Summer Olympics: All About Taekwondo

All About Taekwondo

Taekwondo is a modern martial art turned sport that originated in Korea. It rewards daring attacks during which a fighter opens themselves up to a counter-attack.

How Does Taekwondo Work?

Taekwondo fighters wear protective headgear and a chest protector called a hogu. Points are awarded for solid kicks to the head or hogu and punches to the torso. Extra-points are given to fighters who complete a strike that opens themselves up to being hit — basically if you spin while striking, you get an extra point. The way this all sorts itself out is this: a kick or punch to the trunk is worth one point, a kick with a spin to the hogu is worth three points, a kick to the head is worth three, and a kick to the head with a spin is worth four. No punches to the head are allowed. Bouts are divided into three two minute rounds with a minute of rest between. The fighter with the most points at the end of the time wins. If there’s a tie, a fourth round is fought with the first point winning. If there’s still a tie after a fourth round, the referees decide the winner! Another way to win the fight is by knocking out one’s opponent.

Why do People Like Watching Taekwondo?

Taekwondo combines the potential for sudden and spectacular violence of boxing with the artistry of judo. It doesn’t have the anything-goes feel of UFC or MMA, but for fans of those sports, this might be the closest Olympic equivalent.

Check out some highlights from the 2012 Olympics:

What are the different events?

There are eight events in Taekwondo, four for men and four for women. Each event represents a weight class, beginning at 127 lbs for men and 108 lbs for women and maxing out at over 147 lbs for women and 176 lbs for men.

How Dangerous is Taekwondo?

Any sport where you can win by knocking your opponent unconscious is inherently dangerous. Concussions and sub-concussive brain injury is common. Still, bouts are relatively short and if you watch a few of them, you’ll notice that not many kicks land solidly to the head in a given bout. Outlawing punches to the head, which I imagine would be easier to land, is another safety measure.

What’s the State of Gender Equality in Taekwondo?

Perfect! Four weight classes for men, four weight classes for women, and exactly the same number of athletes in each.


Bookmark the full Olympics schedule from NBC. Taekwondo is from Wednesday, August 17 to Saturday, August 20.

Read more about Taekwondo on the official Rio Olympics site.

Sports reads: Is winning everything? Is it anything?

The topic of winning is a natural one in sports. Sports are, after all, one of life’s few activities that have clear and objective winners and losers. That’s one of the appeals of sports. It’s therefore very interesting when things happen to subvert the reward of winning, even within sports. This week, we’re featuring four articles that approach the topic of winning from a different point of view.

Fuck Winning

by Albert Burneko for Deadspin

Burneko got his start on Deadspin writing about food and quickly became hotly anticipated must-read-out-loud material in my household. Recently he’s made the move to non-food commentary and his stuff is just as good. This week, he responded to James Harrison, and NFL veteran, who publicly and triumphantly returned a participation trophy that one of his children had been given. 

The big grown-up world is coming up behind my children—behind James Harrison’s kids and yours, too, if you have them. To sort them: those who will prosper, or falter; those whom the barbarism we have enshrined into our way of life will reward, and those it will devour; those who will strive with their whole selves to make their way in that grown-up world and then unknowingly choose to attend the same prayer meeting as Dylann Roof and be snatched out of it in violence and fear and confusion, whether they got trophies for participating in sports or not.

For now, for now, for as long as I can have it, the reason to do things—to play sports, to do work, to get out of bed in the morning—is because the privilege is a fucking miracle, because it might allow my children to be children now, now, today, before the least consideration of long-term goals and competition and getting ahead may intrude upon the impulse a little kid gets to put a balloon inside his shirt and make another little kid laugh.

Soccer’s Poor Little Rich Clubs

by Joshua Robinson for the Wall Street Journal

Although European countries tend to be more socialist than ours, European club soccer is way more capitalist. The movement of teams from one level-league to the next higher or lower carries with it incredible financial consequences. For smaller teams, just making it into the top league, even if they then lose all their games, is a giant victory.

Europe’s major leagues all operate on a system of promotion and relegation. The bottom two or three clubs every season are demoted to the division below and replaced by the best teams beneath them. In the richest leagues, it’s like a revolving door to the billionaires’ club… 

And as television revenue reaches new heights, the microclubs all make the same bet. A couple of seasons at their country’s top table can translate to years of financial stability. It isn’t about winning titles. It is about surviving—even briefly.

Roger Goodell vs. Tom Brady: The Ultimate Revenge-of-Mediocrity Story

by Matt Taibbi for Rolling Stone

In court, no one wins, not even the winner. That’s the message of this acerbic article about the continuing Deflategate “scandal” in the NFL.

