Is It Okay To Punch In Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a sport that’s steeped in culture and tradition, as well as being incredibly deep.

Many people train for most of their lives trying to perfect their form and style and this is because of the enormous depth and variety of moves that comes with Taekwondo, but what about something as simple as punching?

Is It Okay To Punch In Taekwondo?

Does that have a place in this ancient martial art? In this article we’ll be answering this question,and what the significance of punching is in the sport, and the rules around it. So without further ado let’s get started. 

Punching In Taekwondo

“Tae” means “foot,” “leg,” or “to step on”; “Kwon” means “fist,” or “fight”; and “Do” means the “way” or “discipline.” If we put these three parts together, we can see two important concepts behind “Tae Kwon Do”.

We can clearly see that ‘’fist’’ is a key part of Taekwondo, so it’s a move that’s used often right? Well not really.

In an official sparring match, punches to the body are allowed in Taekwondo. But one cannot punch an opponent on the head or below the belt.

Punches that are not in line with the rules would result in points being deducted from the Taekwondo practitioner who initiated them.

It’s important to remember that whilst taekwondo is a martial art, it’s not self defense, so taking these rules into the real world obviously isn’t a great idea. It’s a similar case with pushing.

Pushing is also illegal in taekwondo because of the danger that’s associated with pushing an opponent whilst they’re performing a move, but also because of the lack of spectacle that it provides, after all, nobody wants to see two people pushing each other around constantly right?

There’s actually more to these rules than meets the eye.

Taekwondo Rules

To offer some context, it’s good to know that in its original incarnation, Taekwondo had no rigid rules. The grand goal was to perfect one’s art, and participants could choose to do that by any means necessary.

This meant that at the time technically punching in the face and groin, and pushing were both completely legal moves, but players really didn’t go for this. 

Players sparring whilst performing their moves are demonstrating their understanding of taekwondo, and this is important, because taekwondo ultimately is about kicking and punching, allowing anything else that’s too far afield from that is ultimately going to distract people from what the martial art is actually about, kicking and punching.

 So, its rules are relatively modern, and they have to cover a lot so that fighters know what is legal and what’s not and to enable referees to “objectively” decide the winners.

It’s highly conceivable that if pushing is legal, it will be used too often, seeing as it can be leveraged as an effective counterattack each time one is attacked. It would always make the martial art or its sports equivalent a joke.

It’s the exact same thing with punches to the head or below the belt, whilst in real life they’re excellent ways to defend yourself, ultimately they’re too effective at what they do.

If punches to the head or below the belt were within the rules, players would kick less, and simply tackle a player to the ground and punch them in the head until they win, no fun right?

Instead it’s much easier to ban illegal punches overall, so there’s no bias within the rules. 

A Spectators Sport

When sparring then, taekwondo is all about showcasing the ability that you’ve mastered whilst training. As simple as it sounds, punches in illegal places are simply not giving students ample chance to show off the other moves that they’ve learned whilst training.

Instead, with the current rules there’s more than enough space for students to use techniques that are dramatic and fantastic to watch, which is why taekwondo is such a huge spectator sport. 

Alternatives To Punching

Whilst this is the case, and punching to the head or below the belt is completely illegal, the first move many students are taught in taekwondo is actually the straight punch (see also ‘Do Knockouts Happen A Lot In Taekwondo?‘)! So why is this?

Students, especially in the western world, are generally taught an adaptation of taekwondo, and whilst this adaptation is incredibly similar to traditional taekwondo, instead of a focus on sparring and practicing against other students, the aim for this alternative martial style is a focus on self defense above all else.

So whilst it’s important for students to rise up in the rankings of taekwondo itself, it’s also important for students to learn how to best defend themselves in real life situations where your own life might be threatened. 

In saying that though, kicks and legal punches are still taught, and students still sparr in the same way that they would anywhere else. 

Final Thoughts

Taekwondo is ultimately about sparring with others, so rather than attacking each other in a generic brawl, it makes much more sense for students to compete using traditional and flashy moves that they can use to show off their mastery of certain parts of taekwondo.

In saying that, it’s important to remember that these rules don’t translate into the street. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to defend yourself then there’s no rules, you do what you have to do.

This is why taekwondo gives you the best of both worlds by giving you the experience to defend yourself in a real life situation, but also giving opportunity to the traditional martial art to shine through in sparring sessions.

Christopher Anderson
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