Tradition is always at the core of Taekwondo, however, minute changes are bound to happen over the course of its long-lived history. This millennium introduced the action packed Octagonal mat for reasons only those present in the World Taekwondo Federation conference would know.
During a WTF assembly in Puebla, Mexico, changes to the traditional fighting area were discussed and considerable thought was given to the octagon mat – similar to the UFC competitive area. The new octagonal shape will measure 8 m in diameter between each facing sides and each side should measure 3.3 meters. Whereas the traditional mat was an 8m x 8m square in which the competition would take place.
Contestants were sceptical at first, but the new rule brought about a new dynamic that made the sport livelier than ever. According to Rui Bragança, a 24-year-old fighter representing Portugal in the 58kg category, “It means your opponent has nowhere to hide,” and that “the fight is more fluid, more active.”
Croatia’s very own Lucija Zaninović, a fighter in the 49kg women’s category, had the following to add: “It provides more contact, more fighting.” Previously, fighters could retreat in the corner of a square and take a defensive stance in order to engage their opponent later. In addition, the new mat is smaller in area, which in turn would require both competitors to get straight into the action.
It was back in 2013 that WTF president Choue Chong-won had addressed the media about the future of Taekwondo:
“Taekwondo has been all about tradition and pride, its heritage as a martial art deeply rooted in Korean culture and history. But for it to have staying power in the Olympics and reinvent itself as a spectator sport, it needs to make larger strides in its evolvement as a combat sport. The ‘kwon’ in taekwondo means the fist, but the fist has disappeared in the current form of competition because we reward more points to kicks. We need to narrow this gap to encourage hand-to-hand combat. I love how other sports are experimenting with octagon-shaped rings or round-shaped rings because they seem to give judges better views and allow them to make more accurate decisions on the hits that landed and didn’t.”
Thanks to Choue Chong-won Taekwondo just keeps getting better and better.