Innovation in the Sport of Taekwondo
Taekwondo is a very exciting and entertaining martial arts format that is also part of the Olympic Games. At the moment in the sport there are two different governing bodies that oversee the rules and regulations of the sport; the International Taekwondo
Federation (ITF) and the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). The sport is a very ancient one that originated in Korea and has slowly spread all over the world. Over time the sport has started to integrate technology into it and one of the newest things that
have taken place is electronic body armour for scoring purposes. It will be interesting to see how popular the new system becomes and whether it is widely accepted.
Taekwondo is an ancient fighting style that developed in Korea many years ago. It, like many other martial arts, developed from hand to hand combat that was used in warfare. The form of combat developed as a means of training warriors in battle. Military
training at the time consisted of martial arts training, studying ethics, philosophy, history and military tactics. Slowly the military training gave way to a sort of competition involving kicking and punching.
All aspects of Korean culture along with their martial arts were suppressed during the Japanese occupation of the country starting in 1910 and ending in 1945. A large number of Korean nationals travelled to Japan and picked up the martial arts that were
taught there at the time. They also travelled to China and brought back that country’s fighting styles as well. After the occupation ended in 1945, martial arts once again started to take place in Korea. This time though the original style was merged with
the styles picked up in Japan and China and the modern form of the sport emerged.
At the moment taekwondo is one of the most popular martial art styles in the world. It is practised in 123 countries and almost 30 million people take part in the sport on a regular basis. The fighting sport was showcased during the 1988 Olympic Games as
a demonstration event and in 2000 it became a full medal awarding event.
As far as the governing bodies overseeing the activities of the sport are corcerned; the ITF was formed in 1966 and it follows the traditional style of the martial art. The WTF was formed in 1973 taking on the role of the now defunct Korean Taekwondo Association
and it leans more heavily towards sparring. The WTF version of the sport is the one that takes place in the Olympics.
The type of martial art practiced by the WTF and its member organisations is full contact. For this reason, fighters have to wear protective gear when they spar or take part in full competitions. There are several types of gear; from head gear, groin gear,
body armour to shin and forearm guards. The way the sport takes place today is that two fighters square up against each other and they are judged by a panel to see whether they landed a clean point scoring blow. Most point scoring blows take place on the body
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, controversy engulfed a match that current world number 1 ranked British taekwondo fighter, Sarah Stevenson was taking part in. During the match she struck what she believed to be a clean kick to her opponent’s head but the judges
did not see the shot. The British fighter ended up losing the match but after complaining and video replays the decision was overturned and Sarah won the contest. Due to that match, now electronic body armour is being introduced to the sport that will register
a hit when a clean one is made by a fighter. This will make the judges’ job a lot easier and there will be no chance of controversy erupting regarding the scoring again.
It may take time for this new electronic body armour technology to become fully integrated into the sport but once it does it will be a huge leap forward for this ancient sport. It will also help bring taekwondo into the modern era and controversies will
be minimised as well.