The Most Badass Sport at the Olympics
Sure, you’ve tuned into the 2012 Summer Olympics to catch Phelps pile up golds in the pool and Bolt break the sound barrier, but some of the best moments in the Olympics take place on smaller stages. Keep the channel on and you might just discover your new favorite sport.
This MH News series highlights The Coolest Sports You’ve Never Played. Up next: Taekwondo.
Here’s the most ringing endorsement for taekwondo imaginable: Chuck Norris, World’s Biggest Badass, holds a black belt in it. Want to join the Texas Ranger’s ranks, or simply understand the action unfolding on your TV? Read on.
How it’s played: Combine the kicking from Japanese karate and the fist-work from Chinese kung fu, and you’re left with Korean taekwando. In the Olympics, fighters square off on 8 x 8m mats, earning points for striking their opponents with only their feet and fists. In three two-minute rounds with four matches to the gold medal, fighters punch, kick, block, and dodge each other dressed in protective jackets called hogus, helmets, and shin guards.
How to watch it: Fighters can’t punch each other’s heads, but kicks to the noggin are fair game; worth between 1 and 4 points. The one to watch for? A spin kick to the face—it scores 4. “You’ll see a lot of that in the Olympics,” says Steven Lopez, a 2000 and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist and standout on Team USA. Four corner judges score head shots—the most difficult moves earn the most points—and censored pads inside fighters’ hogus score body hits: “Once you make contact, it will register if it’s a point or not,” says Lopez. (Learn Steven Lopez's tips on musclemorphosis.com.)
Watch out for these point deductions: attacking below the waist, faking injury, or intentionally striking an opponent in the face. If a fighter racks up four deductions, he must forfeit. The match is over at 12 points or whoever has the most points at the end. And a fighter who can’t get up after being knocked down for 10 seconds is out.
What you can learn: “Your legs are more powerful than your fists,” Lopez says. “A good kick to someone’s face will do it. But obviously that’s a last resort!”
When to watch: This week through August 11
Who to watch: Lopez is again America’s best shot at a gold in his weight class (80 kg), but put money on reigning +80kg champ Cha Dong-Min of South Korea who dominated in 2008. (After all, taekwondo is his country’s national sport.)
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