Under: Self-defense
11 Aug 2012

I turned on the Olympics last night and found yet again Taekwondo was not recorded for some reason. I found the application from my cable provider that I could playback events! I was going to treat my wife with some pseudo karate (you know Taekwondo says they are NOT karate).


Boy let me tell you this was a mistake. We played back a gold medal match between Turkey and Iran and was waiting for the point match to begin. Then they grabbed each other and tried to kick each other! Never mind that either one of them was in range for a punch – they did not punch!


In this post I will talk about how embarrassed I was showing what I thought would be point karate/taekwondo (you know where they did not try for the knock out) but it turned out to be worse than watching a Batman and Robin show of my youth. Everything they did including the kicks – were totally ineffective! While I am not hoping to convince any Taekwondo practitioners – they are already drinking the kool aid – I would have rather seen a couple of karate aerobic instructors from the local gym go at it… at least they would have punched if they were in close quarters.



Ok – now that I have endeared myself to some of the Taekwondo crowd – let me go over a some things. In open-karate point karate matches of my youth – one could score a point for a kick or punch… nothing extra for a spinning move or head kick. You see this is as it was in a real fight (I’ve been in pleanty) – it does not matter how you take out your opponent – just that you do.


I think the point matches of my youth have changed a lot as now more points are awarded for kicks and spinning moves – that to is total BS. But at least point karate still has punches in it and one could transition to a real fight (still have the needed skills).


When I was a brown belt a couple of Tang So Do or Taekwondo fighters came into the studio. My instructor asked me to spar with them. While I was fighting them they were getting mad at me. You see I had no form according to them and when they launched their kicks at me – I just side stepped or took a half step back and punched their kidneys after their kicks missed. They did not ever even connect because at the time I was winning all of the local point karate tourneys and have really great critical distance and initial movement.


I was once interviewing for a job with the Carlsbad Police force and did not have the education to get the job but they interviewers were interested in how I knocked people out… what was my favorite move. I said a kick or punch – either hand or foot. It depended on what the opponent was open for. You see fighting is simple if you have the skill sets.


Getting back to the Olympic Taekwondo – My wife was laughing – you see she grew up watching boxing, mma, even saw some of my point karate match videos. She liked karate movies and always got upset when I told here Bruce Lee could not really jump 8 foot in the air. :)


But I did have to explain to here what Taekwondo was all about. I said they thought kicks were worth so much more than punches – they don’t really use punches. The problem with this approach is if they got into a real fight against any trained fighter and did not get a lucky kick on the way in – they would lose the fight.


I will never watch Olympic Taekwondo again but to be fair I had to explain Judo to my wife also. While Judo is fighting – it deals with predominantly transitions from standing up to ground work. Not so much kicks and punches. So watching Judo one can see how if you needed to take a fight to the ground (say the other guy was a better striker and you knew no one was going to join in once you hit the ground) – Judo is the best at getting someone to the ground. Judo also has chokes and some grappling.


Wrestling and Jiu-Jitsu are good grappling but they are again – not striking with the hands and feet.


So I think Karate, Muy Thai, MMA, Judo, Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, and even boxing are real and worth watching if you like the sport – I would not waste my time on watching Olympic Taekwondo.


I do not want to say all Taekwondo is ineffective – I understand non-Olympic Taekwondo does use punches. So please do not take this post to be a rail against Taekwondo – just Olympic Taekwondo!


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9 Responses to “Olympic Taekwondo? I was Expecting Fighting!”

  1. Dr. J Says:

    Don’t get me started on this, John! Too late :-)

    Just as you, I was interested in TKD in the Olympics, and just like you I had the same reaction!! The first time I saw that “attacking” style, I felt, one good reverse punch or elbow strike and I would be the only one standing in that “fight!” Just to be clear, I received my first degree black belt in TKD before I found Kenpo so I have some pride in the system. I also felt that perhaps the TKD practitioner that I was watching on TV would be a much more formidable fighter off the mat, at least I hoped they would. One last thing, I was talking to a man just the other day with a 2nd degree TKD black belt who owned a studio (and whose daughter was also a 2nd degree at the age of 12!!), and he told me that he didn’t teach any hand techniques to his students except for blocking!!! I really can’t express how disappointed I am in all this without punching out my computer monitor, but then I wouldn’t get any points for that, now would I :-)
    Dr. J recently posted..Test-Driving the Paleo Diet: Day 5 of the Caveman ChallengeMy Profile

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Yeah the 12 year old black belt thing is had to understand. I don’t see the value of a black belt unless one can fight effectively in most situations. That includes adults. :)

    Remember Dr. J… most of the time your computer monitor is your friend. :)

  3. Bob Patterson Says:

    Hi John,

    I weighed in on my blog.


