ITF Sparring Is Just As Stupid Looking And Unrealistic As WTF Olympic Sparring

        There is an argument that has been going on for a very long time in Taekwondo circles about which is better, the ITF or WTF. The evidence suggested for this is how the ITF spars compared to the way the WTF spars. The problem is that so many ITF onlyists complain about the “WTF style” of Taekwondo. They constantly cannot grasp the fact that the WTF is not the style of Taekwondo, but a tournament organization with its own rules set for Taekwondo sanctioned by the IOC. Yes, the WTF ONLY recognizes the Kukkiwon as proper ranking for Taekwondo and only accepts black belts who are Kukkiwon certified to fight in the Olympics. And rightly so! But the WTF is not a style. At least the IOC recognizes that true Taekwondo is from Korea, in Korea, and is recognized by the KTA. The ITF branched off with its own agenda a long time ago and even began to spell Taekwondo as “Taekwon-Do” to differentiate itself. Anyway, despite all of this the evidence for ITF being better than WTF/Kukkiwon is most cases is the sparring.

Since many of the Kukkiwon recognized dojangs in the world seem to practice for WTF sparring I guess this accusation of “better than WTF” is legitimate, even if the Kukkiwon does have a full system of combat for self defense and individual instructors can spar anyway they want in their gyms. I teach Kickboxing with my Taekwondo in my program and focus on self defense and free range of striking to various targets which are illegal in WTF rules. I also do teach WTF rules sparring out of formality and in case people want to enter tournaments for fun.  Anyway, let’s compare ITF sparring with WTF sparring and see which style is better, or which is more realistic.

ITF World Championships 2013 Finals

Well what i see is foot fencing, both fighters keep their arms down exactly the same as a WTF athlete does. They may be allowed to punch the head which is cool, but how often was any of that done in this fight? It seemed more kicks were thrown, the typical front foot touching and some spinning type or jump kicks tapping the other person. It is nice they do not have to wear chest gear or head gear, but it looks as if ITF is light contact and not full contact fighting. This would be why they do not need head gear unlike the WTF sparring where knockouts are encouraged. The ITF fighters stand bladed out sideways and hop around. Is this realistic or serious fighting? I don’t think so. It looks almost identical to the WTF sparring.

WTF World Championships 2013 Finals

Well both fighters kept their arms down exactly like the ITF guys. They both used the front foot-fencing kicks. Yes, there are no head punches allowed but where was this important in the ITF fight? There are some jump spin type kicking in this fight as well. The fighters are both bladed out sideways. Even though the rules are really full contact the chest gear and the way the fighters are trying to get points keeps them from going all out like a kickboxer would. Is this realistic or serious fighting? I don’t think so either. It looks almost identical to the ITF sparring.

Which styles were more realistic? Answer, both were equally as stupid and unrealistic looking as each other. No real difference. ITF Onlyists claim that ITF is deadly and hard sparring is a joke when all of the evidence of various fights all look this way. There is no real difference, and the head punches do not change the way they fight much or make it better. At least WTF is full contact and knockouts are encouraged. Last time I was around ITF people the officaly rules were light contact and even “point break Karate” style of fighting. Only on YouTube years later did I see people doing continuous sparring, and this might be a thing in eastern Europe more so than the USA. Who knows, whether it is continuous or not the sparring looks dumb as any current WTF tournament looks dumb.

The key to which martial art of Taekwondo is true or better would be in the overall exploration of the plethora of techniques each teach, the theories behind their movement,  as well as historical linage. Unfortunately the sine-wave theory in ITF Taekwondo is bogus and their historical linage is also flawed. They are their own thing, and nowhere are they the true spirit of South Korean people and their sparring also is ineffective and proves nothing. The only way to settle it is to take both styles outside of tournament rules and have them fight. Not going to happen. But we can still see by observation the fallacious arguments the ITF onlyists promote. I find even more funny the ITF apologists who claim to have studied both WTF and ITF Taekwondo and think that gives them super credible arguments. That amuses me.

  1. Leonardo says:

    Hi, Taekwon-do isn’t a sport, is a martial art, Itf exists before WTF. So, who cares about IOC? They don’t rule martial arts, just some sports. That being said, Itf sparring is semi-contac, you can get desqualified for excesive contac, is about the control of the technique, and is just a little part of the whole practice of Taekwon-do. Sparring is just another way, between many, of increase your skills in Taekwon-do.

    • White Dragon says:

      The same can be said about Kukkiwon Taekwondo. his article is about ITF sport sparring and WTF sport sparring both appearing to be incredibly boring. Do you lack reading comprehension? What you just said about “semi” contact only speaks that ITF is a sport dude.

