New KKW Sparring Rules

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From: Taekwondo News Facebook Page
On May 1, 2021, during the rebirth ceremony, it was decided that Kukkiwon would have its own branch of sparring. Kukkiwon Sparring will be different from Olympic sparring because it will introduce the fundamental aspects of Taekwondo in real-life situations. The goal for Kukkiwon Sparring is to embrace every level for each student. Rather than a simple point-to-point approach, Kukkiwon would like to create rules that allow room for outside application. Taekwondo leaders globally have been ecstatic for this long-awaited topic to be surfaced.
Hearing opinions from global leaders revolving around Kukkiwon Sparring is essential. For instance, we need feedback on how Kukkiwon Sparring should be systemized and what techniques or skills should be put in the guidelines. The public is looking to see a difference from Olympic Sparring, so they would hope to see a more dynamic, powerful application of it. Taekwondo masters fear we need to fill the gap of implementing sparring to real-life situations; therefore, masters should globally contribute with their ideas on how we can come up with a better sparring curriculum. This contribution will be used for our future to finalize the sparring curriculum with a combination of effort. Furthermore, President Grandmaster Dongsup Lee will create a task force team to develop Kukkiwon style sparring Ideas with the opinions gathered from leaders around the world.

I originally saw this posted on reddit (and have already had a pretty in-depth conversation with @andyjeffries over there regarding this), but I thought I'd post this here to get more thoughts. If I'm reading this correctly, it seems like there is going to be a Kukkiwon Style Sparring, which will be sparring rules directly provided by Kukkiwon, instead of Kukkiwon schools co-opting the World Taekwondo/Olympic-Syle rules. It's unclear at this time whether it's going to simply be a focus on more practical versions of techniques we already use (i.e. more powerful strikes, head punches, leg kicks), or if it's going to include other martial arts concepts, such as clinches, sweeps, joint locks, ground fighting, etc.

It should be noted, this is also going along with potential changes to the curriculum requirements from Kukkiwon. Some of you may be able to better explain the politics behind it than I can, but from what I can gather, the current requirements for KKW-affiliated schools is the Taegeuk forms and WT sparring - everything else is up to the local Master. However, it seems that the KKW is developing a self-defense curriculum that is currently being taught in the KKW Master Class. This would include various strike defenses and grappling techniques - including those I mentioned above (clinches, sweeps, joint locks, ground fighting). There has been some discussion of including these techniques in the new sparring rules, in order to make it more applicable to the curriculum and to real-world self-defense.

A few leading questions for the discussion:
  1. Do you think the KKW should try to create a more realistic sparring experience, or should World Taekwondo continue to be the sparring authority?
  2. If there are new sparring rules, what changes would you like to see made?
  3. If there are new sparring rules, what changes would you not like to see made?
  4. An alternative to #2 and #3: what would your ideal sparring rules be?
 

MadMartigan

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1st off, I have to preface this with the fact that I have never trained WT or KKW style TKD. I've only sparred under those rules a couple times. This is strictly an outside perspective.
A few leading questions for the discussion:
  1. Do you think the KKW should try to create a more realistic sparring experience, or should World Taekwondo continue to be the sparring authority?
As a sport, or even a periodic training tool, I have no issue with the WT version of sparring. I think they've been able to keep a consistent product with a decent amount of consistency across multiple countries.
On the martial side, some more realism would be nice to see though. The biggest compliment I ever received as an instructor was not meant as one. This person was watching some of my school's colored belts sparring and remarked that they didn't look like sparring, but more like a street fight... to which I said "thank you".
If there are new sparring rules, what changes would you like to see made?
- Allow punches to the head (would need to change the gloves used of course).
- If a clinch occurs, give them 5 seconds to separate themselves.
- No striking in the clinch (no hockey fights), but allow for strikes while breaking from the clinch.
- Give points for basic foot sweeps or take downs from the clinch.
If there are new sparring rules, what changes would you not like to see made?
Keep the full contact. No leg kicks (for sport competition anyway... but they should definitely be trained in class. Both to deliver and defend against).
An alternative to #2 and #3: what would your ideal sparring rules be?
See above. (Shoulda read all the questions 1st before answering).
 

