2. Ottelu (Kyorugi)

Sparring is a form of training common to many combat sports. Although the precise form varies, it is essentially relatively 'free-form' fighting, with enough rules, customs, or agreements to make injuries unlikely.

In Taekwondo, sparring is called;

In the World Taekwondo (WT), the majority of the attacks executed are kicking techniques, whereas the ITF encourages the use of both hands and feet. The International Taekwondo Federation (ITF) does not always spar with head guards, but it is known to occur in some organizations practicing this form.

In some schools, permission to begin sparring is granted upon entry. The rationale for this decision is that students must learn how to deal with a fast, powerful, and determined attacker. In other schools, students may be required to wait a few months, for safety reasons, because they must first build the skills they would ideally employ in their sparring practice.

The educational role of sparring is a matter of some debate. In any sparring match, precautions of some sort must be taken to protect the participants. These may include wearing protective gear, declaring certain techniques and targets off-limits, playing slowly or at a fixed speed, forbidding certain kinds of trickery, or one of many other possibilities. These precautions have the potential to change the nature of the skill that is being learned. For example, if one were to always spar with heavily padded gloves, one might come to rely on techniques that risk breaking bones in one's hand. Many schools recognize this problem but value sparring nonetheless because it forces the student to improvise, to think under pressure, and to keep their emotions under control.

Light and Medium Contact Sparring

These types of sparring restrict the amount of force that may be used to hit an opponent, in the case of light sparring this is usual to 'touch' contact, e.g. a punch should be 'pulled' as soon as or before contact is made. In medium-contact (sometimes referred to as semi-contact) the punch would not be 'pulled' but not hit with full force. As the amount of force used is restricted, the aim of these types of sparring is not to knock out an opponent; a point system is used in competitions.

In some styles (such as fencing and some styles of Taekwondo sparring), competitors score points based on the landing of a single technique or strike as judged by the referee, whereupon the referee will briefly stop the match, award a point, then restart the match. Alternatively, sparring may continue with the point noted by the judges. Some critics of point sparring feel that this method of training teaches habits that result in lower combat effectiveness. Lighter-contact sparring may be used exclusively, for children or in other situations when heavy contact would be inappropriate (such as beginners), medium-contact sparring is often used as training for full contact.

Full Contact Sparring

Full-contact sparring or competition, where strikes are not pulled but thrown with full force as the name implies, has a number of tactical differences from light and medium-contact sparring. It is considered by some to be requisite in learning realistic unarmed combat.

In taekwondo, free sparring is called kyorugi by the World Taekwondo (WT) or matseogi by the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF). This is called "free" sparring to distinguish it from Step Sparring in which attacks and blocks are prearranged, or Semi-Free or Point Sparring in which sparring pauses after each point is scored. The ATA for example practices Point Sparring rather than Free Sparring.

In the WT, the majority of the attacks executed during free sparring are kicking techniques, whereas the ITF encourages the use of both hands and feet. WT sparring generally incorporates more protective gear (such as the chest  and head protectors) and so will generally involve heavier contact. ITF sparring may also be full-contact for some tournaments, but often is conducted as light-contact sparring, relying just on the padded sparring gloves and shoes to provide protection.


Rules vary by taekwondo style and by tournament.

WT Scoring

Beginning in June 2018, WT-style scoring is as follows:


  • One point for a strong punch to the opponent's torso.
  • Two points for a regular kick (a non-spinning kick) to the opponent's torso. (In 2016, this was just one point.)
  • Three points for a regular kick to the opponent's head.
  • Four points for a spinning kick (i.e., a technical kick) to the opponent's torso. (In 2017, this was just three points.)
  • Five points for a spinning kick to the opponent's head. (In 2017, this was just four points.)


  • All penalties are a one-point add to the opponent. In other words, there are no more half-point penalties, as there were in 2016 and before, and penalties now add a point to the opponent, rather than deducting a point from the offender. Penalties include:
  • Grabbing, holding, or throwing your opponent
  • Pushing is allowed, but pushing may not be used to stop an attack. Pushing an opponent out-of-bounds is a penalty on the pusher, not on the person who steps out of bounds.
  • Falling to the floor (so that a body part other than your feet touch the floor).
  • Attacking with the knee or leg (rather than the foot)
  • Targeting hits below your opponent's waist (although kicks to the buttocks are often less likely to be penalized)
  • Turning your back on your opponent to evade
  • Kicking your opponent's spine-area, including the back of the head
  • Punching your opponent's spine-area, including the back of the head
  • Prolonged inaction (not attempting any kicks or strikes for too long a time); in WTF taekwondo, this rule was added to make the sport more exciting for spectators. More recently, for the same reason, some tournaments also declare a penalty if an athlete's foot is held in the air for more than 3 seconds (i.e., to avoid "foot fencing").

Definitions and Clarifications

  • A kick must have some force behind it to score a point. A light tap does not yield a point.
  • The kick must use the foot below the ankle. A kick with the shin or knee does not count.
  • Note that if electronic sensors are being used, most systems have sensors only on the top (instep) of the foot, so kicks with the bottom or side of the foot are less likely to score.
  • Kicking along the spine itself is not allowed, but otherwise kicks on the back are allowed.
  • Kicking below the waist is not allowed. Kicking to the head is allowed (but generally not for child competitors).
  • Intentional kicks below the waist or to the spine will result in a penalty.
  • A punch must use only the front knuckles, not the side of the hand or other striking surfaces on the hand or wrist. In order to score, the punch must demonstrate sufficient force and be thrown through a distance (short jabs do not score).

In most tournaments, adult participants fight for three rounds, usually 1.5 or 2 minutes long. Children generally spart for only two rounds, usually in shorter rounds. There's usually a 30 second break between rounds. Whoever has the most points after three rounds wins, in the event of a tie an additional sudden death round will take place - the first to score wins.

TKD Ottelun käsimerkkejä