London 2012

Guide to Taekwondo

Last Updated: 26/07/11 4:29pm

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A relatively new addition to the Olympic schedule, Taekwondo will be a fast and furious martial art on view in London.

Points are awarded by the judges for successful attacks on an opponent, but each competitor can also be penalised to varying degrees by the officials for actions which fall outside the rules.

There are four judges, one stationed at each corner of the arena, with at least three of the officials needing to register the score for it to count.


  • Taekwonda - A Taekwondo athlete
  • Chung - The competitor wearing blue
  • Hong - The competitor wearing red
  • Hogu - Trunk protector
  • Deuk-jum - A point
  • Kyong-go - Warning penalty. Two = a one-point deduction
  • Gam-jum - A one-point penalty
  • Dobok - The white Taekwondo uniform

A foot or fist attack which strikes the trunk protector with sufficient accuracy and power will be awarded one point, while a successful foot attack to the head - fist attacks to the head are prohibited - will garner two points.

An additional point will be awarded should an opponent face the referee's count after being knocked down, while a contestant will be declared the winner if their rival is counted out or knocked out.

Only the parts of the foot below the ankle may be used for foot attacks, meaning the use of the knee or shin is not acceptable, while only closed hand attacks are allowed. Any attacks to the back of the head are outlawed.

The two types of penalties - warnings and points deductions - are imposed for various infringements, and two warning penalties lead to a one-point deduction.

Athletes who attack below the waist, feign injury, attack with their head or knee, turn their back on an opponent, attempt to stall the match or indulge in grabbing, holding or pushing will be warned, known as a Kyong-go penalty.

Immediate deductions - Gam-jum penalties - include attacking an opponent who is on the floor, or when the round has been stopped or intentionally attacking the face with the hand.

Due to the particularly physical nature of the sport, all contestants - or Taekwonda - wear a great deal of protective equipment, including trunk protectors and head guards, plus further guards or protectors for their groin, forearms, shins and hands.


The ancient martial art of Taekwondo has only been part of the Olympic schedule since 1988 when it was included as a demonstration sport at the Seoul Games.

Seoul was a fitting venue for Taekwondo to make its bow onto the Olympic stage, as the sport's origins are rooted deep in Korean history, with tomb paintings from 50BC showing men in fighting stances.

Translating into English as 'The way of the foot and the fist', the form of Taekwondo which will be on show in London 2012 was agreed upon in 1955, with a further demonstration outing in Barcelona 1992 prior to becoming an official Olympic sport at the 2000 Sydney Games.

A total of 128 athletes - 64 men and 64 women - will compete for the eight gold medals available at London's ExCeL in the four different weight categories for each gender.

The competition is based on a knockout format with the winner progressing to the next round and the two finalists contesting the gold medal. The bronze medal will be decided by a repechage contest, involving all athletes who have lost to one of the finalists.

Each contest is fought in a ring measuring 10 metres by 10 metres and consists of three two-minute rounds, with a rest period of one minute between each round, with the highest scoring contestant then declared the winner.

Should the athletes' score be tied at the end of the third round, then an additional sudden-death final round of a further two minutes will take place, with the judges then called on to name a winner if required.

Sarah Stevenson became Britain's first-ever Taekwondo medallist

The four weight categories for men are under 58kg, under 68kg, under 80kg and over 80kg, while the women compete in the under 49kg, under 57kg, under 67kg and over 67kg class.

Olympic Greats

Hadi Saei: With the honour of being the most successful Olympian in Iran's history, Hadi Saei has two golds and one bronze medal to his name.

He hung up his dobok in November 2008 having finished third in Sydney before claiming the 68kg title in Athens and the 80kg crown in Beijing, despite fracturing his hand in the first round.

Zhong Chen: The double Olympic champion was unable to achieve her dream of claiming a third successive gold medal in front of her own supporters in Beijing. Having claimed glory as a 17-year-old in Athens, Chen again triumphed in the over 67kg category in Athens before a controversial defeat at the hands of Sarah Stevenson in China in 2008.

Ones to watch

Steven Lopez: Five-time world champion Lopez has his sights set on a third Olympic Gold having had to settle for bronze in Beijing in 2008 in controversial circumstances. The American topped the podium in Sydney in the 58-68kg category before making the step up to 68-80kg for the Athens Games where he again saw off the field to take glory.


Aaron Cook took up the sport after being taken to his first Taekwondo class by his parents when aged eight as he was so keen on Power Rangers.

Aaron Cook: One of Great Britain's brightest hopes for a medal in 2012, Cook, then aged just 17, came close to glory in Beijing in 2008 before an agonising semi-final defeat. Cook enjoyed one of his greatest victories of his fledgling career when he defeated Lopez at the inaugural Taekwondo Pro Tour meeting in Mexico in November 2009.

Best of British

Sarah Stevenson: Stevenson became Britain's first-ever medallist since Taekwondo became a full Olympic event with bronze in Beijing in dramatic fashion. Stevenson was awarded victory over double Olympic champion Chen Zhong after challenging the original judges' verdict and went on to take bronze via the repechage.

Amanda Jane Broadbent: Taekwondo was still only deemed a demonstration sport when Broadbent claimed the bronze medal in 1992 in Barcelona. Fighting in the under 43kg (fin) category - the original eight weight divisions were reduced to four for Athens 2004 - the Great Britain athlete enjoyed success.

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