Updated: Mon, 19 Mar 2012 21:13:56 GMT | By pa.press.net

TAEKWONDO

The powerful kicks and punches associated with the action-packed sport of taekwondo make it one of the most exciting spectacles around.


A taekwondoist avoids an attack. (© Press Association)

A taekwondoist avoids an attack.

Taekwondo

The powerful kicks and punches associated with the action-packed sport of taekwondo make it one of the most exciting spectacles around.

The martial art sees competitors use a combination of attacks with both the hands and the feet to overcome an opponent.

Trademark kicking combinations that often feature have helped to generate the mass appeal that the sport now enjoys - with over 70 million people in more than 190 countries across the world taking part in taekwondo.

It was first developed in South Korea in the 1950s, although its origins date back 2,000 years.

As the national past-time, it was fitting that South Korea was the setting for the sport's first appearance on the Olympic Games stage as a demonstration event at Seoul 1988.

Taekwondo made its debut as a full medal event at the Sydney 2000 Games and in its current format, there are eight different weight categories competed at the Olympics, with four weight divisions for both men and women.

Athletes compete in a single elimination tournament with the two victorious semi-finalists battling it out for the gold medal.

All competitors who lose to the finalists at some stage during the competition are then entered into a pool system for the chance to play off against the losing semi-finalists for one of two bronze medals in the repechage phase.

Taekwondo bouts take place on a court that measures eight metres square over three rounds of two minutes each, with points being awarded for kicks and punches to an opponent's scoring zones.

One point is awarded for a valid kick or punch to the torso, two points for a valid spinning kick, and four points for a turning kick to the head.

An electronic scoring system is used with sensors on the body protectors and 'socks', while head shots are awarded by mat-side officials.

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