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TIME-MOTION ANALYSIS OF YOUTH OLYMPIC

TAEKWONDO COMBATS
FRANCESCO TORNELLO,1,2 LAURA CAPRANICA,1 SALVATORE CHIODO,1,2 CARLO MINGANTI,1,3 AND
ANTONIO TESSITORE1
1
Department of Human Movement and Sport Sciences, University of Rome “Foro Italico”, Rome, Italy;
2
Italian Taekwondo Federation, Rome, Italy; and 3Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine,
University of Magna Graecia, Catanzaro, Italy

ABSTRACT match, coaches could include 7–9 circuit stations of specific


Tornello, F, Capranica, L, Chiodo, S, Minganti, C, and Tessitore, A. taekwondo sequences of attack and counter attack techniques.
Time-motion analysis of youth Olympic Taekwondo combats.
KEY WORDS fighting phases, technical exchanges, tactical
J Strength Cond Res 27(1): 223–228, 2013—This study
movements, performance, athletess
aimed to analyze the time-motion structure of combat phases
(fighting: F, nonfighting: NF, and stoppage time: ST) during
INTRODUCTION

T
semifinal and final matches (three 1.5-minute rounds, with
1-minute rest in between) of the 2010 Italian Taekwondo aekwondo (TKD) entered the Sydney 2000 Olym-
pic Games (34) and was included in the first edi-
Cadet (age 13–14 years) Championship (adolescent boys,
tion of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore in
n = 40; adolescent girls, n = 28) in relation to gender (adoles-
2010 (19). In considering that information on the
cent boys and girls) and grouped weight division (light, middle,
actual demands of this sport is important for optimizing
and heavy) of athletes. Regardless of gender, grouped weight training programs, scientific information on TKD competi-
division, round, and tournament stage, differences (p , 0.001, tions mainly focused on physiological, technical-tactical, and
effect size range: 1.92–3.02) emerged for frequency of occur- activity profiles aspects of simulated (5,30) and official com-
rence of combat phases (F: 42.4 6 0.5%; NF: 44.5 6 0.7%; bats (2–5,12,20–23). Findings indicate that elite athletes
ST: 13.1 6 0.9%) and their mean duration (F: 2.8 6 1.0 sec- alternate fighting bouts with nonfighting activities with
onds; NF: 6.5 6 1.8 seconds; ST: 13.7 6 5.0 seconds). A 1:2 a combat profile modulated by the competitor’s weight cat-
F to NF ratio was found, whereas a 1:3 ratio emerged when F egory and gender and by the round sequence. Furthermore,
was considered in relation to the sum of NF and ST. During F significant changes in fighting patterns emerged over time
phase, 5 6 1 tactical movements and 4 6 1 technical (3,21), mirroring the evolution of new competition rules (i.e.,
reduced competition area from 12 3 12 m to 8 3 8 m and
exchanges were performed, lasting 0.6 6 0.1 seconds and
duration of rounds from 3 to 2 minutes, introduction of an
0.7 6 0.1 seconds, respectively. These findings mirrored the
electronic trunk protector to assign points, and adoption of
intermittent nature of youth combat, characterized by a high
a new valid point score classification) adopted by the World
occurrence of tactical movements and technical exchanges Taekwondo Federation (35).
during F phase. The lack of differences for round and tourna- The advent of the Youth Olympic Games increased the
ment stages indicates a limited tactical capability of young emphasis on youth competitions, which represents a poten-
athletes in adopting specific match strategies, independently tial platform for investigation (9). In fact, it is not possible to
from gender and weight divisions of the athletes. To prepare generalize information gathered on elite athletes to young
young athletes to handle the technical-tactical demands of the talented ones, who engage in combats under different rules
in relation to their age (35), aiming to preserve children from
excessive physiological and psychological strain, to assist the
development of their technical-tactical skills, and to prevent
injuries during growth and maturation when athletic skills
are not fully attained (1,9,16,24). Accordingly, to optimize
the selection and development of promising youth TKD
Address correspondence to Antonio Tessitore antonio.tessitore@uniroma4.it. athletes, several authors focused on their anthropometric
27(1)/223–228 characteristics, motor abilities, and methods to quantify
Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research training loads (18,27,31,32). In considering that the establish-
Ó 2013 National Strength and Conditioning Association ment of a National roster is generally based on the selection

