Martial arts can be hard or soft, and not all are designed as full contact. And full contact is sometimes practiced at full power and speed. But is Taekwondo full contact?
Here’s what I learned training with a black belt:
Taekwondo is one of many full-contact martial arts, such as some forms of Karate and MMA. The strikes and kicks delivered in practicing Taekwondo are designed to strike pads or opponents at full speed and power once properly trained.
Martial arts have numerous advantages, the most notable of which are the health benefits, body balance, and flexibility.
Taekwondo, for example, is quite popular and, if pursued, can be very physically fulfilling. And as I said, it is definitely full contact.
But what about Aikido?
Aikido sometimes gets a bad rap due to its “do no harm” ethos. But do you actually hit each other in Aikido? How does it compare to Taekwondo?
In a recent article of mine, I wrote about the differences and similarities between Aikido and Taekwondo, if you are not sure how they differ.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Taekwondo’s popularity can be gauged by the fact that it is not limited to Korea. It is practiced worldwide. As a result, it is not just considered a Korean sport.
But how much contact is there? Do practitioners really go at full speed and power? Are pads and headgear used for protection?
Let’s explore just how much contact there really is.
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— Macho (@machosparring) October 25, 2019
What are semi-contact martial arts?
A semi-contact martial art is often a combat sport that includes striking and physical contact between contestants, but the techniques are limited in their power, and it is against the rules to render an opponent unconscious.
So it’s like the martial equivalent of flag football.
Some semi-contact sports employ a point system to determine the winner and use considerably protective gear to keep competitors safe.
So for example in a UFC fight, there are rules (no groin kicks or eye-gouging). But it’s pretty unrestricted. And those MMA fighters ideally want a knockout where their opponent goes unconscious. And there have been plenty of broken legs and fractured orbital sockets in those fights.
But a semi-contact martial art would be a lot more restrictive. There are a lot more rules to follow, and it’s more of a sporting event than a death match.
Another sign of a semi-contact martial arts competition system is that when a point is awarded, the opponents are separated.
And then the match is resumed from a safe distance. Still, it is often debatable whether some martial arts sports belong in one contact group or another.
— Austin Verge (@VergeMMA) April 17, 2014
Are you allowed to punch in Taekwondo?
Taekwondo allows punches to the body, but punches to the head are not allowed. So while kicks are most commonly thought of for Taekwondo, strikes, and punches are very much part of the curriculum also.
But let’s be honest. Taekwondo is a kicking-focused Korean martial art.
Fighters in full body armor compete to see who can land the most kicks. All kicks are scored by electronic means; combatants wear socks with special sensors.
Kicks against their opponent’s body armor are only registered if they are executed with appropriate force, which is set differently for each weight division.
Kicks to the head are penalized for safety reasons if the athlete’s foot merely touches the opponent’s face (or head guard) devoid of power.
A match consists of three rounds of two minutes each.
If points are tied after three rounds, a “golden point” round is introduced. At that time, the fighter who scores first – using any tactic – wins.
Still 0-0. I’d like to see a goalless taekwondo match, just to see if it goes to penalty kicks. #Tokyo2020
(A friend’s dad once went to a rugby match – in the Borders, obviously – and it actually finished 0-0. Never went back.) pic.twitter.com/TS5sb4LfLG
— Craig (@craiging619) July 25, 2021
What is not allowed in Taekwondo?
Taekwondo does not allow punches or kicks to the face or kicks below the waist. Additionally, attacking an opponent with the knee or the head is also prohibited.
Taekwondo’s penalty is called a gam-jeom. Gam-jeom translates as penalty or deduction of points.
Athletes are penalized if they block a kick from their opponent’s leg with their leg. But only if they have their leg in the air for more than three seconds to hamper an opponent’s perspective through offensive actions.
Or if a kick is assessed to be aimed below the waist.
Taekwondo competitors lose points for crossing the boundary line with both feet, collapsing, avoiding or delaying the match, and shoving or grasping their opponents.
Contestants must also be mindful of how they deliver their kicks towards the opponent.
This is because attacking with the bottom or side of the foot while the knee is pointed out in clinch posture might result in a point deduction.
It is also forbidden to attack a fallen opponent. Any misbehavior or unsportsmanlike behavior on the part of the contender or their coach might cost them a point.