_Simon_

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WOW... that's pretty huge... what a massive overhaul!

I think the sparring already has alot going for it, and I've always admired all its strengths. Do you know if it's something that every KKW-affiliated school will basically be changing over to, or up to the individual school?
 

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Kukkiwon moves pretty slowly, so I expect it'll be years before they have anything concrete.
- Allow punches to the head (would need to change the gloves used of course).
- If a clinch occurs, give them 5 seconds to separate themselves.
- No striking in the clinch (no hockey fights), but allow for strikes while breaking from the clinch.
- Give points for basic foot sweeps or take downs from the clinch.
We have our advanced students do sparring under similar rules sometimes, wearing MMA gloves. We don't score them, but they get some opportunity to get used to the possibility of being punched in the face or grabbed or swept. I'd be a fan of that kind of practice being more widespread.
 
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WOW... that's pretty huge... what a massive overhaul!

I think the sparring already has alot going for it, and I've always admired all its strengths. Do you know if it's something that every KKW-affiliated school will basically be changing over to, or up to the individual school?
That's one thing I'm trying to figure out.
 
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Kukkiwon moves pretty slowly, so I expect it'll be years before they have anything concrete.

We have our advanced students do sparring under similar rules sometimes, wearing MMA gloves. We don't score them, but they get some opportunity to get used to the possibility of being punched in the face or grabbed or swept. I'd be a fan of that kind of practice being more widespread.
This is one of the points I brought up on Reddit. Local Masters can already do this. Since there isn't really a standardized self-defense requirement for KKW, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me for there to be standardized sparring rules based on those nonexistent requirements.

If it's mandatory, it will hurt WT (which may affect TKDs popularity if it's no longer an Olympic sport). The same goes if schools start doing tournaments with KKW Sparring rules. Of course, an alternative is for tournaments to have a WT bracket and a KKW bracket, but those things already run several hours long as it is.

If it's not mandatory, then I don't really see the point. In that case, it will be like the KKW self-defense syllabus; largely local to the KKW and to the few schools that want to use it.
 

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This is one of the points I brought up on Reddit. Local Masters can already do this. Since there isn't really a standardized self-defense requirement for KKW, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me for there to be standardized sparring rules based on those nonexistent requirements.

Kukkiwon has always been about unification and standardisation. However, Kukkiwon is also better at reading the whispers on the wind than WT is (or instead of serving the Taekwondo community, WT must serve the IOC...)

If it's mandatory, it will hurt WT (which may affect TKDs popularity if it's no longer an Olympic sport).

I don't see why KKW sparring would hurt WT or TKD's popularity. Dojangs will most likely still offer WT sparring, even if as an option. It's also just a set of sports rules. The GB team has proved that Karate and Kickboxing can easily migrate over.

The same goes if schools start doing tournaments with KKW Sparring rules. Of course, an alternative is for tournaments to have a WT bracket and a KKW bracket, but those things already run several hours long as it is.

To be honest, I could 100% see Kukkiwon sparring as having rules without scoring. Legal techniques and illegal ones (for safety) without worrying about who won or lost overall.

If it's not mandatory, then I don't really see the point. In that case, it will be like the KKW self-defense syllabus; largely local to the KKW and to the few schools that want to use it.

Over time though it will be surprising how much that grows. Particularly if the masters that try it find it much better than WT rules and current practices (which most Taekwondo masters hate).
 
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Kukkiwon has always been about unification and standardisation.
You have more exposure to higher-ups at KKW than I do. However, from talking with various other schools, I've seen very little in the way of standardization.

To be honest, I could 100% see Kukkiwon sparring as having rules without scoring. Legal techniques and illegal ones (for safety) without worrying about who won or lost overall.
If there isn't a victory condition, then there aren't inter-school competitions. Without that, I don't see the benefit in conforming to the KKW's rule set, compared with using your own rules. For example, if the KKW sparring includes leg kicks and head punches, but you want to include clinches and sweeps, then your school could just include clinches and sweeps. The only reason not to would be if you were training for a competition in which they were banned, so you don't develop bad habits for that specific competition.

