Get Involved: TAEKWONDO

Given that Tae means 'to kick or smash with the foot', and kwon means 'to destroy with the fist', it is clear that Taekwondo is not for the faint-hearted.

Taekwondo's physical aspect doesn't deter more than 60 million people worldwide from enjoying the sport and its popularity led to it becoming an official Olympic event at the 2000 Games.

Britain had to wait until 2008 for its first official taekwondo medal, courtesy of world champion Sarah Stevenson, who clinched bronze after a dramatic win over China's double Olympic champion Chen Zhong.

The bout had originally been awarded to the home favourite but the result was overturned when it became clear that a kick from Stevenson to the face of Chen had not been registered.

With its roots in ancient Korean martial arts, it is not surprising that Korea tops the Olympic medal list with nine golds and 12 medals in total. But the fact that medals have also gone to Australia, Iran, Greece, Cuba, Afghanistan and the USA demonstrates its global appeal.

Why is it good for you?

Taekwondo burns approximately 730 calories per session and helps improve fitness levels, balance, coordination and flexibility. For those not wanting to take part in combat, the moves involved in the sport can still be done as conditioning and strength-building exercises.

The moves involved in taekwondo often require your arms and legs to work together in unison, while using a number of different muscle groups at the same time. For example, upright kicking moves require flexibility in the legs, plus core and spinal strength.

The strikes and evasive manoeuvres involved provide an effective form of self-defence training. It also lowers peoples risk of sustaining serious injury in other sports as taekwondo teaches people how to fall in a safe manner.

Although it is an individual sport, taekwondo is an excellent way to develop communication skills and learn to work effectively with other people as you train in groups. Clubs also offer a variety of social events beyond simply playing the sport.

Taekwondo is good for the mind as well as the body. Specific rules ensure you will build self-confidence, self-discipline and respect for yourself and others.

Get involved

Taekwondoexternal-link is a fun and challenging activity, enjoyed by approximately 50,000 people of all ages and abilities in the United Kingdom.

There are several ways to get involved in taekwondo beyond the sparring sessions on show at the Olympics. Poomsaeexternal-link is a non-combat version whereby a taekwondo instructor runs people through a sequence of moves and attacks.

Self-defence lessonsexternal-link are taught using taekwondo-based techniques, as well as breaking competitions where athletes demonstrate their power, speed and technique by shattering wooden boards or bricks.

It is vital that taekwondo sessions are overseen by a qualified instructor to ensure the correct techniques are taught, and guarantee safety. The best way to do this is to join your local club.

Information about where you can locate your nearest club can be found on the British Taekwondo,external-linkTaekwondo Association of Northern Ireland,external-linkTaekwondo Scotlandexternal-link and International Taekwondo Federation of Walesexternal-link websites.

For those beginning sparring sessions, you must buy your own gum shield. Clubs can also offer the hire of head protectors, groin guards, shin guards, forearm guards and hand protectors in the early stages before you can decide whether to buy your own.

Every new skill and technique you learn contributes to your grading. As you progress, you will be given a new coloured belt to denote the rank ('geup')external-link you have reached.

More on the GB Taekwondo websiteexternal-link

Want to get involved with sport in your local community? Why not Join In ?

'Join In Local Sport'external-link aims to get as many people as possible to turn up and take part in activities at their local sports facilities on 18/19 August, 2012 - the first weekend between the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the initiative is for every sports club and community group in the UK to put on a special event in a bid to encourage more people to get involved as members, supporters or volunteers.

More than 4,000 local sports clubs will be opening their doors to host events and show people just how they can get involved.

As well as tips on playing sport there will be information on coaching, supporting and how to help out.

Find an eventexternal-link near you.

The competition format at London 2012

  • From Wednesday 8 August to Saturday 11 August, 128 athletes (64 men, 64 women) will compete at the ExCeL Arena.
  • There will be eight taekwondo events at the London Games.
  • There are four weight categories for men and four for women - all played in a knockout format.
  • The top eight athletes in each event are seeded in accordance with the World Taekwondo Federation world rankings on 1 July; the rest of the athletes are drawn randomly.
  • Competitors who lose to one of the finalists will enter the 'repechage', which will eventually determine the winners of the two bronze medals.

More on the London 2012 websiteexternal-link

The rules at London 2012

Taekwondo contests take place within an 8m x 8m zone called a court. The competitor wearing blue is referred to as 'chung', while the competitor in red is 'hong'.

The object of taekwondo is to land kicks and punches on the opponent's scoring zones: one point is awarded for a valid kick or punch to the torso, two points for a valid spinning kick, three points for a valid kick to the head and four points for a turning kick to the head.

The action takes place over three two-minute rounds, with a one-minute break between each round.

The winner is the athlete with the most points at the end of the three rounds, although if an athlete is knocked out or counted out, their opponent is declared the winner.

If there is a 12-point difference between competitors at the end of the second round or during the third round, the referee will stop the contest.

In the event of a tie, a sudden-death fourth round is played whereby the first athlete to inflict a scoring blow wins. If the fourth round results in a tie, the officials decide the winner based on the initiative shown in the final round.

Officials can deduct points ('gam-jeom') and give them to an athlete's opponent for a number of offences such as attacking your opponent when the round has stopped, attacking a fallen opponent or intentionally attacking your opponent's face with the hand.

If four deduction points are given to an athlete, a bout is stopped and the opponent is declared the winner.

For less serious infringements, such as falling down, grabbing, holding or pushing, turning your back on your opponent or attacking below the waist, a warning (kyong-go) is given by officials to the offending athlete.

For every two warnings given to an athlete, a point is deducted and given to their opponent.

More on the Team GB websiteexternal-link

Ones to watch

Aaron Cook's selection - or non-selection - dominated the build up to London 2012 but it was Lutalo Muhammad who was eventually selected in the -80kg category, and he will be looking to build on the -87kg gold medal he won at the European Championships in May.

Current world champion Sarah Stevenson (women's -67kg) won Britain's first-ever Olympic taekwondo medal but has missed most of 2012 with a knee injury.

Two-time Olympic champion Steven Lopez of the USA (-80kg) is described as the 'Muhammad Ali of Taekwondo' by rival Cook. He suffered his first defeat in six years in Beijing and had to settle for bronze.

In the women's events, Wu Jingyu of China is Olympic and world champion in -49kg.


Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art dating back to 50BC. It began as a defence-based martial art called "subak" or "taekkyon," and developed as a way of training under the name of "sunbae."

In the middle ages, the practice of martial arts were restricted to just the military and people in Korea began to lose interest in the discipline.

The situation changed during the Japanese occupation from 1910-1945 where all traditional Korean sports and martial arts were banned.

The Korean martial art "soobakgi" was practiced in secret, while Japanese martial arts such as karate, judo, kendo and aikido were taught in schools.

This sparked a revival in the martial arts in Korea and the different disciplines of Korean martial arts were unified under the name, taekwondo in April 1955.

In 1962, the Korean Amateur Sports Association recognized the Korean Taekwondo Union, which later became known as the Korean Taekwondo Association (K.T.A.).

The World Taekwondo Federation was founded in 1973 and the first World Championships were held in Seoul that year.

It made its debut as a demonstration Olympic sport at the 1988 Seoul Games and at Barcelona in 1992 Great Britain's Jane Broadbent won an (unofficial) Olympic bronze.

More on the IOC websiteexternal-link