POINT SPARRING Rules, Judges Calls and Procedures

This video describes point sparring in karate, but many of the principles apply to taekwondo as well.

The terms Semi-Free sparring and Point Sparring are used somewhat differently by different taekwondo schools, but generally the terms are used as an intermediate form of sparring that it less structured than Step Sparring but not as open-ended as Free Sparring.

Generally speaking, Semi-Free or Point Sparring works like this:

  • The attacker executes a series of attacks. The attacks are not pre-arranged as they would be with Step Sparring.
  • The defender defends of course, then the defender is allowed to counter with a series of attacks.

In some versions of Semi-Free Sparring a single sequence like the above would be the end of the sparring match. In other versions, the attacks / counter-attacks continue until one of the contestants has scored a point, then the sparring end. 

ATA-style Point Sparring[edit | edit source]

ATA-style taekwondo practices point sparring.


Ben Tirre ATA Sparring Nationals 2012

An example of an ATA-style sparring match.

See http://2018.atarules.com for the most up-to-date information. The following description is only a synopsis.

ATA-style point sparring takes place in a square ring that may measure between 14 and 18 feet per side depending on the division (junior or adult).

Competition Procedures[edit | edit source]

  • Prior to the competition, the center judge verifies that all competitors are wearing all the required sparring gear and all gear is ATA approved.
  • The center judge calls up the competitors in pairs according to the sparring bracket.
  • Each competitor must answer “Yes, Sir/Ma’am!” when his/her name is called.
  • The competitor on the center judge's right will always be red and this will be indicated by using a red piece of cloth attached to the back of the competitor's belt.
  • Each round will be timed for a maximum of 2 minutes.
  • Time runs continuously unless the center judge or corner judge indicates that time should be stopped.
  • If one competitor reaches five points before the end of the two minutes, he/she will be the winner.
  • Unless a disqualification is declared, the competitor who scores the greater number of points at the end of regulation time will be declared the winner.
  • Ties will be determined by “sudden victory” -- the first competitor to score a point will win.
  • There is no time limit on “sudden victory."
  • "Sudden victory" match may be decided by penalty points.
  • After the semifinal matches, the competitors not advancing to the finals spar for 3rd place.

Target Areas & Techniques[edit | edit source]

Points are scored by competitors using only hand or foot techniques to legal target areas. 

  • Hand techniques may only strike the front of the torso.
    • The front of the torso is restricted to the front of the body starting at the bottom of the belt and going up to the base of the throat, and from one side seam of the uniform to the other side seam.
    • Legal hand techniques include only the following: punch, backfist, hammerfist, ridgehand and knifehand techniques..
    • Striking techniques going towards or making contact with areas outside of this definition will be considered illegal. (See Warnings)
  • Foot techniques may strike the following:
    • Front of the torso.
    • Any area of the head covered by headgear (face shield is considered part of the headgear).
    • Kicking techniques directed towards or making contact with areas outside of this definition will be considered illegal (See Warnings).

Illegal target areas include any part of the body not described in the above definitions. The type of technique, striking or kicking, will determine which definition to use. Illegal target areas include:

  • All areas below the belt. This includes side, front or back areas and applies to kicks or strikes.
  • The back of the torso.
  • Techniques that strike any part of the head not covered by headgear this includes the throat.
  • Blind hand and kicking techniques are illegal techniques. A hand or kicking technique is considered “blind” if the attacker is not looking at the target at the time the technique is thrown. A spinning backfist would be an example of a “blind” hand technique. Throwing a spinning heel kick while not looking at the target would an example of a “blind” kicking technique.
  • Fingertip techniques are not allowed.
  • Any hand techniques to the head & neck.

Points[edit | edit source]

Scoring points will be done by striking legal hand or foot techniques to or near the legal target areas.
The following techniques will score points:

  • Non-jumping or jumping hand techniques to the legal target area will score one point.
  • Non-jumping foot techniques to the legal target area other than the head will score one point.
  • Non-jumping foot techniques to the head, face, side or back of the neck, will score two points.
  • Jumping foot techniques to the legal target area other than the head will score two points.
  • Jumping foot techniques to the head target areas score three points.
  • The criteria for a technique to qualify as a jump kick is that the non-kicking foot must be off the ground at the time of the kick coming close to or touching the legal target area.
  • Techniques cannot score if the competitor (the attacker) is falling during the execution of the technique.
  • No technique can score if any part of the competitor other than the base foot is touching the ground.
  • Neither color belts or black belts are required to make contact to score points, but may make light to moderate contact to legal areas.
  • In the interest of safety, if a judge feels that the technique was close enough to score, (no attempt was made to block or evade) but contact was not made because of exceptional control by the attacker, a point should be awarded.

