Is Taekwondo a Sport?

2 taekwondo players exchanging kicks

While many recognize Taekwondo as a traditional martial art style, others are unsure of whether it is also a sport. So, is Taekwondo a sport?

Yes, Taekwondo is a combat sport and a martial art. It originated in Korea and has evolved into an internationally recognized sport with a strong emphasis on kicking techniques. It is also an Olympic sport, having been included in the Olympic Games since the year 2000. In addition to being a competitive sport, Taekwondo is also practiced as a form of self-defense and a means of promoting physical fitness, discipline, and mental well-being.

Only a few martial arts styles are practiced more as a sport than Taekwondo.

In fact, a large number of taekwondo practitioners practice it as a sport rather than as a traditional martial art.

Now, let’s move further as I try to explain taekwondo’s thrilling journey from martial art to a respected sport!

Table of Contents

Is Taekwondo a Sport Yes or No?

Yes, Taekwondo is a combat sport that originated from the ancient Korean forms of martial arts.

It was significantly influenced in its development by elements of the Japanese martial art of karate, which were reflected in taekwondo after the occupation of Korea by Japan in 1910.

The art was exported to the United States after the Second World War through its exposure to American military personnel who had observed taekwondo in Korea.

As a result, Taekwondo became popular as a global sport.

The World Taekwondo (WT), the sport’s international governing body, regulates one of the world’s most widely practiced sports, with 80 million practitioners training under 206 national federations.

Other regulatory bodies include the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), and there is the ATA Martial Arts (formerly known as the American Taekwondo Association) in the United States, among others.

Taekwondo was made an official Olympic sport in 2000, with four weight class categories of both men and women.

Aside from participating in the Olympics as a combat sport, various championships and tournaments are also organized (locally and internationally) by several taekwondo governing bodies (including private institutions) for taekwondo practitioners to participate in.

Taekwondo players participating in a taekwondo championship

World Championship taekwondo competitions have eight separate weight categories.

Note however that while taekwondo is now largely practiced as a sport even in its homeland Korea, it is still practiced by some people as an effective traditional martial art style devoid of any sporting elements.

That is, there are no striking restrictions or penalties as to where and how to punch and kick an opponent as commonly found in its sport.

What Kind of Sport Is Taekwondo?

Taekwondo is a free-fighting combat sport that uses bare hands and feet to attack and repel the opponent.

A combat sport, or fighting sport, is a competitive contact sport that usually involves one-on-one combat either with bare hands and feet or with weapons.

In many combat sports, a contestant wins by scoring more points than the opponent, submitting the opponent with a hold, disabling the opponent (knockout, KO), or attacking the opponent in a specific or designated technique.

Combat sports share a long pedigree with the martial arts.

Most combat sports are traditional martial arts styles that now have a sporting side to them, and taekwondo is one of those styles.

Is Taekwondo a Sport in the Olympics?

Taekwondo at the Summer Olympics made its first appearance as a demonstration sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.

The opening ceremony featured a mass demonstration by taekwondo practitioners with hundreds of adults and children performing moves in unison.

Taekwondo was again a demonstration sport at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.

Taekwondo became a full medal sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, and has been a sport in the Olympic Games since then.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Session confirmed Taekwondo’s place on the Olympic Games Los Angeles 2028 initial sports program on February 3, 2022, marking the eighth consecutive time the sport has been part of the world’s greatest sporting event.

Is Taekwondo a Sport or an Art?

So, is Taekwondo a sport or martial art?

As stated earlier, most combat sports are traditional martial arts styles.

This means taekwondo is both a sport and a martial art, depending on how it is practiced.

Where a practitioner is practicing the art to promote world peace or defend themself from a deadly attacker in a real-world situation (i.e. self-defense) then it can be seen to be practiced as a traditional martial art.

Taekwondo is really a deadly martial art capable of killing an opponent when practiced in its original state.

However, where certain restrictions are placed on how and where kicks are to be launched especially with the sole aim of scoring match points and winning an organized match, then it becomes a sport.

In Taekwondo sport, the goal is not to cause deadly damage to an opponent but to execute techniques capable of scoring points.

Techniques are only allowed in specific areas, usually above the waist level.

You are given one point for a strike in the body and two for kicks to the face. The contest area is usually on a 10m-square mat. Punches to the face are not allowed.

This means that in Taekwondo, there are technique restrictions when practiced as a sport, but there are little or none when practiced as a traditional martial art style.


The worldwide recognition and popularity of taekwondo is more in its practice as a sport and not really as a traditional martial art.

However, it can be practiced both as a sport and as a traditional martial art.

Related: Is martial arts a sport?

Related: Is wrestling a sport?

Related: Is Fencing a sport?

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