We perform pre-arranged sparring drills to practice applying TaekwonDo against real opponents.

Free sparring represents more of the sport side of TaekwonDo and is an enjoyable way to develop combinations, practice sparring in a highly controlled environment, get fit and have fun. Full body armour is always worn to protect ourselves and out opponent. Proper use of control is essential.

Sambo Matsogi

Three step sparring is designed for the beginner to learn distance, focus and movement using basic techniques. Correct technique and movement are much more important than speed and power (certainly at a junior level). This is the first time junior students will have faced a ‘real’ opponent, so controlling the power/speed of attacks and blocks in accordance with their experience is important.

3 step sparring is quite formal – all movements should be ‘pattern like’. Nothing should be rushed. Correct stances, knee spring, attacking and blocking movements are paramount.

There are 6 pre-arranged attacks, defenses and counter attacks. For each, the attacker moves forwards 3 times, attacking on alternate sides. The defender moves backwards 3 times, blocking on alternating sides. The defender then performs the counter attack, always with a kihap.

All attacks start with a measure by the attacker. Proper measuring is very important and will always be assessed in gradings. Without proper measuring, 3 step sparring becomes ineffective. For this reason the measure should never be rushed.

After the measure, the attacker always steps back into parallel ready stance, pauses momentarily, then steps backwards into left walking stance, low section outer forearm block. Care should be taken in not moving the front (left) foot backwards at this point, as this will affect the measurement.

The defender always starts in parallel ready stance.

Note: Before attack 1 only, after the measure and return to parallel ready stance, both students bow to each other, then return to ready stance. The attacker then steps back into left walking stance low outer forearm block, ready to begin. (It is important that the left foot comes to the right – as it should when forming attention stance – otherwise the students will clash heads when bowing!)

The attacker ‘kihaps’ when ready to attack; the defender ‘kihaps’ when ready to defend.

It is essential that the attack is on target. There is sometimes a tendency to attack wide to avoid the block, however this defeats the object of the exercise. When you are practicing against someone who is a different height, the attach needs to be adjusted accordingly (i.e. against a taller opponent, the attacker’s punch may be high not middle)

Important: Ensure the distance from your opponent is always correct; this is established with the initial measure. Check foot positions during attacks when practicing. Each time you complete a step, the feet should be the same distance as the original measure).

Key: RWS=Right Walking Stance, LLS= Left L Stance, WS=Walking Stance, LS=L Stance.

Remember, left or right stance is determined as follows:

Walking Stance (or any other 50/50 weight distribution stance): front leg (e.g. right leg forward = RWS)

L Stance (or any other non-50/50 weight distribution stance): majority weight bearing leg (e.g LLS, 70% of weight is on the left leg)

Ibo Matsogi

Two Step Sparring follows on from Three Step Sparring and is designed to allow the student to progress and learn more advanced techniques. Two Step Sparring uses the same distance and timing as with three step sparring, but with a variety of attacks.



6th kup: 1 & 2

5th kup: 1-4

4th kup: 1-6


6th kup: 1 – 3

5th kup: 1 – 6


  • Attacker always starts in Right L Stance. No measure required (but distance should be equivalent to 1 walking stance length)
  • Defender always starts from Parallel Ready Stance.
  • Ki Hap to indicate ready (attack only). Ki Hap on counter attack.

Ilbo Matsogi

4th Kup +

According to the Encyclopedia of TaekwonDo: “this sparring is considered the most important one from the point of view that the ultimate goal of TaekwonDo in real combat is to win the victory with just a single seasoned blow. The secret of this sparring is to deliver a completely accurate speedy and decisive blow at the opponent’s vital spot at the right time with the right weapon while defending against the opponent’s attack effectively.”

Ilbo matsogi traditional is performed in a more formal, ‘pattern like’ way, emphasising correct motion and technique. Defence and counter attacking techniques should be selected from patterns (although this is not essential). It is most important that the defence and counter attack is effective and ‘fit for purpose’, using a single, decisive counter attack.


Both attacker and defender start in parallel ready stance. Distance is judged by eye, but should be approximately 1 walking stance (similar to 3 step sparring #1 measure).

  • Attacker moves forwards into Walking stance, using obverse middle punch (both sides). The actual height of the punch needs to be adjusted depending on the height of the defender.
  • The Defender uses the same defence and counter attack on both sides. Always kihap on counter attack.
  • Part of the purpose of 1 step sparring is to be able to react to an opponent when they start to move move; therefore we do not use a kihap to indicate we are ready to attack. HOWEVER – please be sensible. If your opponent is inexperienced in 1 step sparring (either during training or at a grading), you should adjust the speed of you attack accordingly to avoid the risk of unnecessary injury, and be prepared to abort the punch if the defender has not moved at all.

Important notes:

  • Blocks and counter attacks must be performed effectively and with realism.
  • It is essential that the techniques used are appropriate for the body position of the defender and the intended target on the attacker.
  • Weak or ineffective techniques will not work in a real situation, so don’t practice them in training.
  • Keep things simple – remember the aim is to lead to “the rapid destruction of the opponent” (Gen. Choi), ideally with one technique.
  • Avoid grabbing/trapping and multiple combinations until you are highly accomplished at them.

It is essential for the attacker to punch on target, and for the defender to counter attack on a recognised target with an appropriate technique.  At this level students should have sufficient control to be able to attack a recognised target with speed and power, but with good control. The technique should stop just short of the target or make ‘touch’ contact (not face). Always kihap on the counter-attack.

Keep in mind the following principles:

  • In serious situations effective techniques count. A ‘colourful’ looking technique won’t help.
  • Use the minimum force necessary to produce the maximum result. Use the Theory of Power.
  • Know the vital points of the human body and the techniques relevant to them for maximum effect.
  • Always select the best technique from your position.
  • Always be mindful of open-side and closed-side position and select techniques appropriately.

One Step Sparring – Freestyle (2nd kup +)

This exercise is designed to simulate a real attack; in many cases this might be from a swinging ‘hay-maker’ type punch. Therefore, this is the attack used. The attacker always starts from right L Stance. No kihap.

The defender selects an effective block, or evades the attack (moving back or sideways) and delivers an effective counter attack; whilst the first counter attacking technique must be strong, further techniques can also be used as part of the overall defence.

For example, the attacker comes forwards using a right sided ‘hay-maker’, targeting the head. The defender steps forwards into left walking stance to block the punch with a left knife-hand high side block whilst simultaneously delivering a right front elbow strike to the attacker’s high section (jaw, bridge of nose, temple).

Alternatively, the defender steps back with the left leg into sitting stance, using a parallel block. Execute a knife-hand high strike to the neck. Placing the right leg to the side and behind the attacker’s front leg, execute a sweep whilst simultaneously pushing the attacker sideways, then deliver a downwards punch (or perhaps a downwards kick) to the attacker who is now on the ground.

In all cases, finish by stepping back (away from the attacker)  into L stance, forearm guarding block

Practice the same attack/defence using both sides.

Whatever technique(s) are selected – they must be FIT FOR PURPOSE!

Note: We will expand this exercise to include other attacking scenarios in the future