has reached; what range of knowledge he or she has; and what contribution he or she has made to the sport. The grade is shown by the colour of the waist belt. There are two types of grades, Kup and Dan. Dan grades are the higher of the two, and are indicated by a gold line for each grade on the belt.

KUP: White belt, Yellow belt, Green belt, Blue belt, Red belt

DAN: Black belt

Every beginner starts with a white belt. Black belts are awarded to apprentices who have a good knowledge of Taekwondo techniques and have shown seriousness and dedication as pupils. It takes two to three years of training to attain black belt status.


The Olympic competition format currently includes four weight classes each for men and women, half the number used in World Championships. It involves a single-elimination tournament to decide the gold and silver medals.

All competitors defeated by the two finalists get another chance in a second bracket to compete for the bronze. The two losing semi-finalists move directly into the semi-finals of that second bracket. All others who lost to the two finalists compete in single elimination within their original pools, and two winners emerge to fill the remaining semi-final spots. Each pool's winner then faces the losing semi-finalist from the opposite pool, and the two winners compete for the bronze.


Contests are scored by awarding a point for each legitimate blow. For example it’s one point for a chest shot with an extra point for a rotating 360 kick. Likewise, 3 points for a head kick with an extra point if this is achievement with a 360 spin.

For a more detailed account of taekwondo rules click here

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Sydney 2000
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Athens 2004
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Beijing 2008
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London 2012
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Nanjing 2014
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