What Is Allowed (And Not Allowed) In Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is one of the most popular martial arts in the world.

This Korean martial art involves using fast punches and kicks to fight your opponents; but in a real competitive Taekwondo match, what is and isn’t allowed?

What is allowed (and not allowed) in Taekwondo

If you’re interested in what fighters in Taekwondo can and can’t do during a match, then you’ve come to the right place!

In this handy guide, we’ll teach you all the ins and outs of the rules in Taekwondo, from what is and isn’t allowed to some of the penalties fighters may face for breaking the rules.

So let’s get started, shall we?

What Moves Are Allowed In Taekwondo?

The legal techniques in Taekwondo are pretty simple, and mostly come down to common sense.

With that being said, though, you need to make sure that you’re using the right techniques aimed at the correct areas.

In general, any kick to the torso or head is allowed, as long as they make contact with the target area; these are the torso above the belt line, and the front and sides of the face.

Punches and strikes with the fist, meanwhile, can only be aimed at the torso above the belt line.

All attacks must be aimed above the waist, and any strike below the belt line is a foul.

In the same way that you can only strike certain parts of the body, you also have to make sure that you’re making contact using the right areas.

Kicks, for instance, must only use parts of the foot below the ankle; strikes with the shins or knees are not allowed.

Similarly, punches must use the fronts of the index and middle fingers from the top to middle knuckles – jabs, crosses, hooks, and body shots are all permitted.

What Isn’t Allowed In Taekwondo?

So now that we’ve taken a look at what is allowed in Taekwondo, let’s take a look at some techniques and behaviors that are forbidden.

Violations and fouls in Taekwondo can be loosely grouped into two categories – illegal moves, unsporting behavior.

What is allowed (and not allowed) in Taekwondo

These categories aren’t official classifications, but make it easier to understand what sort of actions can lead to punishment in Taekwondo matches.

Here’s a breakdown of the two categories:

Illegal Moves

This category is fairly self-explanatory, although there are a few more notable examples of illegal moves that we haven’t mentioned yet.

As covered earlier, any attack to a part of the body outside of the target area counts as a foul.

This includes punches and strikes with the fist to the head, or any punches and kicks that are aimed below the waistline.

In the same way, kicks that make contact above the ankle are also considered violations.

Other illegal strikes are hits to the back of the head or spine, any attacks with the knees or elbows, and strikes with an open hand.

Pushing, grabbing, and holding are also banned and can hold especially severe penalties.

Throws and takedowns in particular can lead to harsh punishments if they are used in a Taekwondo match. The same applies to hair pulling, biting, scratching, and other more serious fouls.

Unsporting Behavior

This category is a little harder to define, but overall covers violations that undermine the competitive spirit of Taekwondo.

One example of unsporting behavior is a player feigning the severity of an injury in order to prevent the opponent from scoring or even to trick the referee into calling a foul.

Other unsporting behaviors include verbal abuse, regardless of whether it’s directed at the opponent, referee, or spectators, as well as ignoring or disrespecting the referee.

Some unsporting behavior may involve a fighter breaking the rules without any physical contact with the opponent; for instance, if a player steps out of the competition at any time during the match, this is also considered a foul.

Unsporting behaviors may not deal with physically violent violations, but they can still result in severe penalties for the offending fighter.

What Are The Penalties For Breaking The Rules In Taekwondo?

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at some of these punishments!

Fouls in Taekwondo generally result in the offending player losing points.

These foul points are subtracted from your total score in the fight, which can prove massively detrimental (especially in a tight match).

This point deduction, which is also called ‘gam-jeom’, is by far the most common penalty in Taekwondo.

A fighter can be issued a gam-jeom for anything from hitting outside of the target area to using unsporting and/or prohibited actions.

Considering how vital each point can be in a Taekwondo match – especially on a professional level – any deducted points can be devastating and may even shift the final result of a match.

Gam-jeom, despite being the primary penalty in Taekwondo, isn’t the only possible punishment for fouls.

If a fighter has incurred ten gam-jeom, the referee can disqualify them from the match and declare their opponent the winner by default.

This means that, while individual point reductions can be damaging on their own, repeated violations quickly add up to catastrophic consequences.

Additionally, a fighter may also be disqualified if their violations are particularly egregious and/or dangerous.

This might happen if the fighter attacks the referee, a fighter makes multiple, violent fouls, or if they repeatedly use unsporting behavior to give themselves an advantage.

These can result in the referee instantly disqualifying the offending fighter and removing them from the match.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it – now you know what moves are allowed in Taekwondo, what techniques and behaviors aren’t allowed, and what can happen to offending fighters who break the rules.

As long as you use the information in this guide, you’ll know everything there is to know about what does and doesn’t go in a Taekwondo match!

So next time you’re watching a competitive fight, keep an eye out and see if you spot any fouls the referee misses – now you know what to look out for!

Christopher Anderson