  2. Sam says:

    When it comes to semi-contact Tae Kwon Do fighting, TAGB is doing it right. I’m curious as to what you thin of this:

    or this:

  3. Sam says:

    Sorry…didn’t mean to post a playlist. I was specifically referring to this video:

    and this one:

  4. Sam says:

    Finally got the correct videos on there

    • White Dragon says:

      Sorry but all of those videos are crap and it was so boring I could not even finish one video.

      • Sam says:

        I’m curious as to what you regard as interesting or exciting Tae Kwon Do fighting. Could you post a video or two?

      • White Dragon says:

        Oldschool Olympic sparring is more exciting. I do not like current Olympics and I absolutely hate point tag fighting in any way shape or form.
        I enjoy watching GLORY Kickboxing a lot though an MMA. That is what is exciting, especially when a guy with a Taekwondo black belt fights in the UFC here and there. Always interesting.

  5. Sam says:

    So, what do you think of someone like Raymond Daniels, who has fought in Glory, WAKO kick boxing and sport karate, Pro-TKD and World Combat League? Or What about Connor McGregor?

    • White Dragon says:

      What I think is that if they are sparring in GLORY or some MMA league then I find it interesting. If they left andw ent to point touch karate I would not watch or care. The thing is, these pro fighters graduate above kid stuff, while the majority of TKD moms and dads and families stick with this BS up into their middle aged years.

      The only other tournament fighting that is worth anything for Taekwondo is the Olympics. Even that is boring to watch but it is at LEAST full contact and an Olympic sport and worthy of some respect.

  6. Crims says:

    what the hell is this blog about?You are just a hater nothing more.You dont know nothing about divided country of korea and how this effect on the tae kwon do.Go and throw more shit about itf and watch more shiny stuff.

  7. Jay says:

    Clearly doesn’t know an awful lot about either style taekwondo. Point stop is only done up til red belt maximum, when in traditional taekwondo you would only just be starting sparring. It’s just to help teach. Also kickboxing has never been more than a sport, unlike taekwondo, which includes groin, eye and neck strikes. The fact it crosses over well into other styles of fighting (K1, MMA for example) shows its sparring style doesn’t make it ineffective.

  8. neon cat says:

    I think there is more of a sparring difference between the two styles than you point out. The differences lie mostly in the continuous sparring that is usually found in ITF versus the very specific point sparring of WTF. In ITF points are awarded for a punch to the head, for example, but not as many as a kick to the head. Therefore, the general technique followed by ITF fighters is that of kicking and using the hands less, as demonstrated in the video you posted. If you notice in ITF tournaments, the fight isn’t stopped because one contestant has scored a point. Rather, it’s because the fight got messy or arrhythmical and needed the reinforcement of technique. In a sense I prefer free sparring when it comes to this, but this style of sparring tends to look even less elegant! I don’t know what it is exactly and I have to agree with you somewhere: Taekwondo fails somehow at sparring… But that said, Taekwondo skills can be very conveniently adapted to other fighting rings and there is no consensus reached about whether Taekwondo generally beats kickboxing as a fighting style.

    Some of the fights I’ve seen at ITF tournaments have definitely been full-contact. They resulted in broken noses, broken limbs, cuts and a lot of knock-outs. On the surface it doesn’t look like regular full-contact (like boxing for instance), but because Taekwondo is fast and snappy and involves a lot of kicks, it is full-contact – it just looks different. I don’t think the video you picked to depict ITF sparring fully represented the ferocity found in these fights. Here’s a better example of ITF full contact sparring:

    Personally, I think fighting where you’re not allowed to use your hands is a really dumb idea, but here, that’s just me and to hand it to WTF, their kicking demonstrations are better eye-candy. I would agree, though, that WTF rules immediately rule out the full form of full-contact.

    In the end, your argument comes down to what we understand by a realistic fight. What IS a realistic fight? Bare-knuckle? Street mugging? MMA cage? It’s all relative at the end of the day. Taekwondo sparring is pretty ugly, but we should weigh how much that really takes from the art/sport.

    • White Dragon says:

      The point of this article was not point out the stupid logic of many ITF cultists who claim their sparring is elite and superior and WTF sparring looks stupid. Many keep saying that WTF sparring looks idiotic or like ballet. But I am pointing out their sparring also looks stupid.

      Also officialy true ITF is light contact point karate style. The newer european groups (there are 3 ITF groups who are all enemies now) may have started a full contact thing here and there, but Choi NEVER supported it or even wanted it. The majority of ITF is always light contact even if it is continuous. ITF has continous sparring usually but also some stop and go style as well.

  9. neon cat says:

    Although the following has nothing to do with sparring, it may help to shed light on why taekwondo is dumb sometimes. ITF taekwondo is very militaristic by nature, while WTF treats itself more as a sport and so neither fit fully (mostly, but not fully) into the category of “martial art” for me – they don’t ground themselves in a philosophical kind of philosophy. If something should be considered an art form it requires something more than physical prowess, namely human/humanistic expression. In karate every move is about managing chi, say, while in taekwondo every move is purely combative. ITF, though it preaches the tenets, ultimately teaches authoritative discipline as opposed to SELF-discipline. I think the reflective side of taekwondo got lost under the conflict that Korea suffered during its development.

