What Penalties Are There In Taekwondo?

When entering a Taekwondo Tournament it’s important to know the dos and don’ts of the sport.

TaeKwonDo tournaments are not intended to mimic real-life fights or to demonstrate real-life fighting skills.

It’s all about exhibiting technical proficiency, and the more flashy and sophisticated the technique, the better.

What Penalties Are There In Taekwondo?

Not surprisingly, the more “showy” techniques, like a spinning hook kick, are also the most forceful.

Whether you’re just starting out as a white belt or looking for a refresh, this quick guide will keep you up to date on all the Taekwondo rules and regulations.

Avoid being punished for silly mistakes and start working your way up the ranks of Taekwondo.

Rules Of Taekwondo

Before the contest begins, the regulations are in place.

In an official tournament situation, you must follow a few simple rules to avoid being disqualified before ever throwing your first kick (or punch).

Firstly, you must make a point of bowing to your opponent and the referee.

This shows an immense amount of respect which is an integral part of the sport.

Along with bowing to your opponent and the match referee, you must also bow to all three judges. These will be black belts.

They will decide the winner of the match using their judgement and previous experience of striking.

Each match within a tournament consists of three rounds lasting 2 minutes each. One minute break is given in between each round.

Take your time, catch your breath and drink water during these breaks.

After the full three rounds, the opponent with the most points after penalties has been deducted is automatically named the winner.

However, in the event that a tie takes place, a golden round is fought. The fighter who gains the first point is declared the winner.

A contestant can also win by achieving a knockout!

Scoring In Taekwondo

As you might expect, kicks are used to score in TaeKwonDo tournaments, and the fighter’s goal is to land as many scoring kicks or punches on his opponent as possible during the competition.

Generally, opponents enter the mat with a pre-planned strategy. Almost like a playbook in football.

However, Taekwondo matches tend to go sideways and allow the opponent to make quick reaction decisions.

Each target region on the body will receive a different number of points, and kicks and punches must be delivered with force in order to gain a point.

Therefore, opponents must make the best move they can.

Hits To The Body

Hits To The Body

If you use a straight turning kick or a front kick, you will receive one point.

If you hit the body with a spinning kick, such as a jump back kick, you will receive three points.

In Taekwondo events, punches that aren’t very powerful will only earn you one point. So you can see why there are so many kicks.

Hits To The Head

This is where the real points are gained.

If you kick your opponent in the head with a twisting kick, you get three points, but if you show some flair and hit the skull with a spinning hook kick, you get an extra point, making it four points.

The more kicks to your opponents head, the more points you’ll get. However, two judges must witness the strike in order to be awarded the points.


A knockdown occurs when any part of your opponent’s body, other than their foot, touches the floor.

The match referee will immediately start a mandatory eight-second countdown. If your opponent gets back up, the fight continues.

If they remain on the floor after the eight-second countdown, you’ll receive one point.

Penalties In Taekwondo

Much like other sports such as football and soccer, committing offences results in penalties.

These can differ depending on the sport and the severity of the offences.

In Taekwondo penalties are given to those committing offences such as grabbing, holding, pushing, turning one’s back on an opponent and pretending to be injured.

These are considered warning penalties or “Kyong Go”. If Kyong Go penalty is given, the consequence is a deduction of half a point.

However, sometimes a warning penalty is unavoidable. When a penalty is made by mistake the half point will still be deducted if caught by the referee.

The most serious taekwondo offence is ‘Gam-jeom,’ which is punishable by a one-point deduction.

Throwing an opponent, purposefully stepping past the boundary line, pulling an opponent to the ground, and assaulting the face with anything other than the feet are all examples of ‘Gam-jeom.’

The consequence of committing a Gam Jeom penalty is a deduction of one full point.

As gam-jeom offences are more serious in nature, contestants are disqualified from the match if caught committing three penalties.

But let’s say you perform perfectly.

No penalties on your part and excellent points but something happens that is unfair, you get penalised whilst your opponents gains a point.

Your coach is on the sidelines and reacts unprofessionally. They are yelling at the referee or causing a disruption to the tournament.

This can cause the judging panel to deduct points from your score on the behalf of your instructor’s unsportsmanlike manner.


Following these rules and regulations you’ll be avoiding penalties like the plague!

Always make sure to be respectful in all areas of Taekwondo, from bowing to the judges, referee and your opponents to never turning your back.

These factors are highly important to the Taekwondo community. Striking your opponent’s head or face will gain you points.

However, striking your opponent in the face or head with anything other than your feet will result in a Gam-Jeom penalty.

Gam-Jeom penalties are given to those being disrespectful to their opponents and the art of Taekwondo.

Continuing to strike your opponent in the head whilst on the floor or having frequent, aggressive outbursts towards your opponent will penalise you for one full point.

Basically, stick to the rules.

Remain on the mat at all times, bow to those around you and strike your opponent above the waist with powerful and controlled movements.

Christopher Anderson
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