The World Taekwondo Federation (more commonly known as WTF) is the International Federation (IF) member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the competition events of the martial art of taekwondo. International Federations (IFs) are international non-governmental organisations recognised by the IOC as administering one or more sports at world level.
The WTF was established in South Korea on May 28, 1973, at its inaugural meeting held at the Kukkiwon with participation of 35 representatives from the world. The WTF, which only governs the function of taekwondo competitions and related support services, should not be confused with the World Taekwondo Headquarters, also known as Kukkiwon, which is a center of learning and research of taekwondo located in Yuksam Dong, a different part of Seoul. Kim successfully lobbied to include taekwondo sparring competition as a demonstration sport in the 1988 and 1992 Summer Olympics, and official Full Medal Olympic sport beginning in 2000. According to the WTF, "Taekwondo is one of the most systematic and scientific Korean traditional martial arts, that teaches more than physical fighting skills. It is a discipline that shows ways of enhancing our spirit and life through training our body and mind. Today, it has become a global sport that has gained an international reputation, and stands among the official games in the Olympics."
The organisational structure of the WTF has diversified at various times over its more than 30 year history to incorporate the various changes, affiliations and associations over these years of growth. As of 2007 the organization is headed up by a General Assembly made up from members of the 182 member National Associations from the five world regions it represents. This in turn consists of a WTF Council composed of an Executive Committee and various sub committees. The Executive Committee comprises a president, secretariat, and an Advisory Council. The sub committees are made up of various departments within the organization, including a technical committee and representative committees of games, women's, legislative, financial, medical, athletic and PR areas.
The WTF has no set system of belt (geup/poom/dan), they do however recommend that practitioners of taekwondo follow the Kukkiwon system of ranking and philosophy, as the WTF is an international federation for sport activities of taekwondo, not the central academy or World Headquarters.
Under World Taekwondo Federation and Olympic rules, sparring is a full-contact event and takes place between two competitors in an area measuring 10 meters square. Each match consists of three semi-continuous rounds of contact, with one minute's rest between rounds. There are two age categories: 14–17 years and 18 years and older.
Points are awarded for permitted, accurate, and powerful techniques to the legal scoring areas; light contact does not score any points. In most competitions, points are awarded by four corner judges using electronic scoring tallies. Several A-Class tournaments, however, are now trialling electronic scoring equipment contained within competitors' body protectors. This limits corner judges to scoring only attacks to the head. Recent controversy concerning judging decisions has prompted this to an extent, but this technology is still not universally preferred. Beginning in 2009, a kick or punch that makes contact with the opponent's hogu (the body guard that functions as a scoring target) scores one point; if a kick to the hogu involved a technique that includes fully turning the target competitor's body, so that the back is to the attacking competitor, an additional point is awarded; a kick to the head scores three points. Valid attacks that knock an opponent down are awarded an extra point. Punches to the head are not allowed. If a competitor is knocked down by a scoring technique and the referee counts down, then an additional point is awarded to the attacking competitor.
At the end of three rounds, the competitor with more points wins the match. In the event of a tie at the end of three rounds, a fourth "sudden death" overtime round will be held to determine the winner after a one minute rest period. Until 2008, if one competitor gained a 7-point lead over the other, or if one competitor reached a total of 12 points, then that competitor was immediately declared the winner and the match ended. These rules were abolished by the WTF at the start of 2009.
Blows are full force; if one competitor is knocked out by a legal attack, the attacking competitor is declared the winner, since the WTF allows knockouts in sparring competition. There are certain rules that they must follow, however; some rules condemn name calling, punches to the head, grabbing, and more.