— USACE HQ (@USACEHQ) April 18, 2019
Is Taekwondo a fake martial art?
Taekwondo is not fake and is as authentic as any martial art. But it is also a sport which is why it is included in the Olympics. It sometimes receives criticism due to how quickly some schools award black belts.
And that is a legit criticism.
Any school that offers a black belt in just 2-3 years is sending their students the wrong message. And a black belt in Taekwondo who got a black belt that quickly would pale in comparison to a BJJ black belt who spent at least 10 years getting theirs.
With true mastery, there is no substitute for time.
Taekwondo is a martial art that evolved into a modern form of self-defense by mixing many distinct forms of Korean martial arts.
This happened over the last 2,000 years, as well as certain martial arts styles from nations surrounding Korea.
Taekwondo combines Karate’s sharp linear movements and Kung-fu’s circular patterns with native kicking skills. In modern Taekwondo, over fifty characteristic Chinese circular hand moves can be found.
Some of the earliest martial arts styles that influenced Taekwondo include:
- T’ang-su/Tang Soo Do
- Taek Kyon, also known as Subak
- Tae Kwon
- Tae Kwonpup
Taekwondo practice has been documented since around 50 B.C.
Tae Kyon (also known as Subak) is the earliest known form of Taekwondo. Paintings from this era have been discovered on the roof of the Muyong-chong, a Koguryo Dynasty royal tomb.
The paintings depict unarmed people employing tactics that are strikingly comparable to those employed by Taekwondo today.
Taek Kyon was mostly employed as a sport and recreational activity during the Silla dynasty (A.D. 668 to A.D. 935).
During the Koryo period, Taek Kyon’s name was changed to Subak, and the art’s emphasis was shifted (A.D. 935 to A.D. 1392).
When King Uijong reigned from 1147 to 1170, he transformed Subak from a fitness-promoting system to a fighting skill.
When did Taekwondo become rules-based?
Since 1973, the World Taekwondo Federation has made significant efforts to regulate tournament rules and stage world-class competitions.
Following the World Taekwondo Championship held in Seoul, the WTF became a member of the General Assembly of the International Sports Federation (GAISF).
In July 1980, the IOC recognized and admitted the WTF.
Taekwondo was selected as an official demonstration sport for the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, Korea, at the IOC General Session in 1982.
Taekwondo’s development as a sport has quickly developed since its official debut on April 11, 1955. Taekwondo is practiced by around 30 million people in 156 countries.
Ever wondered which is better between Jiujitsu and Taekwondo?
I got into it in a recent article where I break down all the similarities and the key differences. I clearly prefer Jiujitsu. But there is 1 huge advantage Taekwondo has.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
Taekwondo, a traditional Korean martial art, has been an Olympic event since 2000.
It is now a globally practiced martial art. In the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, 61 nations have sent the athletes to the Taekwondo game, and 21 countries have won the medals.
— Seoul Government (@Seoul_gov) August 9, 2021
Is Taekwondo a sport or an art?
Taekwondo is a martial art first and foremost but has grown to also become a competitive sport. So it does live in both worlds, as does Karate, Judo, and MMA. To be considered a martial art, there must both be a physical practice and a spiritual practice.
That distinction is why Krav Maga is NOT considered a martial art.
In the Taekwondo community, the controversy continues. Martial arts supporters lament the lack of martial spirit in Olympic sparring, where a little touch can win contests.
However, Taekwondo supporters are happy with the sport’s media representation at the Olympic Games.
Some countries have won their first Olympic medals through Taekwondo: at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Rohullah Nikpai won a bronze medal in Taekwondo, becoming Afghanistan’s first medalist.
In addition, national Olympic committees spend a lot of money on preparing taekwondo athletes.
However, one key factor to remember is that participation in international competition requires at least a first Dan. But what if you don’t have a school near you, can’t afford one, or just want to practice at home?
Can you teach yourself Taekwondo?
I wrote about that in a recent article. I get into how to do it, the best resources to use, and how you can even earn a black belt in the comfort of your own home.
Just click that link to read it on my site.
In the starting paragraphs, we looked at the definitions of semi-contact sports.
We looked at if you are allowed to punch in Taekwondo and then delved into what is not allowed in Taekwondo. We also considered if Taekwondo is a fake martial art.
And then we wrapped up with if Taekwondo is a sport or an art.