Example: Competitor A strikes the chest of Competitor B with a side kick, but in the process puts his/her hand on the floor while executing the kick. The judges should use the "No point" call.

Warnings[edit | edit source]

There are three different types of warnings: Noncontact, Contact & Excessive Contact or Unsportsmanlike Conduct. The following procedures and guidelines are used in the calling of a warning:

  • If a judge sees an illegal technique or illegal action, that judge will call “Break” to stop the action.
  • Any judge that saw the warning, will immediately wave the matching colored flag of the offender towards the ground.
  • The center judge will look at the time-keeper and say “Stop Time!”
  • A discussion will then take place about what that judge saw and whether any of the other judges saw that illegal action. The only purpose of this discussion is informational in nature only. One judge should never attempt to persuade the other judges to change their minds.
  • The center judge should then call for verification of the warning similar to calling for verification of points. The signals used to verify a warning are as follows:
    • Verify the warning - Wave the matching colored flag of the offender towards the ground. This indicates the judge saw the action and agrees that it was illegal.
    • Disagree with the warning - cross the arms low. This indicates the judge saw the action, but did not agree that was illegal. This could be because of a different visual position to the action and did not see the action as illegal.
    • No See - hands cover the eyes. This indicates that the judge did not see the action and cannot agree or disagree with the call.
  • The results of this call are handled similar to calling for points. The majority indicates the final call. It is important to remember that two calls of “No See” do not negate a warning or a point. The “No See” calls are treated as if the judge wasn’t there at the time and the majority of what is remaining indicates the final call, even if the majority is only one judge.
  • A competitor cannot be issued a warning and be awarded a point at the same time
  • Judges should make every effort to make sure the competitor and spectators understand any discussions that occur.

Example: During the action, one judge saw “Red” punch towards “White’s” face and two judges saw “Red” kick towards “White’s” head. After break is called, the judge that saw the punch waves his/her red flag towards the ground. The center judge sees the call for a warning and stops time so the judges can discuss what was witnessed. After the discussion, the center judge asks for official verification. During the verification process.

  • Case #1: One judge votes for a warning and the other two vote "no warming" by crossing their arms low. The warning is not verified. The center judge calls for points 1 judge votes "no point" and the other two vote 2 points red. Result: no warning for red and 2 points awarded to red.
  • Case #2: One judge votes warning and 2 judges vote "no see." The warning is verified and red can not receive points for the kick to the head.

Non-Contact Warnings[edit | edit source]

A competitor may be issued a non-contact penalty. Non-contact penalties include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The technique was going in the direction of an illegal target area (this would include fakes or feints).
  • The technique came close to an illegal target area.
  • The competitor was running out of the ring to avoid being scored upon.
  • The competitor was purposely falling to avoid being scored upon.
  • The competitor is delaying the match (slow returning to mark, slow getting up, etc).
  • The competitor is receiving coaching.
  • The competitor is grabbing an opponent.

Non-contact warnings receive the following penalty:

  • For the first infraction in the match, the competitor will receive a warning only.
  • For each additional infraction in the match, a penalty point will be awarded to the compeitor's opponent.

Contact Warnings[edit | edit source]

Contact warning rules are for the safety of competitors. The safety equipment is only effective in stopping cuts and bruises from accidental contact made with controlled technique. It will not protect against full-power attacks. Contact warnings are awarded when contact is made to an illegal area.
Examples would be:

  • Contact made with any hand techniques to the head.
  • A legal technique makes contact to any illegal target area.
  • The technique used was illegal and made contact.
  • Contact is excessive in nature.

Contact warnings will receive the following penalty:

  • The first infraction in the match, will result in a penalty point awarded to the competitor's opponent.
  • The second infraction in the match, will result in the automatic disqualification of the competitor.
  • All contact penalties will result in a point awarded the defender. This includes non-intentional contact that does not fall under the “NO FAULT” rule.

Excessive Contact[edit | edit source]

Excessive conduct warnings are in the sole discretion of the center judge and may result in a penalty point or disqualification. The purpose of this rule is to protect the competitors physically and mentally. It may result in disqualification if excessive contact was due to negligent lack of control. A competitor disqualified for excessive contact can advance and participate in the 3rd place match. Excessive contact due to malice will result in an unsportsmanlike disqualification, and the competitor is done for the day in that particular event.

Disqualification for Contact Warnings[edit | edit source]

If a competitor is disqualified for two contact warnings during sparring, he/she losses the current match.If a competitor is disqualified in the semi-final match, they can advance to the third place match. If a competitor is disqualified in the finals they will be awarded 2nd place. The only exception is disqualification due to unsportsmanlike conduct.

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

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