    I can totally understand why someone with a karate fighting background would be mystified with an Olympic TKD sport match.

    Bob Patterson recently posted..Olympic TaekwondoMy Profile

  4. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Bob,

    Good information! I was kind of thinking Olympic TKD was like fencing. One would not argue fencing is a good representation of a sword fight but I guess you need to compete somehow.

    And another analogy I thought of … if Olympic TKD is mostly kicks but not much hands (favoring kicking due to points) it is kind of like boxing… no kicks and that although would not work well against someone that had all of the tools (you know the groin kick) – it is still fun to watch.

    I guess I am bias. :)

  5. Bob Patterson Says:

    Oh I’m biased too and I retired with my 1st dan in TKD! If I had to choose between boxing and Olympic TKD for skills that would translate to the street, I’d pick boxing.

    The sad part is that there are *some* sport oriented schools out there that market themselves as a “total” self-defense art. This does a disservice to those TKD schools that truly are.

    Bob Patterson recently posted..Olympic TaekwondoMy Profile

  6. Neal Martin Says:

    About six months ago I stopped watching TV so the only thing I saw of the Olympics was the two minutes I caught when my daughter had the TV on one day and it happened to be a Taekwondo match. To be honest, I didn’t recognise what they were doing as being anything martial arts related. It was total nonsense. It wasn’t a combative sport, but a game of tag.

    I have nothing against Taekwondo in its original form, there is some amazing kickers doing it and as far as I know, it used to be a proper martial art when it was first conceived off. Not any more though.

    Today’s incarnation of the art is almost single-handedly responsible for the amount of kiddie black belts floating around as well. I don’t know of too many other schools who give kids black belts. It’s a business first, sport second, art…not at all.

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Neal,I saw Chuck Norris with one of his young black belts on the tv a bunch of years back and I was disgusted. YOu see while I love to see children learning martial arts – I don’t see the value in giving them a brown or black belt if they cannot fight most adults.

    What a black belt means to me is fighting ability. If one wants to learn cool moves and get a lot of praise (but not be able to beat adults) – then maybe ballet would be better. :)

    Thanks for your insight Neal.

  8. Zara Says:

    Late to the party as usual I see. Still, here are my two cent: what do you expect when people make rules that prohibit punching to the face and reward spectacular techniques like high and spinning kicks more than things that would actually work in a fight? I always cringe when I see two taekwondoka go at it: their hands are usually low (a big no no in our dojo) and they fight in a sideways stance that leaves their back totally exposed.

    They can put up a show with their kicking though (I couldn’t do all those combo’s and jumping stuff), you’ll have to give them that, and the potential for a knockout is still there but obviously kicking for points and kicking to knock someone out are two completely different things. I never liked arts that were mostly for show (calling it sports doesn’t change that: muay thai is also a sport but it’s a bloody effective art in almost any setting) and teach people bad form and practice that may very well cost them big time in the street. Besides: I really do wonder whether they’d still be that limber when wearing jeans and shoes and without time to warm up and stretch.

    I wouldn’t totally knock taekwondo though: a while back my sensei sparred with a European champion in TKD and he got surprised by a flurry of kicks so he took one on the jaw. Of course there’s a world of difference between a champion and Joe sixpack doing some training on the side but it does show even high kicks can do damage when they land. Still there are far better arts when it comes to actual fighting: my favourites are still the boxing/kickboxing variety (boxing, muay thai, JKD, panantukan). To each his own of course.

  9. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Zara, I was watching the Deadliest Warrior on Netflix the other day and saw an episode matching up U.S. Army Rangers vs. North Korean Special Operations Forces. It was cool as a couple of South Korean ex military stood in for the North Koreans – they were using taekwondo and hapkido viciously!


    I like you think the sport ought to be closer to real fighting.