Sport vs. Traditional Dilemma
Sport Taekwondo creates a dilemma. In traditional Taekwondo, we are taught that Taekwondo is a defensive martial art, used only after being first attacked. In traditional “flag” or “point” sparring, the one who attacks and scores first gets the point. In point-sparring, when a point is scored, the match stops and any block or counter by the defender is ignored. An initial aggressive, but weak, technique scores, while a more powerful defensive technique is ignored. We are taught that Taekwondo is for defense, but sport sparring rewards aggression; the one who attacks the most has the advantage. The competition aspect of Taekwondo is philosophically incompatible with Taekwondo's basic principles. This creates a quandary. Is Taekwondo sport competition a training tool, or is it something separate from the true practice of Taekwondo? This question is still being argued today.
You cannot train for power by constantly training not to use power. You cannot train to broad jump 15 feet if you are constantly limiting yourself to 5 feet jumps. In class sessions, Taekwondo students train to strike with full-power, using heavy bags, targets, and body shields. We are told that devastating power is the result of using proper technique. Then, when we free-spar, we must use control and techniques that do not harm the opponent. This poses a quandary within us. Kano's research over a century ago proved that this does not work in a martial art.
In Korea, in the early 1960's, a few instructors began experimenting with a more full-contact form of free-sparring using protective equipment that included a chest protector. They wanted to prevent unduly "aggressive" and even unrealistic approaches to sparring, while also permitting the opponent to use defensive techniques. They found that Kano's idea of continuous action was the only solution, and since this precluded the intermittent action of point scoring, they turned to using paper scoring, such as used in amateur boxing. The result of this experimentation was the development of continuous action, full-contact sparring. However, it was not accepted by all masters. The founders of the World Taekwondo Federation participated in its development and accepted it but, among others, General Choi Hong Hi, founder of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF), opposed it. Even after Choi's death in 2002, the ITF still opposes it.