3 Eras of Taekwondo and Electronic Scoring

3 Eras of Taekwondo and Electronic Scoring

Electronic scoring was introduced in 2009 to the sport of taekwondo and has received a lot of valid criticism from athletes, coaches, referees, parents and spectators alike. This blog post will outline a strong, viable solution to the problem of electronic scoring. First, some background on the three “eras” of taekwondo and how we got here, so we can understand why the proposed solution makes sense.

From 1980s until mid 1990’s, taekwondo matches were judged by humans, on paper and judges gave very little points per round. The judging was very similar to how professional boxing currently judges a match. Pro boxing matches are scored round by round. The fighter who wins the round gets 10 points, and the fighter who loses the round gets nine points. Every time a fighter is knocked down, he loses a point—a one-knockdown round, for example, would be scored 10-8. In taekwondo, it was the inverse. If the judge felt you won the round, they would give you one point. If you dominated the round, you might get two points. You would see how you performed only at the end of the round. Fighters fought really hard to convince the judges they deserved to win, so there was a lot of power and showmanship. Let's call this the “power era”.

In the mid 1990’s the sport moved from paper scoring to electronic scoring. Not electronic chest guards, but judges holding triggers and if a majority of the judges (2 out of 3) pressed the trigger, a point would show on the screen for everyone to see in real time. This changed how the points were being awarded. Instead of wondering how many points you got at the end of the round, you would see right away if your kick was successful. This kept the judges accountable to show when a point happened and it got the spectators to understand what was happening, as they could follow the game and its results as it was progressing. This encouraged athletes to throw many kicks in combination so that they have a higher chance of registering a point. Let's call this the “combination era”.

After the 2008 Olympics, electronic chest protectors were introduced to remove any human bias and mistakes. The concept is simple – instead of humans determining a point, let the threshold measured on a chest protector to determine the point. In addition to this, the scoring system itself changed to reward kicks to the head (3 points for the head vs. 1 point to the body). These scoring rule changes were designed to encourage more kicks to the head, and make the game more dynamic and fun for spectators to watch. What happened however is a regression in the sport. The scoring did become more fair, but the electronic scoring systems available were not good at recognizing kicks that used to work in the power era and the combination era of the sport. The electronic hardware system and the scoring rules favored two kicking techniques: the cut kick and any high section kick that grazes the head (a high section technique does not need power, it just needs to make contact). Because of the favor of these two techniques only, taller athletes got rewarded more, and the sports ability to show a variety of techniques diminished greatly. This is a big loss for the athletes, as it limits the different body types that can be successful (i.e. athletes who have power shots or can kick a lot do not get rewarded). Spectators are not entertained since the game slowed down due to lack of technique variety, and taller fighters are typically slower and less powerful than shorter players. Ultimately this goes against the goal of World Taekwondo Federation, which is to ensure taekwondo gets participation by as many people as possible (i.e. all body types) and gets watched by as many people as possible. Let's call this the “cut kick” era.

The three founding members of the 2020 Armor team fought 95% of their careers in the power and combination era. We are proud to introduce a new way of scoring taekwondo that will bring the best from the power era, the combination era and the fairness that was introduced in the cut kick era. It is called the 2020 Armor system. First, let's talk about the new proposed scoring rules, and then we will talk about the hardware.

New Scoring Rules in the 2020 Armor System

The new scoring rules is aimed to accomplish four things:

  1. Reward the fighters that exhibit power (best of power era)
  2. Reward the fighters that throw multiple kicks (best of combination era)
  3. Make the match scoring fair (best of cut-kick era)
  4. Make the game fun and easy to watch for spectators, which will promote, expand and improve worldwide the practice of taekwondo. This is the first stated mission for World Taekwondo Federation

We took a look at how other successful combat sports, and video games scored points and realized that the “health score” method of scoring accomplishes these four things very well. The new scoring rule changes would be as follows:

  • You win a match by winning 2 out of 3 rounds. You win a round by having more health on your "health bar" than your opponent's at the end of a timed round. If you deplete your opponent's health bar before the round time is done, you win the round. This is similar to how scoring is done in popular video games such as street fighter
  • For any single attack to the body, the impact energy will be removed from the opponent's health bar. 
  • Kicks to the head score for double the impact. 
  • Attacks delivered in succession (i.e. combinations) will deplete the opponent's health bar more than their simple sum.
  • Penalties will be given by the center referee and add health to the other player's health bar. A minor infraction adds 10% health, and a major infraction adds 25%. 

Here is a video showing the scoring display in the 2020 Armor powered new sport league called the UBL (United Battle League)


Now that we have a foundation of scoring that incorporates the best from the power era, combination era and the cut kick era, we need hardware that can not only make it a reality, but take it to the next level.

2020 Armor Hardware 

Currently, training at the gym with electronic chest guards is very limiting. You need a computer for each pair, it takes time to setup each match and so you could not move easily from partner to partner. With 2020 Armor, you just bump chests with your partner and start sparring. We will show the health bar directly on the chest protector, so you don’t need a computer to run a match when you are training at the gym. The new hardware has no dead zones or hot spots, is made out of long lasting material and more accurate the current systems available. Lastly, it is important to note that the founders of 2020 Armor each have multiple decades of experience in martial arts, and were on national teams for USA and Canada. Here are just some of their credentials.

Ali Ghafour – Co-Founder & CEO

  • 4x Senior Canadian National Taekwondo Team Member (Sparring - Bantam)
  • Computer Science Degree
  • Board Member of Taekwondo Canada 
  • 25+ years in martial arts 

Tony Kook - Director

  • 2x Senior Canadian National Taekwondo Team Member (Sparring - Welter)
  • Owner of 6 successful martial arts gyms, 1200 students
  • 30+ years in martial arts 
  • VP Taekwondo Canada