What’s the deal?

It’s a battle of strength, speed, and flexibility as two people face-off in a fight that includes punching and kicking to the body and head.

No, seriously. Why do I want to watch people kick each other in the head?

Think of Taekwondo as a three-dimensional game of tag where both people can tag one another, they get more points for tagging with the feet – oh and the tag might knock the other player out.

Who’s competing?

Events are by weight class — men have four different weight classes; women have also have four.

Five reasons to watch:

  1. The flexibility and control that athletes can use to kick a moving opponent in the head.
  2. The continuation of an art that traces its lineage back over thousands of years.
  3. Intense competition as Egypt, Great Britain, Japan, and Spain all are in the hunt for a gold medal in the women’s 57kg category.
  4. A men’s 68kg category where the Mexican contender is so skinny, his nickname is “The Spine.”
  5. Taekwondo is a combat sport where style counts and more points are awards for turning kicks and punches, which makes the contests more fun to watch.

Everyone’s talking about:

Will the king of taekwondo, Steven Lopez keep his crown? After three Olympic medals, will Lopez, whose coaches include his sister Jean, be able to repeat his past successes?

Jade Jones, the women’s 57kg champion in London 2012, will be back with her jelly and pasta diet to chase another gold medal. The “headhunter” as she is known, was the first athlete from Great Britain to win an Olympic taekwondo title.

Potential drinking game:

A shot of soju for every head kick to honor the sport’s Korean heritage.

The perfect snack:

While kimchi (fermented cabbage) is perhaps the most well-known Korean food, the country has its own version of ramen noodles, called ramyeon. Though, if you can find it, Ppeongtwig, which is popped rice cakes, might be a better option.


Want to in on the action yourself? In the U.S., you can find advice on how to find a good taekwondo school through the U.S. Taekwondo Website. Though the site’s language is kid-focused, the advice applies to grown-ups too. For global news, check out the World Taekwondo Federation.

Prefer a ringside (or inside ring) take on the action? Consider becoming an official. Read down the page to learn how to get involved as an official.

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