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Step Sparring (also called Pre-Arranged Sparring) is a sparring drill in which an attacker and defender pre-arrange a sequence of attacks and blocks. Step Sparring can be run as drills of 1-Step, 2-Step, 3-Step or more.

Different schools implement and categorize Step Sparring differently, but the following example is fairly typical:

  • 3-Step Sparring - the attacker attacks three times with pre-arranged attacks, the defender defends three-times (usually with pre-arranged defenses), then the defender counter-attacks once (usually with a pre-arranged counter-attack). The attacker may be required to measure the distance for the attack before attacking
  • 2-Step Sparring - same as 3-Step, but with only two attacks/defends before the counter-attack. The measurement aspect may be removed to show progression in judging distance
  • 1-Step Sparring (pre-arranged) - same as 3-step but with only one attack before the counter-attack. Sometimes known as Traditional 1-Step Sparring. May be required to perform on both sides (ie left and right side)
  • 1-Step Sparring (not pre-arranged) - there is only one attack, which may not be pre-arranged. This type of sparring is considered the most "advanced" version of Step Sparring.
    • the attacker may attack with any technique he or she chooses, though they may be limited eg to those from previous Step Sparring
    • the defender defends using any technique which may be unlimited or drawn from a fixed list eg those learned from patterns thus far
    • the defender then counter-attacks once using any technique

Not all taekwondo schools use Step Sparring in their training. ATA-style schools, as an example, do incorporate a predefined set of Step Sparring routines into their structured curriculum. In schools that do use Step Sparring, a typical sequence of instruction would be:

  1. Initially, beginner students practice 3-Step Sparring in order to learn basic techniques and to get a better understanding of distance, timing, and range for techniques. The initial drills use basic techniques repeated several times within a drill, then more advanced drills introduce more complex combinations of techniques.
  2. Students then progress to 2-Step Sparring, and then to 1-Step Sparring.
  3. Intermediate students then progress to Semi-Free Sparring
  4. Advanced students then progress to Free Sparring

The idea is that the students work their way up to Free Sparring by iteratively decreasing the amount of pre-arranged structure in the sparring drills.

Kukkiwon/WTF-style taekwondo schools generally (but not always) tend to use this iterative approach less often; because the sparring gear in sport taekwondo provides so much padding and protection, students immediately begin Free Sparring once they've learned some basic techniques.


An illustrative example of a 3-Step Sparring routine would be:

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