December 01, 2023 3 min read


The two major Taekwondo styles are ITF and WTF (or simply WT).  WT Taekwondo is also commonly known as Olympic Taekwondo, because in 2000 it officially became a part of the Olympic program.  The WT runs the sport in the Olympics, so any Taekwondo in the Olympics must comply with WT rules.

WT Olympic rules are "touch-contact", as any touch contact in an approved area wins a point.  Kicks are allowed to both to the torso and head, whilst punches are only allowed to the torso.  And, you only need to "touch" to score a point.

Because of these rules, WT Taekwondo has evolved away from self defense, and moved toward sport/competition.  

Consider, for example, the following video snippet:



Notice the low leading hand in the stance.  Why does WT Taekwondo do this?  It is because punches to the face are not allowed.  Punches or kicks are also not allowed below the waist.  Athletes are also penalized if they use their leg to block or kick their opponent's leg to prevent a kicking attack, or have their leg in the air for more than three seconds to impede an opponent’s potential attacking movements. 

You can also see this in the following picture from the 2020 Olympic Gold Medal bout:

Notice where the hands are.  They are not guarding the head, because they know that (according to Olympic rules) all attacks from the opponent with come from the legs.  So they guard low, not high.


Does Taekwondo do Grappling?

WT Taekwondo does zero grappling, as a Taekowndoin will lose points for pushing or grabbing their opponents.  And if points are lost from pushing or grabbing, what need does a WT Taekwondoin have for falling techniques?   Yes, I realize that some WT Taekwondo classes teach these skills, but those that do have extended their teaching beyond standard Taekwondo curriculum.  

Training for the above restrictions puts you at a disadvantage in self-defense scenarios where anything goes.  It also changes things enough to where the above stance is the ideal stance for Olympic (Tournament) Taekwondo.  But not for anything else.

If you want to compete, WT Taekwondo is your best path forward.  But if you want to maximize your self-defense skills for your effort expended, WT Taekwondo is not the choice for you.


Does Taekwondo Have Weapons?

No.  Weapons are not a part of the official curriculum of either WT or ITF Taekwondo.  If a Taekwondo school is teaching weapons (nunchuks, staff, knife, or anything else), they are extending their curriculum beyond the standard. 


Is ITF Taekwondo Better than WTF?

ITF Taekwondo is a style from North Korea.  It is said by some to be more self-defense oriented than WT Taekwondo.  But if you do ITF Taekwondo, you will need to deal with the dreaded "sine wave", with your head bobbing up and down. Here are a couple of examples (that happen to be ITF Taekwondo White Belt Form Chon Ji Hyung):


Good luck with that.  

If you are going to do taekwondo, I think WT Taekwondo is the path for you.  And that is the path for competition, not for self-defense. If you want self-defense, and you want to maximize the result for the effort expended, you should choose something other than taekwondo.

Temper this advice, though, with the qualifications of the instructor.  A good taekwondo instructor will do more for you with self defense training than a poor instructor in any other style.  Plus taekwondo will open a path for competition for you, if that is your desire.


Leave a comment

Comments will be approved before showing up.