Ain't that a kick in the head

Spain's Joel Gonzalez (right) kicks Sweden's Uno Sanli in 58-kg taekwondo competition.
Spain's Joel Gonzalez (right) kicks Sweden's Uno Sanli in 58-kg taekwondo competition. (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
Posted: August 10, 2012

I'M ALL FOR greater safety in sports, but if you are going to have a combat sport, it's kind of silly to tell competitors not to hit, or, in this case, kick too hard.

Apparently, officials at the World Taekwondo Federation don't think so.

For the London Games, officials recently set a rule that any kick to the head will be awarded points even if it doesn't have any real force behind it.

Competitors just have to touch an opponent's head to score.

"Personally, I think it's a little silly," United States double gold medalist and five-time world champion Steve Lopez said. "Taekwondo is a full-contact combat sport and I think a good head kick should still be a good head kick.

"You have to find a way to win within the rules. If a guy can now find a way to score off me with just a pinkie toe touching my head, I'll find a way to beat him."

In recent years, rules were adjusted to grant more points for head kicks than kicks to the body.

Logically, competitors started kicking opponents more to the head.

"We're moving from a power sport to a touch sport for the safety of players," said taekwondo official Phillippe Bouedo.

Fighters say the change doesn't fit the origins of taekwondo, which was developed in ancient Korea as a combat style designed to cripple opponents.

Some argue that not having to show force in a kick to the head does not demonstrate a proper mastery of technique.

"I don't kick as hard so that is a gift to my opponent," said Joel Gonzalez of Spain, who won the gold at 58-kg Thursday. "But it also means I can kick to the head more times since it isn't as difficult."

-John Smallwood

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