Pan Am Taekwondo

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Sport Overview

Born in Korea with historical roots tracing back more than two millennia, taekwondo is a martial art contested in matches of three rounds of two minutes each. Combatants step onto the mat wearing protective gear on their heads and chests — the scoring areas in the sport. To win the match, competitors attempt to kick or punch their opponents in the scoring zones to earn points. The scoring system rewards activity and style such as scoring a blow with one’s back to the opponent. This results in highly athletic and dynamic moves such as spinning kicks and punches.

Canada won three gold medals in taekwondo in each of the past two Pan Am Games, including two in 2011, and an impressive five medals were won on home soil in Winnipeg in 1997.


A martial art created in Korea, taekwondo means “the way of the foot and the hand.” Although this name became official only in the mid-20th century, the sport has its origins in taekkyon (“foot-hand”), a style dating from the era of the Three Kingdoms of Korea, around 50 BC. The discipline is one of the two Asian martial arts in the Olympic Games program, the other being judo. Taekwondo was performed as a demonstration sport in both the Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 Olympic Games. It had its official debut in Sydney 2000. Matches take place on an eight-metre-square or octagonal matted court, with three rounds of two minutes each and a one-minute break between rounds. The uniform is white, and participants use head and trunk protectors, one of each colour: red and blue.

How it works

The goal of taekwondo is to strike the opponent’s trunk and head with kicks and punches within the blue-and-red-coloured regions. Kicks of a certain power level score one point when they land in the trunk area, or two in the case of a spinning kick. A punch scores one point. During matches, athletes wear electronic vests that cover their trunks and measure the power of the kicks they absorb. Kicks to the opponent's head are worth three points, while spinning kicks to the opponent's head are worth four points.

Violations — such as the use of knees, pushing, holding, hitting below the waist and hitting opponents while they are on the floor — may incur a penalty.

There are four ways an athlete can win: by knocking out the opponent with a valid technique; by scoring the most points; by amassing a 12-point advantage at the end of the second round; or upon disqualification of the opponent.

Competitions take place in eight weight categories (four for men and four for women) and in direct elimination brackets. The winners of each bracket vie for the gold medal in their weight/gender category. All participants who lose to one of the finalists at any stage of the competition go to the repêchage bracket. The two losers at the semifinal stage face the winners of two repêchage brackets for the bronze medal.


A competitor’s uniform.

The athlete wearing a red uniform.

The start fighting command.

Additional Information

Additional Information