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A beginner's guide to Martial Arts and the Olympics

3rd August 2016

A beginner's guide to Martial Arts and the Olympics
Just 2 days to go! The Olympic Torch has finally arrived in Rio and is making its final rounds before the opening ceremony on Friday. The 2016 Olympic Games has the potential to be one of the most memorable Olympic events to date, due to the carnival culture and the legacy it will leave across the whole of Brazil.

This is a quick beginners guide to the four martial art disciplines taking place in Rio. The four disciplines on show are Taekwondo, Boxing, Judo and Fencing. This guide will let you know exactly how the contests work and who the one's to watch are.


The first Team GB martial art representative at the 2016 games is the 2015 commonwealth champion Ashley Mckenzie on the 6th of August.

Rules of Taekwondo

Two sparring techniques are allowed in Taekwondo, punching with a clenched fist and kicking with any part of the foot. You can kick to the opponents chest protector or head and punch to the chest protector (which has to be very powerful to score a point!). Punching to the face or below the chest protector are not allowed!

Taekwondo Points Scoring

• You get one point for a basic attack on your opponents chest protector.
• You receive two points for a spinning kick or back kick to the opponents chest protector.
• You get three points for a direct kick to the opponents head.

At the end of three rounds the winner is the competitor with the most points. You can also win by knocking your opponent out. If the scores are even at the end of three rounds then there is a golden round where the first competitor to score a point is the winner.

Recent Changes to Taekwondo Rules

WTF have made changes to the sparring rules for the 2016 Games. They have made the sparring ring smaller and introduced penalty points for inactivity. All body shots used to be worth 1 point, spinning body kicks are now worth 2 points, this is to encourage more flamboyant techniques. These changes will ensure that Taekwondo will be much more exciting as a spectator sport.

One to Watch in Rio 2016 Taekwondo – Wu Jingyu

China's Wu Jingyu could make history in Rio if she wins her third straight title. She would become the first ever Taekwondo athlete to break this barrier. Wu enters the Olympic Games as the number one ranked flyweight.


A full day of boxing beings on Saturday the 6th of August including Welsh European lightweight champion Joe Cordina.

Rules of Boxing

Boxers are paired off at random and fight in a knock out fashion with the winner progressing to the next round. Men's bouts consist of three rounds lasting three minutes each, and women's rounds consist of four rounds lasting two minutes each. The winner of a contest is decided by a knock-out or on points.

Points Scoring in Boxing

A point is awarded for a scoring hit with the marked part of the glove on the opponents body above their belt, or on the side or front of their head.

Judges have a button for each boxer in front of them which is pressed when they feel the competitor delivers a scoring hit. If three out of five judges press the button for one boxer a point is awarded. If the competitors exchange blows too quickly then the point is awarded at the end of the flurry.

One's to watch in Rio 2016 Boxing – Shakur Stevenson and Muhammad Ali

Although he only recently turned 19, Shakur Stevenson is one of the USA's hottest prospects. Stevenson recently won gold at the Youth Olympic Games in 2014 and holds a perfect 23 – 0 international record. Can he end team USA's 12 year gold medal drought?

56 years ago legendary boxer Muhammad Ali won a gold medal in Rome. In just 3 days' time another Muhammad Ali will be proudly attending the opening ceremony in Rio. Although the 20 year old still has a long way to go before reaching the same level as his namesake, he is considered to be a serious medal contender at the Rio games for Team GB.


Colin Oates (Commonwealth champion) will be Team GB's first representative. He will take part in the men's -66KG category on Sunday 7th of August.

Rules of Judo

Judo bouts are conducted on a foam mat called a tatami which must be between the sizes of 8m by 8m and 10m by 10m. Bouts last for 5 minutes for men and 4 minutes for women. If scores are tied it will continue on a first scorer wins basis. No striking techniques are allowed in Judo.

Points Scoring in Judo

Ippon – Scored for a 30 second pin, a throw directly on to the back or a submission. This ends the match.
Waza-ari – Scored for a throw not directly onto the back or of insufficient power to qualify as an ippon and for holds of 20 seconds. Two waza-ari make an ippon.
Yuko – Scored for an inferior throw to a waza-ari.

One's To Watch In Rio 2016 Judo – Majinda Kelmendi and Teddy Riner

Majinda Kelmendi as a two times world champion has to be the clear favourite. She does however have strong competition from Misato Nakamura of Japan and Andrea Chitsu of Romania.

Teddy Riner is travelling to Rio as one of the clearest favourites in Olympic history. Although nothing is a certainty, Teddy is an 8 time world champion and the current Olympic Champion.


The fencing kicks off on Saturday the 6th with the women's Épée and is proceeded by the men's Foil taking place on the 7th and the women's Sabre on the 8th of August.

What are the differences between fencing styles?

Épée – A descendant of a duelling sword with a stiffer and thicker blade. Points are scored only with the point of the blade on the entire body (head to toe) of your opponent. The point of the Épée has a spring loaded blunt button which must be compressed to register a hit.

Foil – Similarly to Épée, points must be scored with the tip of the sword. However the foil is a descendant of the light court used by nobility to train for duels. Therefore it is longer and highly flexible. Unlike Épée points can only be scored on the front and back of your opponents torso

Sabre – The sabre is a modern version of slashing cavalry swords. Therefore the major difference between the Sabre and The Épée/Foil is that you can score with the edge of the blade as well as the point. The target area is the entire body above the waste.

Scoring in Fencing

• Individual bouts last three minutes or until one of the competitors scores 15 points.
• Team competitions last nine 3 minute rounds or until one team scores 45 points

One's To Watch In Rio 2016 Fencing - Italy

Italy topped the medals table at last year's world championships with 4 golds. Their key entrants are 2012 medallists Elisa Di Francisca and Arianna Errigo.

Find a Martial Arts Class

If you are inspired to try something new and possibly become a future Olympian then visit Martial Arts Near You and find yourself a class. There are martial arts clubs across the UK offering boxing classes, taekwondo classes, judo classes and fencing classes. So why not give it a try?

Once you've found a class that you're interested in, contact the instructor to find out more. Or, you can book yourself a place online!
Source: Martial Arts Near You