Can You Punch in Taekwondo? (Complete Techniques List)

An array of spectacular kicks is one of the most noticeable aspects of Taekwondo – a sport and martial art. But can you punch in Taekwondo?

Punches to the body are allowed in Taekwondo. But one cannot punch an opponent on the head or below the belt. Punches that are not in line with the rules would result in points being deducted from the Taekwondo practitioner who initiated them.

But the above is just the tip of the iceberg.

In this article, we’ll find out if you can push in Taekwondo, whether there is punching in Olympic Taekwondo, and what punches are allowed in Taekwondo. But we’ll also find out why punches to the head are not allowed while sparring.

Let’s get started.

Can You Push in Taekwondo?

Pushing is generally frowned upon in Taekwondo. In most rulesets, it’s construed as an offense because it’s dangerous and unfair. However, there are rulesets where it’s allowed in certain circumstances.

Where it’s illegal, the Taekwondo practitioner that shoves another would be penalized by having points deducted. It doesn’t really take skills to push another, right?

And it’s not relevant to gauging how good a fighter is at mastering TKD techniques. Pushing an opponent when they have initiated an attack and are in motion is dangerous and is not allowed.

To offer some context, it’s good to know that in its original incarnation, Taekwondo had no rigid rules. The grand goal was to perfect one’s art.

The rules we often associate with tournaments or the Olympics didn’t exist.

So, its rules are relatively modern, and they have to cover a lot so that fighters know what is legal and what’s not and to enable referees to “objectively” decide the winners.

The main reason pushing is illegal relates to safety and its irrelevance to an art that’s essentially about kicks and punches.

It’s highly conceivable that if pushing is legal, it will be used too often, seeing as it can be leveraged as an effective counterattack each time one is attacked. It would always make the martial art or its sports equivalent a joke.

Pushing is a great self-defense move, so if self-defense is your goal, Taekwondo is not the ideal choice.

TKD is also replete with brutal kicks that can be employed to crush an opponent. But unless the Taekwondo fighter is sure of their skill, the reality is that kicks can be hard to execute in a street fight.

There’s a need for some distance.

And it can be the worst move if the TKD fighter were to miss and fall! A crazy bully would lose no time to give them a gruesome beatdown while they’re down.

If you’re up against an untrained fighter, you still have a fighting chance even if you’re only hip to the sport version of the martial art. But it’s hard to say that you’ll trounce the opponent unless you let go of the rules you’ve always had to comply with.

Taekwondo is replete with an array of kicks. And we’re covering punches here. But is that all there is to it?

Check out a recent article of mine where I revealed whether it involves punches, what kicks are allowed, and if head kicks are legal in Taekwondo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is there punching in Olympic Taekwondo?

Punching is allowed in Olympic Taekwondo. But as with many modern sport Taekwondo schools, punches are only allowed to the torso and not the head or below the belt.

The primary difference between Olympic Taekwondo and so-called traditional Taekwondo involves the use of headgear that electronically records head kicks, the fact that spinning kicks earn more points.

Of course, if you trained TKD in the ’70s or ’80s, you likely were allowed to punch or elbow strike the head. Taekwondo has changed a lot since then and those changes sometimes give it a bad rap.

Taekwondo means the way of the foot and fist. 

The foot is about kicks, while punches are a part of the fist, referred to in the name. In a nutshell, punches to the body are allowed and they score one point. But punches to the head are illegal.

There are open and closed hand punching techniques known in Korean as jireugi. But the punches are not as glamorous as the spectacular kicks, and they do not attract points.

This is why they’re not as popular as the kicks.

So, you’re torn between Taekwondo and Jiu-Jitsu, which one’s better. You’re in luck because this is what I explored in a recent article of mine.

I revealed which one is better for self-defense and whether a Taekwondo black belt could beat a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. But I also spoke about whether Taekwondo is just kicking.

Just click the link to read the article on my site.

What punches are allowed in Taekwondo?

Punches allowed in Taekwondo include the jab, straight or cross punch, uppercut, extended knuckle punch, back fist, and hammerfist.

Let’s explore a few.

The Jab

The Jab is a straight punch that is often employed to gauge distance and for defense.

You use it to kind of set up other punches or kicks, having gained an idea of where your opponent is. It can also be used to lure an opponent closer to you. Like all punches, the opponent has to be close to you for the jab to be effective.

Straight or Cross Punch

It’s great to use a cross punch when an opponent is in motion, about to attack you.

It’s executed by using the back of your hand while rotating your body to generate power. It’s the same movement that’s employed in boxing, and the hit is actually done with your first two knuckles.


As its name implies, the punch is executed as if you were swinging a hammer.

It’s a downward motion where you hit with the padded part of your hand. It can also be thrown off to turn a spin to give it more power.


Uppercuts are great because they pack so much power. To execute it, you turn your body and unleash the punch ”from below” while it’s trained on the opponent’s body.

