Early in October 2011, there was news posted on the web titled “Olympic Taekwondo Ditches Sport’s Traditions.” In this article, they noted that just a year before, the governing body for Taekwondo changed the rules for sparring so that judges award more points for head shots.
In my own personal opinion, the way Taekwondo has evolved in sports, not just in the Olympics, isn’t helping promote it as a martial arts. I’ve personally seen it detract from the traditional teachings of martial arts.
In the referenced article, competitors who make it to black belt say that they simply focus on training to fight and not even think about other parts of the art, to include forms (or “poomsae” in Korean). This behavior is contrary to traditional teaching of Taekwondo as a whole.
People have seen evidence of this trend seen as early as the 2008 Olympics. In one sparring match, a Cuban competitor wasn’t happy with a referee’s call, and decided to kick the referee on the face. That Cuban fighter (I call him fighter because he isn’t a martial artist) has long been banned from Taekwondo competition. That was a sad day in Taekwondo, an art known to help build stronger inner character for those who truly practice it.
I know of at least a couple of schools in my state where their main focus is sparring. One of them is no longer in business, while the other remains open. If all the focus is on sparring, then it is no longer a martial art. They should explicitly be advertised as Sports Taekwondo instead of just plain Taekwondo (or Tae Kwon Do) so people will know it is sports and not a martial arts.
The sport itself detracts from realistic fights since it focuses on kicks. The hands are mainly there to block or to help set up for a kick. Never in my life have I seen anyone score with a punch; judges award points for kicks only. This is why Taekwondo is widely known as a style that uses lots of kicks.
Note that the sport of Taekwondo has its place. For my students, it allows them to compete and test their skills with other kids whom they’ve not sparred before. It also helps them experience winning and losing, and in the process exercise the application of Taekwondo tenets–courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, indomitable spirit, and victory.
If things are to improve in the sports of Taekwondo, techniques of both the hands and the feet must be awarded points. After all, isn’t Taekwondo the art of using the hands and feet for self-defense?
What do you think? Do you agree? Please comment below.