If you’ve ever watched a competitive martial arts fight (whether it’s an Olympic match or a competitive tournament), you may have heard the phrase ‘cutting weight’.
This refers to fighters losing lots of weight in the run-up to a fight, but what exactly does it mean to ‘cut weight’, and do fighters in Taekwondo do it?
Don’t worry, because this article has all the answers!
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about weight cutting in Taekwondo – from whether or not Taekwondo fighters cut weight to some of the risks weight cutting can involve.
So let’s jump right into it!
What Is ‘Weight Cutting’?
Let’s start out by covering what exactly ‘weight cutting’ is. When a fighter in any martial art ‘cuts weight’ before a fight, it means that they deliberately lose a lot of weight before the weigh-in so that they are able to fight at their contracted weight ranking.
Fighters cut their weight so they can fight in the lowest weight class possible. This means that they are able to potentially fight against a fighter in a lower weight class while still training for their normal weight class.
Weight cutting typically involves dehydrating the body as much as possible before the weigh-in (usually done in the five days running up to the weigh-in).
Fighters will continue training as normal before they start cutting weight, although they may reduce their calorie and water intake slightly to prepare their bodies.
Cutting weight quickly generally involves significantly or even completely reducing the amount of salty foods and carbohydrates a fighter eats, along with cutting down on portion sizes.
One of the most notable parts of weight cutting is hydration; in the few days leading up to the weigh-in, a fighter will start drinking 2 gallons (around 7.5 liters) of water a day before completely avoiding water for the last 18 hours before the weigh-in.
After the weigh-in, fighters then have 24 hours to rehydrate themselves in preparation for the fight.
Do Taekwondo Fighters Cut Their Weight Before A Fight?
Like in many other martial arts, Taekwondo fighters will cut their weight before a fight.
Competitive Taekwondo fights, such as Olympic Taekwondo or a tournament match, use weight classes to match up fighters.
Taekwondo fighters cut weight for the same reasons as mentioned above; to help them compete in the lowest possible weight class so they can have an advantage over a potentially lighter opponent.
It’s important to note that weight cutting isn’t some sneaky way fighters get around the rules, and it’s a common practice for fighters in pretty much any martial art that uses weight classes to categorize its fighters.
In fact, there are even limits to how much weight a fighter is allowed to lose before a fight in order to prevent them from doing lasting damage to their body.
These restrictions are slightly different depending on the martial art, but most (including Taekwondo) limit a fighter’s weight loss to between 15 and 20 pounds.
In Taekwondo, there aren’t many restrictions to how much weight a fighter can lose before a fight (aside from the general 15-20 pound limit), as well as the ways the fighter can lose this weight.
According to Olympic Taekwondo’s governing bodies, the only restriction when it comes to methods of cutting weight is that a fighter must adhere to anti-doping rules.
This means that most dramatic weight loss methods are allowed just so long as they don’t include the use of prohibited substances to cut weight more effectively.
Is Cutting Weight Safe?
There is some controversy surrounding weight cutting, as losing so much weight in just a matter of days can have some serious impacts on a fighter’s health.
Dropping 20 pounds over five days puts tremendous strain on the body, and can lead to some severe health effects even if it is done ‘safely’.
While there are some ways to cut weight that minimizes the amount of damage it can do to a Taekwondo fighter, there are still risks surrounding losing so much weight as well as the methods used to cut the weight.
So even though cutting weight is a fairly standard practice in most competitive martial arts, this doesn’t mean that it is necessarily safe for fighters to do so.
Dangers Of Weight Cutting
Most of the risks associated with cutting weight center around the ways that this weight is lost. Dramatically reducing the amount of food you eat can have some pretty severe impacts on the body (particularly when you’re also training while doing so).
This includes possible muscle loss, reduced bone density, increased strain on the heart, along with neurological issues such as depression and insomnia.
Some of the more serious risks of weight cutting, however, are a result of severe dehydration. By completely cutting out water and water-based foods like fruits to lose weight quickly, fighters put their body under high levels of stress and pressure.
In fact, the most harmful (and even potentially fatal) side effects of weight cutting are due to dehydration.
Dehydrating yourself can cause damage to the liver, kidneys, and heart, as well as leading to other issues like fatigue and even brain damage.
Cutting weight doesn’t just lead to issues outside of a Taekwondo match, however, and it can also increase a fighter’s chances of injury during the fight itself.
This obviously isn’t ideal during an actual fight, and can lead to serious injury if something goes wrong.
While weight cutting can be done in a potentially ‘safe’ way as long as the fighter knows what they’re doing and prepares their body properly in advance, this level of rapid weight loss is bound to come with some complications and risks.
So there you have it – Taekwondo fighters do indeed cut weight before a fight to help them fit into the lowest possible weight class.
Cutting weight carries some serious risks that can have a severe impact on a fighter’s health, but as long as you know what you’re doing and don’t push your body too hard it’s possible to minimize the risks of cutting weight.