Hook Punch

A short punch that’s trained at the opponent’s sides. Before unleashing it, you turn your body slightly to give it more power.

It’s vital to note that in Olympic-style Taekwondo, punches to the head are illegal. Jabs, hooks, and uppercuts are legal, but they are not scored.

In the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), however, you could punch any part that’s covered by the headgear.

But punches to the neck, throat, face, or back are illegal. The front of the body above the waist is fair game.

Why doesn’t Taekwondo sparring allow punches to the head?

Punches to the head are not allowed in many Taekwondo schools because punches to the head often lead to a lot of injuries, as with boxing. However, there are schools and rulesets where they are allowed.

In addition to the above, kicks are more involved and show a greater mastery of the art. So, punches and hand strikes are not really encouraged because they are simple and not as interesting to watch.

On the whole, there’s greater stress on kicks, especially after the art has attained the status of an Olympic sport. Let’s be honest, high kicks, especially roundhouse kicks, are more fun to watch.

So, is Taekwondo a full-contact sport?

This is what I explored in a recent article of mine where I shared what semi-contact sports are, whether you’re allowed to punch in Taekwondo, and what is not allowed in it. But I also revealed whether Taekwondo is a fake martial art.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is a punch faster than a kick?

A punch is NOT faster than a kick. On average, a punch is 25 mph, whereas a kick can be up to 60 mph. Additionally, kicks are more devastating both due to the speed and the size of the leg muscles compared to arm muscles.

But kicks take more training to be delivered effectively than a punch.

It’s very easy to jab an opponent or to swiftly unleash an uppercut. The hand is connected to the shoulders and can be easily moved without too much thought. A kick, on the other hand, is a more intricate affair because our upper body rests on our legs, and kicks are a bit more demanding.

Kicks require a bit more planning, or one could miss the target or, even worse, lose one’s balance temporarily, giving the opponent an edge. They also require a greater expenditure of energy.

I suspect we are aware of this, even if it’s only at an unconscious level.

And at the risk of stating the obvious, which one is faster could also be a function of distance. If an opponent is relatively close, a punch might be the faster option.

Kicks almost always require a bit of distance to be executed effectively.

Are elbow strikes allowed in Taekwondo?

Elbow strikes are a part of traditional Taekwondo, but they are not typically allowed in tournaments in the sports version of Taekwondo. In these tournaments, the safety of the participants is paramount, and they even have to wear protective gear. 

So, in the sport version, elbow strikes are illegal. But they are a key part of traditional TKD, where the focus is on self-defense.

Elbow strikes in TKD can be highly devastating. They include Taegeuk Oh Yang and Taegeuk Pal Yang.

Taekwondo and Judo are two of the best-known martial arts in the Olympics. Can you easily distinguish them?

In a recent article of mine, I explored their key differences.

I showed their biggest similarities, whether Taekwondo is effective in a street fight and who would win if a Taekwondo practitioner and a Judoka were to have a go at it. But I also revealed if both are Olympic sports.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Is Taekwondo effective in a street fight?

Traditional Taekwondo is highly effective in street fights. However, its recent incarnation as a sport is less effective in street fights as it is highly constrained by rules and focused more on points than power.

Unless a TKD fighter also trains in the traditional forms, they will be highly disadvantaged in a street fight. This is because, over time, they have conditioned themselves to only practice facets of the art that are legal in tournaments.

But if you learned TKD in the ’80s, you’re probably all set for self-defense.

We’re all creatures of habit. If we’ve been doing something in a particular way, it won’t be easy to switch to another way, especially when our lives are in danger.

Street fights are unpredictable, chaotic, and messy, to say the least.

There are no rules. As such, anything goes. And there are no referees! In a street fight, one could lose one’s life. Because of this, one needs a fighting system that’s more than equal to the challenge.

As I hinted at earlier, traditional TKD is effective because devastating techniques such as knee and elbow strikes are allowed. These two, alone, can be enough to crush most opponents (especially if they’re not trained fighters).

The techniques are so effective that they’re the stable of some of the most formidable fighters. One of the reasons they work is because of the element of surprise and the fact that they are uncommon.

Most untrained fighters would want to punch and wrestle.

An adept TKD fighter can easily unleash a combination of elbow and knee strikes with such speed that the opponent would be subdued in minutes.

Taekwon-do | Basic Punches and Strikes 🥋👊🏻


In the article, we found out if you can push in Taekwondo.

Then we looked at whether there is punching in Olympic Taekwondo and what punches are allowed in Taekwondo.

But we also found out why punches to the head are not allowed while sparring. Pushing is unfair and dangerous and doesn’t show mastery of core Taekwondo skills.

Then, we explored whether punches are faster than kicks and whether elbow strikes are allowed in Taekwondo.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by finding out if Taekwondo is effective in street fights.

Image by Anil sharma from Pixabay


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