Can Gear Affect Competition Performance?

Taekwondo Gear

If you or someone close to you competes in Olympic-style sparring, you know that they have to wear some form of gear–specifically Taekwondo sparring gear.  The same is true for someone competing in forms; they have to wear a WTF sanctioned or endorsed uniform.

Sparring Gear

Can the right Taekwondo sparring gear make a difference in one’s sparring performance?

First of all, in order to compete in an Olympic style Taekwondo sparring competition that is officially endorsed by the USAT (USA Taekwondo), you’ll need to get sparring gear that meets the following requirements:

  • World Taekwondo Federation Certified equipment
  • blue, red, or white head gear
  • blue or red chest protector
  • note in newer tournaments, the event provides equipment that has electronic sensors for automatic electronic scoring; in this case, you don’t have to bring gear, but I wouldn’t go to one without  a set, just in case.

On top of these minimum requirements, you’ll want to make sure the following are also true:

  • Each piece of equipment is of proper size
  • Each piece of gear has the correct protection coverage
  • The gear fit and feel well (i.e. not distracting)

One of the most significant piece of equipment is the groin protector. If this piece of equipment doesn’t fit right, the competitor will be constantly distracted by the crotch discomfort. Remember, trying to keep up with the opposing guy is tough enough, and definitely adding a constant distraction will not help the situation any, but would certainly put the opponent at an advantage.

Bottom line: make sure you have the right certified equipment, and that they have the proper protection coverage, color, and most importantly, fit.

Taekwondo Uniform for Forms Competition

Having the right gear for forms (or poomsae) competition is just as important.  In this case we are looking at the uniform being worn in competition.

It might sound irrelevant, but the right uniform can either enhance or detract from one’s performance.

Here are points to remember when competing in forms (these are some of the things judges look for):

  • Snappiness of technique
  • Performer’s balance
  • Correctness and accuracy of the form
  • Form presentation

Snappiness of Technique

The right uniform can enhance the snappiness of your kick, punch, block, or strike.  In general, a uniform that is heavy will help produce more snap–that’s assuming there is snap in the technique to begin with.  Look at and try various uniform.  Your find that the ones that are heavier and have already been broken in will provide the maximum snap.

Performer’s Balance

I’ve seen poomsae or forms competitors having to adjust their pants because it is too long or it is hanging too low.  When your feet ends up stepping on your pants, that can cause you to lose balance.  Make sure your uniform fits you well, especially the length of your pants.  The last thing you want to worry about is slipping on your own pants; this can definitely make the judges deduct points from the lose of balance this causes.

Correctness & Accuracy of the Form

Aside from losing balance, having improperly fitted competition Taekwondo uniform can cost you or your student in terms of form correctness and accuracy.  Imagine having to adjust the pants or the top in the middle of a performance because they are too big or too long.  This can happen to the less experienced poomsae or forms competitor.

Form Presentation

Judges are human.  All humans are subjective to some degree, and even though they try to be objective, little things can sway them to be more subjective when judging you.  Thus, if you are using a uniform that makes you look sharp, it can only add to your advantage in convincing the judges you are the best.  Note that you’ll have to reinforce that look with your very confident actions in coming up and leaving the floor.


There are two areas in Taekwondo competition where the proper gear or equipment can help enhance your performance:

  • Sparring
  • Forms or poomsae

In Taekwondo sparring, having the right gear can help make sure you can compete (that’s because the more serious competition events require that you have WTF endorsed or certified gear).  With the right size, fit, and protection coverage, the gear is the last thing you have to worry about because it isn’t distracting, but simply doing its job of protecting you.

Poomsae or forms competition is slightly different.  The right uniform can actually help accentuate your performance quality.  If you already have good form, a better uniform should be able to enhance your snap.  In addition, a properly fitted uniform can help prevent balance and accuracy issues with too big or too long uniform.  Lastly, a nice looking uniform can help accentuate your presentation.

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