Photo credit: Aminoacid91
A nice post by Self Defense Source on the difference between ITF (International Tae Kwon-Do Federation) and WTF (World Taekwondo Federation) rules for sparring in competition. Why post about specific federation rules? Well, it relates to the discussion started by John Zimmer at My Self Defense Blog on what I called Competitive Distortion in Martial Arts Competition, meaning how tweaks to the rules emphasize (or de-emphasize the practicality of certain techniques. Zimmer’s post focused on open tournament rules, and then it started a healthy discussion on MMA in his comments. The Self Defense Source post is a pretty fair comparison of the difference, pros and cons of the two federations’ rules, with the admonition that, “Although both organizations have admirable characteristics and traits, receiving training in WTF vs ITF Tae Kwon Do, can lead the student down different paths.” What are those paths?
The gist of it is that, “Individuals who want to compete in tournaments that may lead to Olympic try-outs will be most interested in the WTF sanctioned schools. When self-defense or the art of movement is the goal, the ITF sanctioned schools will be most appropriate” Absolutely correct. Or is it?
Full disclosure: I hold black belt ranks in both styles of TKD, but favor the ITF. I do recognize, however, that there are distinct advantages to the WTF approach, at least as I understand it (not having taught pure TKD of any flavor since 1996). The two biggest advantages for the self-defense oriented martial artist is that WTF competitive sparring is very physical – heavy contact is the only way to score; in some traditional (ITF) competition, power is de-emphasized over clean technique and control (reducing power while retaining speed and technique). There are other differences, and to make it easy for even someone like me to understand, here is a handy comparison chart:
|Knockouts?||Allowed (wins)||Not allowed (Disqualification)|
|Power Level||Heavy (to score at all)||Controlled (or point deductions)|
|Body Protection Equipment||Yes||No|
|# of rounds||Three with 1-minute rest periods||One 2-minute round|
|Point Scoring||Body (punch or kick)=1 |
Turning during score+1
|Punch to head or body=1 |
Kick to body=2
Kick to head=3
Can you pick out the distinct advantages for self-defense oriented practitioner? No? Well, it’s not that clear. Here’s my humble opinion, and I’ll invite our TKD oriented readers to correct and interject as to whatever I may have missed.
To sum up, I think both are unrealistic enough due to the emphasis mentioned in John’s post about open rules: more points for head kicks. That leads to a distortion in that what is being used in competition is one of the last things you want to use in self defense. Sensei Matt Klein’s comment in the Zimmer post was right on: for a sport that can also apply well in self defense, pick MMA.
For more information:
Read the original post at Self Defense Source
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