A Korean martial art characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.
The emphasis on speed and agility is a defining characteristic of this combative sport developed during the 1940s and 1950s based on the analyses undertaken by Choi Hong Hi.
The sport was developed by Korean martial artists with experience in martial arts such as karate, Chinese martial arts, and indigenous Korean martial arts traditions such as Taekkyeon, Subak, and Gwonbeop.
Taekwondo competition typically involves sparring, breaking, and patterns; some tournaments also include special events such as demonstration teams and self-defense (hosinsul). In Olympic taekwondo competition, however, only sparring (using WT competition rules) is performed.
There are two kinds of competition sparring: point sparring, in which all strikes are light contact and the clock is stopped when a point is scored; and Olympic sparring, where all strikes are full contact and the clock continues when points are scored.
Sparring involves a Hogu, or a chest protector, which muffles any kick's damage to avoid serious injuries. Helmets and other gear are provided as well. Though other systems may vary, a common point system works like this: One point for a regular kick to the Hogu, two for a turning behind the kick, three for a back kick, and four for a spinning kick to the head.
Under World Taekwondo (WT, formerly WTF) and Olympic rules, sparring is a soft-contact event and takes place between two competitors in either an area measuring 8 meters square or an octagon of similar size.
Competitors are matched within gender and weight division - 8 divisions for World Championships that are condensed to 4 for the Olympics. A win can occur by points, or if one competitor is unable to continue (knockout). However, there are several decisions that can lead to a win, as well, including superiority, withdrawal, disqualification, or even a referee's punitive declaration.
Each match consists of three two-minute rounds, with one-minute rest between rounds, though these are often abbreviated or shortened for some junior and regional tournaments.
The oldest governing body for taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1959 through a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organizational bodies for taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the partnership of the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo (WT, formerly WTF), founded in 1972 and 1973 respectively by the Korea Taekwondo Association.
Gyeorugi, a type of full-contact sparring, has been an Olympic event since 2000. The governing body for taekwondo in the Olympics and Paralympics is World Taekwondo.