Taekwondo returns for the 2024 Paris Games. Read on the learn about the rules of the sport and how Olympic matches will be scored.

How many rounds is an Olympic taekwondo match, and how long does each round last?

Each Olympic taekwondo match consists of three rounds, with each round lasting two minutes. There is a one-minute break in between each round.

At the start of a contest, the competitors stand at attention and bow to each other, on the referee's Korean commands of "cha-ryeot" (attention) and "kyeong-rye" (bow) respectively. The referee then calls out "joon-bi" (ready) and the "shi-jak" (start) to begin the match.

How do athletes win an Olympic taekwondo match?

In new rules introduced for Paris 2024, Olympic taekwondo matches will be decided in a best-of-three format. The score resets at the start of each round, and athletes must win two of the three rounds in order to win the match.

If a round ends in a tie, the following criteria will be used to determine the round winner:

  1. Most points scored by turning or spinning kick
  2. If the technical score is the same, the contestant who has the most points scored for higher-value techniques in the following order: head, trunk, punch, gam-jeom
  3. If the high value points are same, the contestant who received the higher number of hits registered by the Protector and Scoring System (PSS)
  4. If the three above criteria are the same, the referee and judges shall determine superiority

An athlete can also win a match by knocking out their opponent (described below), although it is an uncommon occurrence.

How do athletes win by knockout in Olympic taekwondo?

When a contestant is knocked down, the referee begins a 10-second count, as in boxing. In taekwondo, a person is knocked down if any part of the body other than the sole of the foot touches the floor as a result of an opponent's applied force. The referee can also declare a knockdown if a contestant is staggered and shows no intention or ability to continue, or the referee judges that the contestant cannot continue as the result of being struck by a legitimate technique.

Once a knockdown has occurred, the referee calls out, "kal-yeo," meaning "break." This tells the other contestant to back away while the referee begins counting from one ("ha-nah") to 10 ("yeol") in Korean in one-second intervals. Even if the downed contestant stands up and wants to resume, he or she must wait while the referee continues counting to eight ("yeo-dul"). The referee then determines whether the contestant is fit to continue. If not, the other contestant wins by knockout. If the contestant is deemed fit to continue, the referee resumes the contest by declaring "kye-sok" (continue).

How do athletes score in Olympic taekwondo?

Points are earned for each legitimate strike delivered to a scoring area on the opponent. The two legal scoring areas are the body (the blue or red area of the trunk protector) and the head (the area above the collar bone, including the neck, both ears and the back of the head). Hits below the waist are forbidden. The blows must be delivered accurately and powerfully to those scoring areas.

Also, strikes can only be delivered using the permitted parts of the body. A punch to the body must be delivered with the front of a firmly clenched fist, and a kick with part of the foot below the ankle.

Points are awarded as follows:

  • 1 point for a valid punch to the trunk protector
  • 2 points for a valid kick to the trunk protector
  • 3 points for a valid kick to the head
  • 4 points for a valid turning kick to the trunk protector
  • 5 points for a valid turning kick to the head
  • 1 point awarded for each “gam-jeom” given to the opponent

The measurement of whether or not a strike is delivered powerfully is made electronically by the electronic Protector and Scoring System (PSS). The force of impact threshold varies by weight class and gender.

Valid points for strikes will be recorded automatically by the PSS system. In the case of turning kicks to the trunk protector or head, the "valid point(s)" shall be scored automatically by the PSS system, while the "valid turn" must be recognized and registered by at least two of the three judges.

Are there penalties in Olympic taekwondo?

A penalty in taekwondo is known as a "gam-jeom." Whenever a gam-jeon is issued to a competitor, their opponent receives one point. If either competitor accumulates five gam-jeoms in a single round, their opponent is automatically declared the winner of that round.

Infractions that would result in a penalty include:

  • Crossing the boundary line
  • Falling down
  • Avoiding or delaying the match
  • Grabbing or pushing the opponent
  • Attacking below the waist intentionally
  • Attacking the opponent after a "kal-yeo" (break)
  • Hitting the opponent's head with the hand
  • Attacking with the knee intentionally
  • Attacking a fallen opponent

Is there a "golden point round" in Olympic taekwondo?

Because Olympic taekwondo matches have moved to a best-of-three format, the golden point round — essentially a sudden-death overtime period — has been eliminated for Paris 2024.