Taekwondo competition typically involves sparringbreakingpatterns, and self-defense (hosinsul). In Olympic taekwondo competition, however, only sparring (using WTF competition rules) is contested.[31]

There may be two kinds of competition sparring: point, which all strikes are light contact, and the clock is stopped when a point is scored; and Olympic, where all strikes are full contact and the clock continues when points are scored. (citing found at aau website)[citation needed]

World Taekwondo Federation[edit]

Official WTF trunk protector (hogu), forearm guards and shin guards

Under World Taekwondo Federation and Olympic rules, sparring is a full-contact event and takes place between two competitors in an area measuring 8 meters square.[32] A win can occur by points, or if one competitor is unable to continue (knockout) the other competitor wins.[33] Each match consists of three semi-continuous rounds of contact, with one minute’s rest between rounds. There are two age categories: 14–17 years and 18 years and older.

Points are awarded for permitted, accurate, and powerful techniques to the legal scoring areas; light contact does not score any points. The only techniques allowed are kicks (delivering a strike using an area of the foot below the ankle) and punches (delivering a strike using the closed fist).[34] In most competitions, points are awarded by three corner judges using electronic scoring tallies. Several A-Class tournaments, however, are now trialing electronic scoring equipment contained within competitors’ body protectors. This limits corner judges to scoring only attacks to the head. Some believe that the new electronic scoring system will help to reduce controversy concerning judging decisions,[35] but this technology is still not universally accepted.[36]

Beginning in 2009, a kick or punch that makes contact with the opponent’s hogu (the body guard that functions as a scoring target) scores one point; if a kick to the hogu involved a technique that includes fully turning the attacking competitor’s body, so that the back is fully exposed to the targeted competitor during execution of the technique (spinning kick), an additional point is awarded; a kick to the head scores three points; as of October 2010 an additional point is awarded if a turning kick was used to execute this attack.[37] Punches to the head are not allowed. As of March 2010, no additional points are awarded for knocking down an opponent (beyond the normal points awarded for legal strikes).

The referee can give penalties at any time for rule-breaking, such as hitting an area not recognized as a target, usually the legs or neck. Penalties are divided into “Kyong-go (warning penalty)” and “Gam-jeom (deduction penalty)”. Two “Kyong-go” shall be counted as an addition of one (1) point for the opposing contestant. However, the final odd-numbered “Kyong-go” shall not be counted in the grand total.[38]

At the end of three rounds, the competitor with more points wins the match. In the event of a tie at the end of three rounds, a fourth “sudden death” overtime round, sometimes called “Golden Point”, will be held to determine the winner after a one-minute rest period. In this round the first competitor to score a point wins the match. If there is no score in the additional round the winner shall be decided by superiority as determined by the refereeing officials.[37]

Until 2008, if one competitor gained a 7-point lead over the other, or if one competitor reached a total of 12 points, then that competitor was immediately declared the winner and the match ended. These rules were abolished by the WTF at the start of 2009. In October 2010 the WTF reintroduced a point gap rule. Under the new rule if a competitor has a 12-point lead at the end of the second round or achieves a 12-point lead at any point in the 3rd round then the match is over and the athlete in the lead is declared the winner.[