Taekwondo is a Korean martial art, characterized by its emphasis on head-height kicks, jumping and spinning kicks, and fast kicking techniques.
Taekwondo was developed during the 1940s and 1950s by Korean martial artists with experience in martial arts such as karate, Chinese martial arts, and indigenous Korean martial arts traditions such as Taekkyeon, Subak, and Gwonbeop. The oldest governing body for taekwondo is the Korea Taekwondo Association (KTA), formed in 1959 through a collaborative effort by representatives from the nine original kwans, or martial arts schools, in Korea. The main international organisational bodies for taekwondo today are the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF), founded by Choi Hong Hi in 1966, and the partnership of the Kukkiwon and World Taekwondo (WT, formerly WTF), founded in 1972 and 1973 respectively by the Korea Taekwondo Association. Gyeorugi ([kjʌɾuɡi]), a type of full-contact sparring, has been an Olympic event since 2000. The governing body for taekwondo in the Olympics and Paralympics is World Taekwondo.
Taekwondo competition typically involves sparring, breaking, and patterns; some tournaments also include special events such as demonstration teams and self-defense (hosinsul). In Olympic taekwondo competition, however, only sparring (using WT competition rules) is performed.
There are two kinds of competition sparring: point sparring, in which all strikes are light contact and the clock is stopped when a point is scored; and Olympic sparring, where all strikes are full contact and the clock continues when points are scored. Sparring involves a Hogu, or a chest protector, which muffles any kick's damage to avoid serious injuries. Helmets and other gear are provided as well. Though other systems may vary, a common point system works like this: One point for a regular kick to the Hogu, two for a turning behind the kick, three for a back kick, and four for a spinning kick to the head.