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Rules and Judging

by Diana Davila

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The rules used in Olympic Tae Kwon Do competition are the official competition rules as developed by the WTF, or World Tae Kwon Do Federation. It is slightly different than other internation competitions in that there are half the number of weight classes.

Tae Kwon Do is a fan friendly sport, even for newcomers. Sparring is fast paced and exciting. Once you learn some basic rules on scoring and how to win a match, you will easily be able to follow along and cheer on your home country's athletes.

Competition Format

Olympic Tae Kwon Do is an individual sport. Men and women compete separately, in four weight classes each. Matches are three rounds, with a sudden death round in the event of a tie. Competition is single elimination, with a double repachage to determine the bronze medal winner.


A point is awarded for all clean, strong hand techniques or kicks to the body. Two points are awarded for kicks to the head. Only the sides of the head and the face are legal. Kicking to the back of the head is illegal and will result in a penalty. One point is also awarded if a competitor knocks down their opponent, resulting in a standing 8 count.

A match is won by being the competitor with the most points at the end of three rounds.

A player can also win

  • when his opponent is disqualified
  • by referee stoppage
  • when the winning player has a 7 point lead over their opponent
  • or when a player reaches 12 points total before the end of three rounds.

In the event of a tie at the end of three rounds, a sudden death round will take place. The first competitor to score a point is the winner. If there is no winner at the end of the sudden death round, judges will decide the winner based on player superiority. The judges decision is based on which competitor shows the most aggression, technique, and all around superiority in the fourth round. 


This article was published on Friday 29 January, 2010.
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