    On a side note, I experienced sexism in ITF taekwondo from all my instructors. I can’t say for sure if this is a trend in the organisation as such (have others experienced likewise, I wonder?), but there does seem to be a link in general between structural hierarchies and the oppression of women… If there’s one thing I think is dumber than sparring without your hands, it’s treating women as inferior.

    • White Dragon says:

      I dont know what you are talking about with the sexism. but I am pretty sure ITF is mainly foreigners anyway. In Korea I do not sense any sexism in Kukki-WTF Taekwondo. There is Korean culture but it is not sexism and there are a lot of females training and even some well respected masters. Most females do olympic sparring and are good or they do poomsae and have very good presentation. But so far none are teaching self defense oriented stuff as mentioned in the other article. BUt some of the girls are practicing it in the same seminars.

      Also Taekwondo is very philosophical. A lot of people do not teach that part. Also the updated TAekwondo movements are very focused on energy and power which you could say ki. Lots of refined motions now and twisting of body and hips etc.

  10. Ak says:

    Tbh anyone.. who slate an entire martial art, an talk so disrespectfully of a style…
    clearly! Is a rubbish martial artist, were is your respect… did no one teach you that?
    ugh… i cannot stand people who think they are soooo darm right about everything.. an for the record i dont do tae kwon do so dont oooo tkd fan boy me.. im just disgusted at your horrible attitude.
    to also note… Karate every move is not about chi, you you actually gettinv tai chi mixed or what because news flash… karate strikes are yes about getting your spirit in (different) but not chi, yet here it comes the big thing…they are about damaging or hurting… exactually the same as tkd.
    If you want chi.. try tai chi not karate most stupid thing i have ever heard an i have trained at 4 karate clubs and have a karate 2nd dan black belt an its about spirit not chi.
    Also big factor as i said is respect, you respect yourself, other people an other clubs… this article shows in itself your shallow preception and lack of any respect… you can say you don’t think something is effective.. fine i get that, hell i agree with a alot of points eg. No guard… yet calling something stupid.. if it was that stupid two neither would be ‘international’ or worldwide. No offence but never heard of white dragon except in yugioh cards yet wtf and itf are funny enough globally known, so before you act the big one man or club, be the bigger man or club first.

  11. Ge-Baek says:

    I agree to a lot of what Neon Cat says, very accurate info. Now, White Dragon, because of what you say, I can tell that you have NOT been seeing or training with the right ITF instructors or masters, I would even guess that you still have a color belt or you are probably a kid. First let me say that I have been training ITF for about 18 years, I have also been in training with fellow WTF national selection teams from a couple of countries, friends that I have made along my Taekwon-Do career. I have been in competitions for both federations, and there is HUGE differences between both styles, but I will only point out some of what you mentioned.
    1: Hands down: If you see anybody from ITF fighting with both hands down, that person has not have an authentic ITF instructor.
    2: Use of hands: In ITF we usually use 75% kicks 25% punches. Otherwise, that person has not have the right instructors.
    3: Effectiveness: One technique that I tend to use in sparring is attack-counter attack, meaning that I would take a hit from my opponent to be able to reach him with a more effective hit. Now, this I have to be very careful to use as if I do it with a very strong opponent it may not result as expected. Now this rule I was able to use with very few ITF practitioners as most of ITF strikes are meant to take down the opponent and that’s where the BIG difference resides versus WTF. In ALL sparrings I have ever had with WTF practioners (including national selection teams) I have been able to take hits from them to be able to use my counter attack as they will do no damage at all, because in WTF they teach you to look for points, that’s why WTF practitioners develop such speed, but not effective in a real fight as it is missing the strenght needed to take down the opponent.

    You still have a lot to learn my friend.

    • White Dragon says:

      No I have nothing more to learn from you or any ITF propagandist. The fact is ITF sparring is for points the same as WTF sparring is for points. Both can look just as stupid and that is the point of this article.
      You could find any WTF athlete or any Kukkiwon black belt and one could kick you as hard as possible and not care about points. So please use logic. Just because you sparred some WTF guys who were playing the sport with you for points does not mean the WTF/Kukkiwon Taekwondoin cannot hit or do not train to hit with actual devastation. WTF is full contact fighting by the way. ITF official rules are light contact, look it up. Just because you decided to fight full contact in a dojang with a WTF guy who decided to score points does not prove anything that this article is written about. Both ITF and WTF sparring both end up looking stupid.