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Time-Motion Analysis of Youth Taekwondo

of talented TKD athletes who successfully compete in and tactical capabilities of 14-year-old athletes would not
National competitions (10), an increased interest emerged depend on their gender or weight division. Moreover,
on psychophysiological movement patterns and decision- a similar combat structure was expected during the 3
making aspects of youth TKD combats (8,11–13). In fact, rounds of semifinal and final matches.
match analysis proved to be effective in highlighting consid-
erable, different situational, and contextual aspects of com- METHODS
bats between 10-year-old children at the beginning of their Experimental Approach to the Problem
competitive career (11) and elite TKD athletes (3,20). To A high degree of situational unpredictability characterizes
help coaches in designing effective training programs that TKD combats, during which the 2 athletes simultaneously
link technical-tactical skills to the physiological and psycho- engage in attacking and defensive actions (28). According to
logical characteristics of 14-year-old talented athletes who the literature (3,23), the time-motion structure of technical-
could compete in the Youth Olympic Games (1,7,11), there tactical exchanges between the 2 opponents was deemed
is a need to increase the knowledge of activity structures necessary to provide a thorough understanding of the com-
(i.e., fighting, nonfighting, and stoppage) of their TKD com- bat interaction. To evaluate the activity profile of youth (i.e.,
petitions (i.e., three 1.5-minute rounds, with a 1-minute rest 13–14 years) TKD matches in relation to gender and weight
in between). division (35), the 2010 Italian Cadet Championship combats
Thus, the purpose of this study was to define (a) the (i.e., three 1.5-minute rounds) were recorded (17). To test the
time-motion structure (i.e., occurrence and duration of hypothesis that activity profile would vary in relation to the
fighting and nonfighting activity phases) of official youth competitor’s body mass, the 10 official Cadet weight divi-
Olympic TKD combats in relation to the gender and sions (i.e., adolescent girls ranging from ,29 to .59 kg;
weight division of the young athletes and (b) tactical adolescent boys ranging from ,33 to . 65 kg) were
aspects of matches in relation to the combat periods (i.e., grouped to represent “light” (adolescent girls: ,29, ,33,
first, second, and third round) and competition stage (i.e., and ,37 kg; adolescent boys: ,33, ,37, and ,41 kg), “mid-
semifinals and finals). It was hypothesized that the technical dle” (adolescent girls: ,41, ,44, ,47, and ,51 kg; adoles-
cent boys: ,45, ,49,
,53, and ,57 kg), and
“heavy” (adolescent girls:
,55, ,59, and .59 kg;
TABLE 1. Classification of the combat phases in youth Olympic taekwondo matches. adolescent boys: ,61,
,65, and . 65 kg) ath-
Active phase Passive letes. To avoid any poten-
phase tial confounding factors
Fighting Nonfighting because of the proficiency
activities activities level of athletes, only semi-
Technical movements Tactical Active Stoppage final and final matches
movements movements time (adolescent girls: n = 21;
Kicking techniques Bounce Safety distance General adolescent boys: n = 29)
Front kick—Apchagi Slide Fighting stances Penalty were considered.
Side kick—Yopchagi Turn Nonfighting Injury
The activity profile of
stances
Axe kick—Jikochagi Feint* Feint Video replay Cadets was determined
Thrashing kick—Huryo Chagi Changing Changing by classifying their TKD
stances stances combat in active and pas-
Roundhouse kick—Dollyochagi Changing Changing sive phases (Table 1). In
directions directions
particular, active phases
Back kick—Dwi Chagi Diversionary Diversionary
steps steps included (a) nonfighting
Turning Back kick— (NF) activities, consid-
Momdollyochagi ered as the tactical
Push kick—Anchagi moment during which
Modified techniques
Punches techniques
the athletes prepare an
Blocking† attack assuming, at a
safety distance, fighting-
*Feint is a deceptive movement of hands, legs, and body. or nonfighting stances
†Blocking is a defensive movement used with the purpose of deflecting an attack by the
opponent. and (b) fighting (F) activ-
ities, which included
technical exchanges of
the TM

