Taekwondo is a Korean martial art © Getty Images

Taekwondo is a Korean martial art © Getty Images

Taekwondo (say it like this: tie-kwon-doh) is a bout between two athletes.

The athletes fight on a 12 metre square mat. They wear a uniform called a dobok (say: doh-bok) and padding to protect their heads and bodies.

They cannot kick or punch each other in the back or below the belt.

A referee makes sure the athletes keep to the rules.

A taekwondo match has three rounds and each round lasts for three minutes.  The athletes have a one minute rest in between the rounds. 

There are competitions for men and for women,  divided into four weight groups. The lightest is Flyweight, then Featherweight, then Welterweight, and the heaviest is Heavyweight.

Taekwondo comes from Korea. It is a sport for everyone. The word taekwondo means "the way of kicking and punching". In taekwondo, hands and feet can be used to tackle an opponent, the sport is really its combination of kick movements.


Taekwondo developed from earlier forms of martial arts, taek kyon and soo-bak. These martial arts were practised by soldiers who, unarmed, fought will their hands and feet. There are paintings, hundreds of years old, inside ancient tombs which show warriors in unarmed combat, performing flying kicks similar to those in modern taekwondo.

Read the rules of taekwondo:


Read more and watch a video about Olympic taekwondo :