It also goes back to the quality-control issue. If you're not competing with it, then your pressure testing is limited to your school. Your school isn't being pressure tested against other schools.
Over time though it will be surprising how much that grows. Particularly if the masters that try it find it much better than WT rules and current practices (which most Taekwondo masters hate).
What's stopping those Masters from introducing their own sparring rules for their own school? I don't see any logistical difference between doing your own version of sparring and doing the KKW version of sparring. I would see a difference if there were competitions for it, but you need win conditions for those.
 

WaterGal

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This is one of the points I brought up on Reddit. Local Masters can already do this. Since there isn't really a standardized self-defense requirement for KKW, it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me for there to be standardized sparring rules based on those nonexistent requirements.

If it's mandatory, it will hurt WT (which may affect TKDs popularity if it's no longer an Olympic sport). The same goes if schools start doing tournaments with KKW Sparring rules. Of course, an alternative is for tournaments to have a WT bracket and a KKW bracket, but those things already run several hours long as it is.

If it's not mandatory, then I don't really see the point. In that case, it will be like the KKW self-defense syllabus; largely local to the KKW and to the few schools that want to use it.

I think the question is: mandatory for what?

Kukkiwon could create a KKW sparring style, and make it a requirement for getting some level of KKW dan rank. (Whether that's 1st dan, or some higher level.)

But that doesn't, necessarily, mean that it will show up as a major feature of WT/WT-style tournaments, or will replace WT sparring. KKW requires board breaking for most (all?) dan ranks, but that's not a standard event at WT tournaments.
 

andyjeffries

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You have more exposure to higher-ups at KKW than I do. However, from talking with various other schools, I've seen very little in the way of standardization.

I have to be honest, there's definitely a range of success here. Understanding that Kukkiwon is in Korea and the master course is mandatory there (and has been for MANY years) in order to open a dojang, therefore as a first level Korea is really super standardised. In my experience, all international masters saying "I do THIS Kwan [or THAT Kwan] so we do things differently" likely hasn't trained at their Kwan HQ in Korea. Because in my experience, ALL Kukki-Taekwondo in Korea is unified/standardised and indistinguishable from each other.

Then you have the second level, the masters and grandmasters that want to go to Korea, take the non-mandatory(ish) course and become more unified/standardised. I fit in to this bracket. I want this for me, I want this for my students. The attendees of that course are often just as non-standardised as the more general international Taekwondo population, but the difference is that they don't want to be that way. If they spend the money to come on that course, take away the details, hopefully they get a little bit closer.

And then you have the third level where people do things their own way, the way they learnt it and the way they devised, they don't want to unify/change and they're happy. I have no objection at all to people doing this - as long as they don't mislabel it as "we do it this way because we're X Kwan" or "we don't follow Kukkiwon strictly because every X years there's a new president and depending on which Kwan he came from, the techniques all change - and we don't want to go back and forth."

Those two arguments I often disagree with (first one, if the Kwan is still HQ in Korea, likely they're wrong, they're just not keeping up with how their Kwan does things now - second one, absolute rubbish, there's been minimal changes since about 30 years ago at Kukkiwon, some, but certainly not all changing).

So it doesn't surprise me that most people fall in to the third level of standardisation, where they don't want to change, don't see the point and want to keep doing what they know, what they feel like they're an expert in.

If there isn't a victory condition, then there aren't inter-school competitions.

I'm OK with that, we don't have inter-school competitions for self-defence or step sparring either.

Without that, I don't see the benefit in conforming to the KKW's rule set, compared with using your own rules. For example, if the KKW sparring includes leg kicks and head punches, but you want to include clinches and sweeps, then your school could just include clinches and sweeps. The only reason not to would be if you were training for a competition in which they were banned, so you don't develop bad habits for that specific competition.

The other reason (competition isn't the only reason to standardise) is so that you can attend events, seminars and comfortably interact with others. I would say more of my students attend courses, events and seminars than competitions (maybe 50% rather than ~5%). So when they go to a seminar and someone says "OK, let's do some Kukkiwon Sparring" I'd like them to know exactly what that means, they know how to do it and are used to it.

