John Zimmer offers an interesting account of his recent viewing of an Olympic Taekwondo match.
“Boy let me tell you this was a mistake. We played back a gold medal match between Turkey and Iran and was waiting for the point match to begin. Then they grabbed each other and tried to kick each other! Never mind that either one of them was in range for a punch – they did not punch!”
The easiest analogy I can make is someone with a tackle football background being disappointed that flag football lacks tackles. The thing you have to remember about Olympic Taekwondo is that it is a sport. Moreover, it has a point system that is weighed for kicks. Punches are allowed to the body, however, the judges rarely award points for them and if they do they are only worth a point.
- You get one point for a basic attack to your opponent’s chest protector.
- You get two points for a kick to your opponent’s chest protector if the kick involves a spinning technique – (this includes back kick).
- You get 3 points for a kick to your opponent’s head.
- You can also win by knocking out your opponent with a kick.
Related: This is a good time to dredge up a post from 2006. In it I cover the history of Taekwondo. I also draw on Marc Tedeschi’s Taekwondo: Traditions, Philosophy, & Technique which, in my opinion, is one of the best books on the topic.
Tedeschi identifies four approaches to teaching Taekwondo. These are: 1) Martial Art, 2) Sport, 3) Integrated, and 4) Eclectic.
- Martial Art: These schools focus on Korean tradition, self-defense, and character development. They also typically do not perform as well in sport competition.
- Sport: These schools emphasize training that helps students do well in a sport setting–usually Olympic-Style Taekwondo. Absent here are forms and self-defense training.
- Integrated: These schools combine (to varying degrees of success) the sport and martial arts aspects of Taekwondo.
- Eclectic: This refers to a modern and integrative approach–especially in relation to self-defense. Many instructors that adhere to this method will cross-train in other arts and then attempt to blend what they learn with Taekwondo. The overall goal is “real-world” self-defense but often it becomes so diluted that it may become a hodge-podge of techniques.
Those hailing from a traditional karate or even sport karate background are likely to expect category 1. However, Olympic Taekwondo is a pure sport with a particular set of rules.
My school was integrated and tried to combine tradition with sport. I eventually moved on because I was looking for an art that focused more on self-defense. As my former Kung Fu instructor said: “If you don’t like the rules find a different martial art.”
Lastly, there are instructors out there who do teach the martial aspects of Taekwondo. One of my favorite blogs on this topic is Collin’s Traditional Taekwondo Techniques.