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Taekwondo sparring types and their differences

by Joseph Spainhour

Sparring is an essential part of the Taekwondo students training. It teaches speed, accuracy, distance and technique flow. The following paragraphs will discuss the three basic flavors of sparring: Testing, Championship and personal protection.

Testing sparring is used to display what the student has learned during the time in their current rank. Light contact should be used during testing sparring and all techniques known to the student should be demonstrated. This allows the instructors to judge if the student has absorbed the proper skills needed to advance to the next rank. Students should work as a team in order to “show what they know” and avoid showboating or going for the point.

Championship sparring, in contrast to testing sparring, is about points. Students face each other in 2 minute rounds where the first person to reach 5 points wins. Points are awarded when a student successfully contacts an opponent with an approved technique. If a student hits with a non-approved technique, such as a punch to the head, then a strike is awarded. Students can disqualify themselves by receiving 3 strikes. Championship sparring is also set to a given arena size. If either opponent leaves the arena a strike is awarded.

Personal protection sparring has the single purpose of surviving an unsolicited attack.

There are no rules in personal protection other than those provided by the local city, state or federal governments. Personal protection sparring does not use light contact like testing or championship sparring. The idea here is to stun the attacker and then escape.

The student should concentrate on techniques that will maximize their percentage of success. An attacker is not going to wait for you to get into the proper stance and posture so techniques should be kept simple. Effectiveness is the key and the student should trust in their training.

To sum up, the various types of sparring have their own unique rules and purposes in Taekwondo training.

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