If Goodell wins this court battle, sports pundits will line up to talk about what a “brilliant” PR strategist Goodell is, how he’s “masterfully” scored a public relations “knockout” of the once-iconic Brady.

Except this Iago-esque campaign of diabolical leaks, secret indictments and double punishments has been conducted against his most marketable player for…why exactly? What other business would spend such an awesome amount of time, money, and most of all cunning undermining its key employees?

It’s like concocting a brilliant plan to break into a supermax prison. Hey, you made it, congratulations, that’s a hell of a tunnel you built there. Now what was the point again?

Medieval Times: The Armored Combat League Makes Sport Out of Swords and Shields

by Jason Concepcion for Grantland

Concepcion spends a fair amount of time marveling at the wild sport that people have forged from a history of armored combat, but its his ironic take on the appeal of this history that caught my eye. 

Once upon a time, the subset of Americans who are drawn to the ren-faire-style wizards, wenches, and knights trappings of medieval Europe were looked upon by their countrymen with collective fascination, if at all. Such behavior existed under the general umbrella of Nerd Shit. But now, after the one-two punch of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Game of Thrones becoming a global phenomenon, a not-insignificant portion of Americans have a cursory knowledge of heraldry and feudalism.

For all its courtly affectations, Europe’s medieval period was essentially a religiously fractious, war-torn dystopia… Which is to say, its appeal has never seemed more obvious.

What's New for the '13-'14 NHL Hockey Season?

The NHL Hockey season starts tomorrow with games in Montreal, Edmonton, and Chicago. For nine out of every ten sports fans, this will have about as much impact on their lives as missing one quarter of a regular season football game because they had to run out to the store to get some pickles. The fringe popularity of hockey can be seen clearly in the low importance levels the sport receives on our daily and seven-day almanac forecasts. For the hockey fan though, it is a big day! Hockey fans have many reasons why they love hockey and the start of every season is a time when fans of all teams can be excited and optimistic about their team’s potential… even the Florida Panthers. The NHL is known to be one of the most flexible and quick-reacting leagues when it comes to tweaking the rules to fit the needs of their players, owners, and sponsors. A couple new rules this year highlight this characteristic.

No More Jersey Tucking

Not a new rule technically, the NHL has decided to start enforcing a rule against a player tucking in his jersey which has been part of the rulebook for 50 years. It doesn’t take long to realize that despite the head-fake towards explaining this rule through a ref’s easier identification of the player from behind, that this rule is all about the official sponsors of hockey. The makers of hockey pants (heavily padded) realized long ago that they could get some free advertising by putting their logo on the area that is exposed when a player tucks his jersey. No more!

If you take off mine, I’ll take of yours.

Fighting with Helmets, Visors, or None

For years the most hotly debated topic about hockey in the general media has been the place of fighting in the game. In our post, Why Do People Like Hockey, the seventh reason was “Blood (and Consent.) There are two new rules that affect how players will fight this year.

Players who fight this year, in addition to the normal five minute penalty for fighting, will be given an additional two minute penalty if they take their own helmet off. You might be wondering why a player who is about to get into a bare-knuckle fist-fight on ice would take his own helmet off. Hockey is governed by a highly ritualized set of unwritten rules. There’s a big section of this code that pertains to fighting. For instance, a fighter will not fight a player who isn’t a fighter during the normal course of play but, if a non-fighter makes a dirty play, he’s likely to be challenged by a fighter on the other team and he’s got to fight back. Players who fight a lot have more in common with fighters on other teams than they often do with the skill players on their team. So it’s probably no surprise that they don’t wear visors because a visor is likely to break the hand of whoever is fighting against them.

This year is the first year under a new collective bargained agreement between players and owners that requires new players to wear visors on their helmets that protect their eyes. Joe Haggerty explains that while this rule is meant to protect injuries, it may also cause some injuries for players who are determined to fight:

“Guys have been fighting long enough and punching enough guys in the helmet that your hand is a big, calloused club. You’re used to that. Even when guys don’t have visors on, you’re still hitting a lot of helmet. It takes more area away from the face where you can make contact, so it will be a learning curve.”

The solution? Until the league outlaws fighting all-together, the players will find their own solutions. In the preseason, Krys Barch and Brett Gallant found their own solution. They took each other’s helmets off before beginning to throw punches! David Singer of (yes, that exists) commented that this was “Victorian era honor. The Code. A ridiculous loophole on display.” Which is more ridiculous though, the response or the rule? There’s a set of hockey players that make their living partially through fighting. Unbroken hands are a job requirement and punching a visor or helmet too hard is a good way to lose a place on the team; one that, once gone, may never be regained.