They don't necessarily need to compete and go hard, but having fun and enjoying the experience - and a lot of that comes from comfort with what's being performed. I've done Taekwondo since 1986, but if I went to a seminar and they suddenly jumped in to Palgwae, I'd feel pretty uncomfortable having never done them. By having standards it means we can all get together and train and while there may be new drills and new details, the level of comfort (and hence enjoyment) should be high.

It also goes back to the quality-control issue. If you're not competing with it, then your pressure testing is limited to your school. Your school isn't being pressure tested against other schools.

Depends how you view Taekwondo. Personally I don't see it as realistically complete for self-defence as say Krav Maga (or even BJJ although that's limited too). However, most of my students (and from talking to others is the same) don't do it because they really need self-defence. A few strikes are great, having some ideas for how to get out of bad situations are all good too. But mostly it's about self-confidence (including calmness in situations you don't feel comfortable in, e.g. sparring), not walking like a victim, fitness and friendships.

Most students simply don't want to compete, in any shape or form. And that's completely OK.

What's stopping those Masters from introducing their own sparring rules for their own school? I don't see any logistical difference between doing your own version of sparring and doing the KKW version of sparring. I would see a difference if there were competitions for it, but you need win conditions for those.

As explained above, competitions aren't the only time students from multiple dojangs come together, and even if not high pressure at that point, comfort = enjoyment.
 
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@WaterGal @andyjeffries

One thing I was thinking today: if the goal is to go for harder contact (which is what I think at least a lot of people want), then just doing so for training seems counterproductive to me. You don't want to train hard contact on a regular basis.
 

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@WaterGal @andyjeffries

One thing I was thinking today: if the goal is to go for harder contact (which is what I think at least a lot of people want), then just doing so for training seems counterproductive to me. You don't want to train hard contact on a regular basis.
My goal isn't for harder contact, and given most Taekwondoin in Korea are children, I'd struggle to believe that's Kukkiwon's goal either.

I'd imagine it's for a wider range of techniques, allowing for more challenge in skillset learnt while still doing so in a safe and enjoyable way.

But that's just my guess.
 

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My goal isn't for harder contact, and given most Taekwondoin in Korea are children, I'd struggle to believe that's Kukkiwon's goal either.

I'd imagine it's for a wider range of techniques, allowing for more challenge in skillset learnt while still doing so in a safe and enjoyable way.

But that's just my guess.

I agree with this.

Harder contact could be done in WT sparring anyway, I'd think - couldn't they just recalibrate the e-hogu to require more force to register a hit?

I think if they're going to create a new sparring style, it would be to allow for some different techniques, like you say. Some different types of strikes, different target of strikes, some sweeps or light grappling, there are lots of interesting possibilities.
 
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I agree with this.

Harder contact could be done in WT sparring anyway, I'd think - couldn't they just recalibrate the e-hogu to require more force to register a hit?

I think if they're going to create a new sparring style, it would be to allow for some different techniques, like you say. Some different types of strikes, different target of strikes, some sweeps or light grappling, there are lots of interesting possibilities.
I still want them to go to the E-Hogu that has a "Life Meter" instead of just calculating points. Not only do I think it would make for a better game, but it would be a wholly unique spin on point sparring.
 

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The idea of sparring for "real life" isn't a new one to TKD. This is more like revisiting an old idea and not really coming up with a new one. TKD back in the day (around it's founding) was a brutally effective realistic martial art. Sounds like KKW just wants to bring back some of that which was lost and I am totally on board!
 

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I still want them to go to the E-Hogu that has a "Life Meter" instead of just calculating points. Not only do I think it would make for a better game, but it would be a wholly unique spin on point sparring.

I do think it's a cool idea. IIRC, it doesn't require e-socks, so it could also potentially register a wider range of techniques (punches, elbows, etc). Which.... might be one reason why they're not using it, come to think of it.
 
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I do think it's a cool idea. IIRC, it doesn't require e-socks, so it could also potentially register a wider range of techniques (punches, elbows, etc). Which.... might be one reason why they're not using it, come to think of it.

On the one hand, that could open up for a wider variety of techniques. On the other, I don't see why the two technologies couldn't be combined.

The thing I do see as a negative for Taekwondo style is that you couldn't give bonus points to turning kicks with that system. I still think it would be fun.
 

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