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their parents, and their


coaches, and the Italian Taek-
TABLE 2. Mean 6 SD of duration of fighting, nonfighting, and stoppage combat
phases in relation to gender and grouped weight division. wondo Federation (FITA).
Forty male and 28 female
Gender Grouped weight divisions Cadet (age 13–14 years) ath-
letes were recruited for the
Combat Adolescent Adolescent
study. All subjects were in the
phases boys girls Light Middle Heavy
black belt rank, had at least 4
Fighting (s) 2.7 6 0.7 2.9 6 1.3 2.7 6 0.6 2.7 6 1.0 2.9 6 1.2 years of previous training con-
Nonfighting (s) 6.6 6 1.6 6.3 6 2.1 6.9 6 1.7 6.5 6 1.8 6.2 6 1.9 sisting of four 1.5-hour sessions
Stoppage (s) 12.3 6 4.4 14.1 6 5.7 14.1 6 4.8 13.8 6 5.4 11.5 6 4.5 per week, and had 3 years of
competition experience at the
national level. During the
Cadet TKD championship,
kicks and punches and tactical movements carried out the athletes engaged in qualifying, semifinal, and final matches
immediately before launching an attack with the aim of all in a single day (April 24–25, 2010; temperature: 19.4 6
confusing or surprising the opponent (i.e., feints, changing 3.28 C; humidity: 69%).
stances and directions, diversionary steps, and all move-
Procedures
ments preceding actual combat) (25,29,33). The passive
The Italian Taekwondo Federation authorized the use of
phases included the stoppage time (ST), defined as the
a video camera (HDR-CX115E; Sony, Tokyo, Japan),
period during which an active phase is interrupted
positioned at a distance of 1.5 m of the competition area,
because of one of the following events: (a) General stop-
next to the official “instant video replay” camera. An expe-
page, which denotes the time blocked to solve technical
rienced sport video operator managed to record simulta-
problems on the competition area (i.e., software problems
neously the 2 opponent athletes and the score monitor. A
at the central jury table, problems with the electronic
video analysis software program (Dartfish Connect Plus 5.5;
chest protectors, etc.); (b) Penalty stoppage, indicates
Lausanne, Switzerland) was used to analyze the footage
the time that the referee awards a penalty to one or both
frame by frame (interval = 0.016 seconds). To avoid dis-
competitors; (c) Injury stoppage, represents the 1-minute
agreement between competent observers, a single TKD
rest allowed to administer first aid to an injured athlete;
and (d) Video replay, which indicates the time needed Master (sixth DAN) with 30 years of TKD practice and
for an immediate video replay after a coach’s objection a Dartfish certification for the specific use of the software
to a judgment. scored every match twice, each observation being separated
by a 7-day interval. Reliability of observation was established
Subjects according to the literature (3). No difference was reported
The University ethical committee approved the study with for the notational analysis of the competition, whereas differ-
the athletes serving as their own control. Before the study, ences between intertrial reliability of time-motion parameters
written informed consent was obtained from the athletes, were deemed very good.
To quantify the occurrence
and duration of NF, F, and ST
TABLE 3. Mean 6 SD of fighting, nonfighting, and stoppage combat phases in variables with precision, the
relation to round and tournament stage. following criteria were adop-
ted: (a) NF began either after
Tournament stage the referee’s hand signal or
Combat phases Round(s) Semifinal(s) Final(s) Overall(s) upon termination of the fight-
ing, whereas it ended either
Fighting First 2.9 6 1.0 2.4 6 0.9 2.7 6 1.0 upon the referee’s hand signal
Second 2.9 6 1.3 2.8 6 1.0 2.9 6 1.2
or when the successive fighting
Third 3.2 6 1.1 2.5 60.9 3.0 6 1.1
Nonfighting First 6.2 6 2.1 7.3 6 2.3 6.5 6 2.2 time started; and (b) F phase
Second 6.3 6 1.8 6.4 6 2.3 6.3 6 1.9 began when, from the fighting
Third 6.3 6 2.5 5.4 6 2.2 6.0 6 2.4 stance, the foot left the floor to
Stoppage First 13.1 6 9.9 9.0 6 5.1 11.9 6 8.9 deliver the first kick (or support
Second 12.8 6 6.4 14.2 6 10.5 13.2 6 7.7
Third 13.3 6 5.1 13.9 6 5.6 13.4 6 5.1 an offensive punch action) in
the combat exchange between
opponents. Specifically, in case
a preparatory activity preceded

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Time-Motion Analysis of Youth Taekwondo

TABLE 4. Mean 6 SD of frequency of occurrence (n) and duration (seconds) of tactical movements and technical
exchanges performed during a match.

