In taekwondo the rules are simple: the taekwonda wear a dobok and attempt to gain as many deuk-jeom as they can. In other words the competitors wear a white uniform and attempt to gain as many points as they can.
A deuk-jeom is attained by a successful kick or punch to the opponent's torso. An extra point is added if the attacker is turned away from their opponent at the point of contact, meaning that spinning kicks are worth double. Punching the head is not allowed, but kicks to the head gain three points. This means that the roundhouse kick is the most destructive attacking weapon in the sport, which, as any Chuck Norris fan will know, is also how Rudolph got his permanent red nose.
The sport originates from Korea, dating back to 50BC. 'Tae' means 'to kick or smash with the foot', and 'kwon' translates as 'to destroy with the fist' – not a sport for pacifists. Unsurprisingly South Korea have dominated the event since its inclusion in the Games in 2000, but Team GB have a couple of potential gold medalists at London 2012.
However, Team GB's preparation for the event was plunged into controversy earlier this year as British Taekwondo decided not to pick world number one Aaron Cook in their team. 21 year old Lutalo Muhammad was surprisingly chosen instead because the selection committee believed his inclusion would be "more tactically beneficial", stating that Muhammed is technically a better fighter. Cook, outraged, attempted court action to reverse the decision and the World Taekwondo Federation are now investigating the selection process.
One to watch:
Sarah Stevenson: the double-world champion and Beijing 2008 bronze medalist is battling back from a cruciate knee ligament injury which has sidelined her for most of this year. Last year she lost both of her parents to cancer and has said that she wants to win a gold medal for them. A tall fighter with a rapid high kick, at her best Stevenson can beat anyone. Success for the Doncaster-born fighter would be a remarkable triumph through adversity.
How to get involved:
Taekwondo is one of the fastest growing sports in Britain with approximately 50,000 people of all ages participating across the country. There are many different versions of the martial art including the non-combat Poomsae which focuses on movement, fitness and flexibility. Information about where to find your nearest club can be found through the British Taekwondo website.
The Taekwondo competitions run from 8-11 August at the ExCel Centre. We’re bringing you the Londonist lowdown on all Olympic and Paralympic sports in the run up to London 2012. Image from British Taekwondo.