Continuing our series of articles on the subject of Taekwondo, today we are going to talk about the equipment needed to actively participate in the sport. As we know, each sport requires some sort of equipment. Whether it’s something basic like sneakers and specially designed clothes, or something more demanding such as a full set of martial arts equipment, each sport has something.
For the amateur Taekwondo, you only need to have a uniform and a belt. For competitive Taekwondo, one needs to have armor, headgear, and footwear also.
Taekwondo is, of course, no exception and we shall present you an overview of what is needed to successfully participate in Taekwondo training sessions.
The most basic piece of equipment for a Taekwondo student is the uniform, or dobok (Korean: 도복). It is usually a two-piece white uniform with the belt tied around the waist. Unlike the similar judo uniform, whose top is actually a cross-over jacket and has to be tied with the belt, the Taekwondo uniform is a closed pull-over and the belt is tied as a symbol, rather than as a practical accessory. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but more on that below.
The trainee uniform is usually completely white, collars included. There are variations with black-red and black collars, but they are typically reserved for holders of a black belt, i.e. instructors.
The rules regarding collar colours vary from school to school. Some schools explicitly prohibit non-white collars for students, while others have a more liberal approach, thus allowing both students and instructors to have black collars on their uniforms.
Although rare, coloured uniforms do exist in Taekwondo. They are typically reserved for higher-belt instructors and special demonstrations or events and can vary in colour.
Now, coming back to the basic design, we can only repeat that the most common type of uniform is a V-style pullover, as used in most WT competitions and schools. It is basically a long-sleeved shirt with a firm collar, that reaches just above the knees.
The belt is not necessary to tighten the pull-over, but since it is somewhat large and wide, the belt helps keep the top part of the uniform in place.
But, although rare, there are jackets (like in judo) in Taekwondo. WT has a Y-shaped cross-over jacket, which crosses the torso diagonally. It is usually seen in the younger, poomsae sections. ITF also has a cross-over jacket, but its opening on the torso is vertical.
This is the most basic piece of equipment necessary for Taekwondo practitioners. Someone who has no competitive ambitions and doesn’t aspire to be a professional fighter doesn’t need any other piece of equipment.
The belt is always tied around the waist, above the top part of the uniform. It usually just holds the uniform in place, but with jacket tops it also closes them along with keeping them in place. Belts are not necessary during training sessions, but are necessary during any ceremonial or competitive event.
For more on belts in Taekwondo, read our article.
We’ve already said, in one of our earlier texts, that ITF doesn’t allow for strong physical contact. Since ITF-sanctioned battles only employ light-contact sparring, ITF competitors don’t wear any form of body armour. WT-sanctioned competitions, on the other hand, require a padded torso armour called a hogu. The armour is usually white with a large red or blue patch and is tied on the back. Modern armours also have electronic sensors that enable easier point counting.
Schools usually provide for a certain number of armours for regular practice, but competitors have to acquire their own in order to actively participate in competitions.
The armours come in different sizes, usually from #0 do #5, based on the height and weight of the competitor.
Special padded helmets, called homyu, are also part of a competitive equipment set. They are an obligatory part of WT-sanctioned competitive equipment sets and are usually present in ITF competitions, but are not obligatory, since punches to the head are limited, while head kicks are prohibited. WT allows for more contact during a fight, which is why headgear is necessary to avoid serious injuries.
The helmets are usually red or blue in colour and always correspond the colour of the armour (see above).
Other Competitive Taekwondo Gear
One thing WT and ITF (see the difference between WT and ITF Taekwondo) always have in common are pads for the hands and feet. These parts are always padded in both styles; ITF’s lighter sparring makes use of these parts specifically, while in WT competitions, they’re just part of a full set of competitive gear. The hand and feet pads are usually equipped with electronic sensors for WT competitions.
But, since WT uses a more direct approach to sparring, other gear is necessary to compete normally. So, in addition to everything already mentioned in the text above, WT competitors also have protective pads for shins, groins and forearms, all of which are hidden beneath the uniform. The only visible pieces of protective gear are the homu, the homyu and the arms and feet pads. Everything else is hidden underneath the uniform.
Although not necessary, competitors are encouraged to wear special protective gums for their teeth. This is especially important in WT competitions, where head contact is allowed and gives a higher amount of points.
The question of footwear in Taekwondo is relatively interesting. Namely, although there are special shoes for Taekwondo (and other dojo-based martial arts), most schools either prohibit or discourage their use. They are prohibited in official competitions as well as in ceremonial promotions, because they give the wearer an unfair advantage and/or go against the guidelines. They are also prohibited during breaking demonstrations.
As far as training sessions go, using footwear is generally discouraged, but it is rarely forbidden. Trainees are encouraged to train barefooted or, during colder periods, wearing socks, but wearing specialised indoor shoes can also be possibility for the trainees.
On a final note, we can conclude that amateur Taekwondo students only need to have a uniform and a belt, although schools don’t always require them during training sessions, especially during warmer periods, when students can come in normal, plain clothes. As for competitive professionals, they have a very long list of necessary equipment (somewhat shorter for ITF competitions), without which they cannot regularly compete.
And this covers our analysis of the equipment necessary for Taekwondo. Hope you enjoyed our text and see you next time!