Taekwondo at the 2012 London Summer Olympics - dummies

Taekwondo at the 2012 London Summer Olympics

The Taekwondo events at the 2012 London Olympics are scheduled to take place from August 8th through August 11th at ExCeL London (Exhibition Centre London). There are four weight classes for both male and female events: flyweight, lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight. While the categories are the same, the weight distinctions are different.

Class Men’s Women’s
Flyweight 58 kilograms/approx. 127 pounds 49 kilograms/approx. 108 pounds
Lightweight 68 kilograms/approx. 150 pounds 57 kilograms/approx. 125 pounds
Middleweight 80 kilograms/approx. 176 pounds 67 kilograms/approx. 147 pounds
Heavyweight +80 kilograms/approx. 177+ pounds +67 kilograms/approx. 148+ pounds

The Taekwondo competition includes 128 participants — 64 participants for each gender and 16 participants in each weight division. Nations may only contribute a maximum of 4 participants, two in each weight class.

Britain automatically receives four participating spots as host nation. Four additional spots are awarded by the Tripartite Commission (made up of the International Olympic Committee, the Host National Olympic Committee and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation). The remaining spots will be filled through a qualification tournament where competitors will earn quota spots. If a nation becomes unable to compete, that spot will automatically go to the next highest scoring nation.

Olympic Taekwondo competitions occur in an 8 meter by 8 meter square. The matches are comprised of three rounds and allow one minute of rest between rounds. A winner is determined by the number of points or a knockout.

Participants earn points for delivering powerful legal blows to specified areas of the body. Penalties are given for any techniques that are delivered to illegal body zones or for any other rule breaking during competition. Penalties result in a deduction of points or half-points. Tie scores are resolved by a fourth “sudden death” round to determine a winner.

Taekwondo combines aspects of combat techniques, self-defense and sport, alongside philosophy and meditation. Taekwondo focuses on kicking techniques, differentiating it from other martial arts. However, the competitive form of Taekwondo found at the Olympic Games varies somewhat from the traditional understanding of the original martial art.

Olympic Taekwondo Traditional Taekwondo
Governed by the World Taekwondo Federation Governed by the Kukkiwon, or World Taekwondo
Emphasis on Speed and Competition Includes emphasis on mediation and philosophy
Comes from the sparring system sihap
Developed in 1950s and 1960s by the South Korean

Taekwondo is believed to have surfaced after the Japanese occupation of Korea from 1910-1945. All facets of Korean identity were snuffed out at this time, thus leading to a revival of Korean culture after the occupation. Many Koreans were exposed to Japanese martial arts, leading to decisions to reopen martial arts schools in an effort to reassert their identity. This gave birth to Taekwondo.

It made a public appearance in 1952 at a martial arts exhibition. Afterwards, efforts were made to standardize Taekwondo, but efforts ceased as many different styles continued to be taught. Taekwondo was first used in the Olympic Games in 1988 as a demonstration event and only later became a medal event in 2000.

There are many different resources for information regarding Taekwondo. However, for more information and complete rules regarding Taekwondo for the Olympic Games, visit the website of the sport’s governing body, the World Taekwondo Federation, based in Seoul, Korea.