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Taekwondo is a traditional Korean martial art, which means "the way of kicking and striking." In taekwondo, the hands and feet are used to overcome an opponent, but the trademark of the sport is its combination of kick movements. Its origins are not well known but three possibilities are often described. One traces taekwondo to Korea's three-kingdom era (ca. 50 BC) when Silla Dynasty warriors, the Hwarang, began to develop a martial art, tae kyon ("foot-hand"). Others feel that taekwondo began as a form of Chinese boxing, which was established at the Shaolin Temple in 520 BC by Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism. A third possibility is that taekwondo developed from Japanese or Okinawan karate. It is now felt that taekwondo probably developed from other Asian martial arts combined with traditional Korean techniques of kickboxing.
Various Korean forms of martial arts have existed but in the early 20th century, taekwondo became the dominant form. In 1955, a group of Korean martial arts leaders chose taekwondo as the definitive Korean martial art in an attempt to promote its development internationally. In 1973, the Korean government recognised the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) as the legitimate governing body of the sport, and the first World Championships were held in that year.
Taekwondo was featured on the programme of the 1988 and 1992 Olympics as a demonstration sport. At the 103rd IOC Session, held in Paris in 1994, taekwondo became an official medal sport beginning with the 2000 Olympics in Sydney. During those Games, 103 athletes - 55 men and 48 women - from 51 countries took part in the taekwondo competition.
GLOSSARY OF TAEKWONDO TERMS
Attention line: The demarcating line between the Contest Area and the Attention Area
Boundary line: The unmarked marginal line around the outside of the Contest Area, defining the outer edge of the mat.
Cha-ryeot: The referee's command to adopt a position of attention.
Chung: The contestant wearing blue.
Contest area: A 12-metre square in the centre of the mat where a taekwondo contest is conducted.
Deuk-jeom: A point.
Gam-jeom: A penalty that automatically costs a contestant a point.
Hong: The contestant wearing red.
Joon-bi: The referee's command to get ready to start the contest.
Kal-yeo: The referee's command to break, or move away from a downed opponent.
Keu-man: The referee's command to stop the contest.
Knockdown: The ruling when a contestant is knocked to the floor, or is deemed unable to continue.
Knockout: A ruling where the referee stops the contest and declares a contestant the winner if his or her opponent cannot continue.
Kyeong-rye: The referee's command to bow.
Kye-shi: The referee's command to suspend the match while a fighter receives first aid.
Kye-sok: The referee's command to continue.
Kyong-go: A warning for violating a rule, costing half a point but not deducted unless it combines with a previous warning to make a whole point.
Referee's mark: A marked point on the mat where the referee begins and ends each round.
Round: One of a series of periods, separated by rests, making up a match.
Scoring area: The area of the opponent's face or body where a legitimate strike may be made to score a point.
Shi-gan: The referee's command to suspend the match for reasons other than medical assistance.
Shi-jak: The referee's command to start the contest.
Su-bak: A self-defence art practised in Korea 800 years ago, apparently used as sport to entertain spectators.
Sudden death: A method of resolving a gold-medal contest in the Olympic Games that has resulted in a tie by playing a fourth round in which the first person to score is the winner.
Taekwondo: A modern form of martial art meaning "way of hands and feet" and descended from ancient Korean martial arts.
Yeo-dul: Eight in Korean, ending the mandatory eight-count a downed contestant must take even if he wants to resume sparring.
Yeol: The number ten in Korean, indicating the end of a full count and, hence, a knockout.