      • Alex Hoo says:

        Hi, to all my friends here… just take it easy and dun be so serious on which is better than which. I have been trained in TKD, Tai Chi, Free style, Kendo… For me, each style is good enough but very much depending on our age. Maybe you are fit and aggressive while you are young, thus you can choose to train MMA, UFC, Free Style or Thai Boxing…but remember that, human growth and become old, if you are too aggressive when you are young, you might have problem when you getting old… (body, joins etc.). Beside of this, each have their advantage and disadvantage of skill, just the matter how we apply the techniques… short distance fight, long distance fight, grabbing and locking techniques, throwing techniques and the like.

        This is why, people change from on Martial Arts to another. However, one important thing here to share is respect and train openly and accepting people comments, this could help us in our learning as each martial artists have their very unique theory and philosophy. So, just learn it and take it as a new form of knowledge in order for us to improve both our physical and mental needs.

        Or maybe I would like to say that, if I want to be sure-win in each fight… why not just use a gun…. which save time, do not need to undergoes all these complex and training..

      • Ge-Baek says:

        Hahahahaha… let me know when you grow up. As I said before… Im sure you are just teen with a color belt that’s just learning how to make the bed. Good look in your endeavors.

  12. BadAz says:

    Got to admit that when I see WTF that’s exactly what I think.

  13. Mike says:

    Itf sparring is used to show the art of teakwondo. Tae- foot
    Kwon- hand
    Do – art
    Itf taekwondo can be used as self defence. If you master each technique it can kill an oppenent

    • White Dragon says:

      Wtf sparring is used to show the art of teakwondo. Tae- foot
      Kwon- hand
      Do – art
      Wtf taekwondo can be used as self defence. If you master each technique it can kill an oppenent

  14. I studied under the gtf style under grandmaster Park Jin Tae in Coventry England it’s simular to i t f yet different in many ways I was taught to keep my hands up and moving in continuous movement moving on your toes striking hard and fast there are some things that need correcting but over all everything depends on the instructor and what he chooses to teach his students

  15. Tanner Goodman says:

    Interesting article, I’m a bit late by 4 years, stumbled across it. Both my parents meet training in ITF tae kwon do, and the tournaments they competed in back in the 1978-1990s, were brutal full contact matches, similar to the PKA at the time. I was raised by my father for full contact sparring (go for the knockout at all cost and not worry about points).

    It is very difficult nowadays with the semi contact/light contact sparring and tournament formats.

    I feel the ITF is still very much different in its fights, the punches to the head and less gear changes the fight drastically. More blocking, checking kicks and footwork within ITF.

    Watching WTF fights, they are more stationary, low guard, less blocking, more evasive and methodical,

    It’s a long debate with the opinions, but

    • White Dragon says:

      What country were you in?

      Officially in the ITF manual or in the rules it says light contact. A few rogue groups did full contact stuff here and there though. So your group must have been one of them.

  16. Superman says:

    You make good points, but a good ITF instructor will always emphasize putting your hand up to block. In Canada I trained with someone who knew General Choi will before he dies and they always say that only in WTF you are not supposed to keep your hands up, but in ITF it is emphasized that hands down means you are open and in danger. What I enjoy about ITF is that it is good exercise and most people have a weakness with their kicks, but as TKD person kicks become your strength. Also in a hypothetical future should you have to fight a robot or alien that is extremely flexible, joint moves will likely not work, but impact damage works on almost anything even if it is very flexible. But when it comes to hand techniques I think Jeet Kune Do and Wing Chun are the best.

  17. Brian says:

    First off wtf uses and open dtance and itf uses a closed stance the sparring in itf is not the art. Its just a show that they can kick off lead leg without wind a up… wtf is an open stance sport. Itf is military combat that has gone soft and since choi passed its getting worse.
    If you ever faught someone from the military training in itf he is not going to punch you or kick you all he wants is to break your limbs. but i guess your vast utube knowlege makes you an expert on itf Taekwon-do .

  18. Brian says:

    Furthrmore itf is about balance and I am not talking about being a balerina…your strike st the moment of impact go equally out and equally down… you do not need to throw time consuming haymakers that leave you off balance and tierd. Look at board breaking in the two styles completely different. In wtf you could take someone with 6 weeks experience and say wind up and hit with everything you got. Boards will break. Itf you are relaxed until the moment of impact where your “signwave” gently breaks the board. That is a decade at minimum. But watching a utube demonstration you might see what im saying if you forget your ego for 5 minutes

  19. Torryn Coufal says:

    You’re the one of stupid looking and fact the reason why You think that are taekwondo is stupid looking is give your stupid and you don’t understand anything. The reason why we wear gear and it is more realistic because we’re actually kicking harder then ITf of people when there were in gear they only do medium contact. So and when they do lite contact it’s when they’re doing a demonstration you don’t understand anything at all. You sir are stupid.

  20. Arthur Kitchener says:

    Glad I changed from ITF Taekwondo to Kyokushin. OSU.

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