sparring in taekwondo: Rules & Layout

What is sparring?

Sparring is a very well known aspect of Taekwondo training and World Taekwondo style sparring is an Olympic sport. Used during lessons, grading exams and competitions sparring places two people against each other with the goal of using Taekwondo techniques to score points.

WTF sparring requires competitors to wear a head guard, trunk protector, shin pads, arm pads and gloves. One competitor is blue whilst the other is red and points are scored from successfully making contact with a legal kicking technique or punch.

match format

Most Taekwondo sparring matches will follow this format in competitions however there may be slight variations:
  • 3 Rounds (2 for juniors)
  • Each round is usually two minutes for adults but may be a minute and alf for juniors
  • 30 second break between rounds
  • Golden point match if scores are tied after all rounds are completed. The first to score will then win.

ring setup

ring layout
key v2

This is the most commonly used setup for sparring competitions. Use the key above to see where everyone is normally stationed, and you can read more about each persons role below.

The setup of a ring varies quite a lot depending on resources available, space and level of competition. For example, referees and table officilas are often senior grades, so competitions require a number of them to safely run events.


sparring icon

competitors

One will wear red and the other will wear blue chest protectors. Each will try and score points against their opponent using a range of techniques to the legal target areas. This includes the chest protector and head guard. The blue opponent will usually start on the referees right side.

referee icon

referee

The referee is in charge of starting and stopping the match as well as awarding penalty points. Referees watch the match closely to ensure rules are being followed, and use arm signals as well as Korean words to control the match.


coaches

Coaches

Each player has a coach who will sit in a chair on the side of the ring their player started. They will advise their athletes, and can throw in the towel if necessary. At higher levels of competition they may appeal decisions or ask for a video replay.

corner judge

corner judges

In competitions that don't use electronic scoring such as club level, corner judges use small controllers to score points. These can be one simple button, or include a coulple of buttons for different techniques. In one hand they will hold blue and in the other red. Three of four corner judges must score the point within a certain time frame (e.g half a second) for it to be awarded.


table official

table officials

Table officials oversee the match and in club competitions they may award the required additional points for spinning kicks that can't be scored by corner judges. These are usually high ranking Dan grades and may also include someone who handles the administrative side. Any appeal of decisions will go to the table officials and they usually have ultimate control of the ring.

THESE ROLES ARE NOT EXHAUSTIVE OF EVERYONE WHO MAY BE INVOLVED IN A TAEKWONDO MATCH, BUT COVERS THE MOST BASIC ROLES. HIGH LEVEL COMPETITIONS THAT USE ELECTRONIC SCORING SYSTEMS MAY ALTER THE ROLES OF THESE PEOPLE.

SOME RINGS MAY ALSO USE AN OCTAGON SHAPE RATHER THAN THE TRADITIONAL SETUP OUTLINED HERE.


rules

score

point scoring

  • 1 Point: Valid punch to the trunk protector
  • 2 Points: Valid kick to the trunk protector
  • 4 Points: Valid turning kick to the trunk protector
  • 3 Points: Valid kick to the head
  • 5 Points: Valid turning kick to the head
  • 1 Point: For every Gam-jeom (penalty point) the opponent recieves
deduction point

penalties

Penalty points may be awarded for any of the folowing actions:

  • Crossing boundry line
  • Falling down
  • Avoiding/delaying match
  • Grabbing or pushing opponent
  • Blocking with the leg
  • Kicking opponents leg
  • Holding leg in air for more than 3 seconds to prevent opponents attack
  • Kicking below the waist
  • Hitting opponents head with the hand
  • Attacking after referee has stopped the match
  • Attavking with the knee
  • Attacking fallen opponent
  • Provoking or insulting opponent or their coach
  • Not following referees decision
  • Inappropriate protesting of officials decisions
info

other rules & info

  • Each sparring match usually consists of three 2 minute rounds with a 1 minute rest between rounds
  • In the case of a tie after the third round a fourth round of 1 minute duration may be played where the next to score wins. This is often called golden point
  • Permitted techniques:a straight punching technique using the knuckle of a tightly clenched fist. A foot technique using any part of the foot below the ankle bone.
  • Permitted areas: Attacks by the fist and foot on the any area covered by the trunk protector, except the spine. Foot attacks to head area above the collar bone. Fist techniques are not allowed to this area.
  • Different styles of Taekwondo such as TAGB or ITF may follow different rules and scoring for competitions. Ensure you check with the governing bodies for further details.