17 September 2019
| THE HEARTBEAT OF WOMEN'S SPORT

Getting Started – Taekwondo

August 28, 2009
sarah-stevenson

Four-time Olympian Sarah Stevenson, who won a bronze medal in Beijing shares with Sportsister’s readers her beginner’s guide to taekwondo.

My biggest achievement to date has been winning the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the first Team GB medal ever won in the Olympic sport. I have also won gold in the World Championships, European Championships and Commonwealth Championships.

I have since retired from the sport and have taken up a coaching role within British Taekwondo.

This is my introduction to the sport of taekwondo, including everything that you will need to give it a go yourself!

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What’s it all about?

The Olympic discipline of ‘sparring’ taekwondo has grown from the traditional martial art that was established in the 1950s and 1960s. Sport taekwondo has evolved in the decades since then and has a somewhat different focus, especially in terms of its emphasis on speed and competition rather than power and self-defence.

What to expect from the sport?

Taekwondo is known for its emphasis on kicking techniques, which distinguishes it from martial arts such as karate or some styles of kung fu. The rationale is that the leg is the longest and strongest weapon a martial artist has, and kicks thus have the greatest potential to execute powerful strikes without successful retaliation. Historically, the Koreans thought that the hands were too valuable to be used in combat.

Taekwondo as a martial art is popular with people of both genders and of many ages. Physically, taekwondo develops strength, speed, balance, flexibility, and stamina. A taekwondo student typically wears a white uniform with a belt tied around the waist. The belt indicates the student’s rank or school.

What is the format for competing?

 

Under WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) and Olympic rules, sparring is a full-contact event and takes place between two competitors in an area measuring 8 x 8 metres square. Each match consists of three two-minute rounds with a short rest in between.

Points are awarded for permitted, accurate, and powerful techniques to the legal scoring areas; light contact to a scoring area does not score any points. In most competitions, points are awarded by four corner judges using electronic scoring tallies.

Several A-Class tournaments, such as the British Championships, are now trying out electronic scoring equipment contained within body protectors, thus eliminating the need for corner judges.

What is the training like?

Our training takes place at the Sport Taekwondo UK Elite Academy in Manchester and I am one of 15 athletes who train professionally there. We are well looked after with staff assigned to us to look at our nutritional intake, specific gym work that we need to do to improve certain muscle groups as well as having access to physiotherapists and doctors when recovering from injury.

We all take our sport very seriously and training six days a week (approx 25 hours) means you really have to be committed to improving yourself every day. We work on a combination of sparring sessions and body conditioning.

What skills do I need?

Taekwondo is largely based on kicking speed so I would say that agility as well as flexibility are the most vital skills. Having the ability to kick to the oppositions head height is important as this is the highest scoring contact but also maintaining the mental focus and reaction time needed to defend against attacks is what makes a champion.

How to get involved

To get involved you can find a local club by contacting British Taekwondo at www.britishtaekwondo.org.uk

I got involved having seen my brother taking part in the sport when I was young. As soon as I was old enough I joined my local club and have never looked back!

Taekwondo is a great sport for fitness as well as giving you mental toughness that you can take into other avenues of life, give it a go and you might just end up on an Olympic podium!

Sarah Stevenson, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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