Sparring Rules & Setup

The rules and point scoring guides below are the most commonly used for World Taekwondo Sparring, however there may be variations to this between clubs and level of competition. Particularly those competing at a high level, electronic scoring may be used where sensors in the body armor are used to award points. The guide below is aimed at traditional sparring that doesn’t use these sensors. Furthermore, in club level competitions a ‘Kyongo’ or warning may be given before a Gam-jeom. This could be for less serious offences or when referring younger/inexperienced competitors. Ultimately, the rules and point scoring is broadly the same across World Taekwondo competitions however how they are implemented is dependent on the clubs involved, level of competition and the experience of the referees and officials.


- 1 Point: Valid punch to the trunk protector

- 2 Points: Valid kick to the trunk protector

- 4 Points: Valid turning kick to the trunk protector

- 3 Points: Valid kick to the head

- 5 Points: Valid turning kick to the head

- 1 Point: For every Gam-jeom (penalty point) the opponent recieves


A Gam-jeom (penalty point) may be given by the referee for any of the following acts. If a Gam-jeom is given, your opponent receives a point.

- Crossing boundary line

- Falling down

- Avoiding/delaying match

- Grabbing or pushing opponent

- Blocking with the leg

- Kicking opponents leg

- Holding leg in air for more than 3 seconds to prevent opponents attack

- Kicking below the waist

- Hitting opponents head with the hand

- Attacking after referee has stopped the match

- Attacking with the knee

- Attacking fallen opponent

- Provoking or insulting opponent or their coach

- Not following referees decision

- Inappropriate protesting of officials decisions


- Permitted techniques: A straight punching technique using the knuckle of a tightly clenched fist. A foot technique using any part of the foot below the ankle bone.

- Permitted areas: Attacks by the fist and foot on the any area covered by the trunk protector, except the spine. Foot attacks to head area above the collar bone. Fist techniques are not allowed to this area.

- Gam-jeom: If a competitor recieves 10 Gam-jeom during a match, the opponent will be declared the winner

- Different styles of Taekwondo such as TAGB or ITF may follow different rules and scoring for competitions. Ensure you check with the governing bodies for further details.


Most Taekwondo sparring matches will follow this format in competitions however there may be slight variations:

– 3 Rounds (2 for juniors)

– Each round is usually two minutes for adults but may be a minute and half for juniors

– 60 second break between rounds

– Golden point match if scores are tied after all rounds are completed. The first to score will then win.


As with many aspects of Taekwondo sparring, ring setup can vary between clubs and competition level. Certainly at club level, the ring setup depends on available space and number of officials available per ring. However, there are two main types of ring setups used for sparring.

Square shape: Normally 8m x 8m this shape was the standard ring setup until the Octagon ring was used. The 8m x 8m square mats form the contest area, while an area around that should be set aside as a safety area. This normally an additional 2m around the edge of the ring.

Octagon shape: In this set up the competition area is a 10m by 10m square shape with an octagonal shape contest area in the center of that. As in the square setup, a safety area should be included outside the contest area. This setup is now the standard used in major Taekwondo competitions.

This is an example layout based on what you are likely to see in club level competitions. The number of corner judges can vary as well as the number of table officials. Generally all officials are high level Dan grades and so club competitions may struggle with the number of officials available.


Here you can find more information on the role of each person in a sparring competition. Just hover over each image to learn more about each role.

Aside from these roles, there are often other people involved in competitions such as doctors, organizers and spectators.


One will wear red and the other will wear blue chest protectors. Each will try and score points against their opponent using a range of techniques to the legal target areas. This includes the chest protector and head guard. The blue opponent will usually start on the referees right side.


The referee is in charge of starting and stopping the match as well as awarding penalty points. Referees watch the match closely to ensure rules are being followed, and use arm signals as well as Korean words to control the match.


Each player has a coach who will sit in a chair on the side of the ring their player started. They will advise their athletes, and can throw in the towel if necessary. At higher levels of competition they may appeal decisions or ask for a video replay.


In competitions that don't use electronic scoring such as club level, corner judges use small controllers to score points. These can be one simple button, or include a couple of buttons for different techniques. In one hand they will hold blue and in the other red. Three of four corner judges must score the point within a certain time frame (e.g half a second) for it to be awarded.


Table officials oversee the match, and in club competitions they may award the required additional points for spinning kicks that can't be scored by corner judges. These are usually high ranking Dan grades and may also include someone who handles the administrative side. Any appeal of decisions will go to the table officials and they usually have ultimate control of the ring.

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