Duration (s) Frequency of occurrence (n)

Tactical Technical Tactical Technical


movements exchanges movements exchanges

Gender Adolescent 0.58 6 0.08 0.75 6 0.13 4.5 6 0.1 3.5 6 0.1
boys
Adolescent 0.57 6 0.07 0.71 6 0.12 5.0 6 1.7 4.0 6 1.3
girls
Tournament phases Semifinal 0.59 6 0.07 0.76 6 0.11 4.9 6 1.4 3.8 6 1.1
Final 0.55 6 0.09 0.68 6 0.15 4.4 6 0.1 3.6 6 0.1
Weight group Light 0.61 6 0.10 0.77 6 0.17 4.5 6 1.0 3.6 6 0.1
divisions Middle 0.56 6 0.06 0.72 6 0.11 4.7 6 1.3 3.7 6 1.1
Heavy 0.58 6 0.08 0.73 6 0.13 4.8 6 1.5 3.8 6 1.1
Overall 0.58 6 0.08 0.73 6 0.13 4.7 6 1.3 3.7 6 1.0

the first offensive action (i.e., kick or punch), the beginning of was used. Furthermore, ANOVA was applied to test differ-
the fighting time was considered when both feet moved or ences in mean duration of tactical movements and technical
left the floor to initiate it. In turn, F phase time was consid- exchanges in relation to round (i.e., first, second, and third),
ered ended when (a) the foot that delivered the last kick of gender (i.e., adolescent boys and girls), tournament stage (i.e.,
the action touched the floor, (b) the punching or blocking semifinal and final), and grouped weight divisions (i.e. light,
limb was retracted, (c) a “knock down” count of the referee middle, and heavy). Levene’s test for homogeneity of variance
as a consequence of a staggering blow hit, or (d) the referee and Mauchly’s test for sphericity were applied to control for
used the stop hand signal. Finally, ST time always began and statistical assumptions. When multiple comparisons were
ended with the relative referee’s hand signals. Moreover, in performed, post hoc Fisher’s protected least significant dif-
considering that many of the NF, F, and ST times started or ference comparisons with Bonferroni corrections were used.
ended with the referee’s hand signals, different situations To provide meaningful analysis for significant comparisons,
have been pinpointed as follows: (a) the beginning of a round the Cohen’s effect sizes (ES) (15) between groups were also
was considered to be when the center referee simultaneously calculated. An ES ,0.2 was considered trivial, from 0.3 to
terminated the conventional hand signal, (b) the center ref- 0.6 as small, ,1.2 as moderate, and .1.2 as large.
eree began the upward flexion of the forearm from the 1808
horizontal position to allow the beginning of fighting after RESULTS
a stoppage, (c) the beginning of a stoppage was considered Regardless of gender and grouped weight division (Table 2),
to be when the center referee crossed his/her forefingers; or and round and tournament stage (Table 3), differences (p ,
(d) the end of an action was considered to be the instant the 0.001) emerged for frequency of occurrence of combat phases
center referee’s right forearm terminated its 1808 extension. (F: 42.4 6 0.5%; NF: 44.5 6 0.7%; ST: 13.1 6 0.9%) and their
To better understand the workload of fighting actions, the mean duration (F: 2.8 6 1.0 seconds; NF: 6.5 6 1.8 seconds;
occurrence of offensive and defensive tactical exchanges and ST: 13.7 6 5.0 seconds). Post hoc analysis always maintained
of the techniques employed (i.e., kicks and punches) was differences between the three combat phases (ES ranging
provided. from 1.92 to 3.02), with ST, NF, and F constituting 27 6
Statistical Analyses 12%, 52 6 14%, and 21 6 8% of match time, respectively.
Data are presented as mean 6 SD, and statistical significance No difference was found for frequency of occurrence and
was set at p # 0.05. Before the study, the Kolmogorov test mean duration of tactical movements (n = 5 6 1, 0.6 6 0.1
was applied to evaluate the normal distribution of data. To seconds) and technical exchanges (n = 4 6 1, 0.7 6 0.1
test differences between frequency of occurrence and mean seconds) (Table 4).
duration for combat phases (i.e., F, NF, and ST) in relation to
rounds (first, second, and third), gender (adolescent boys and DISCUSSION
girls), tournament stage (semifinal and final), and grouped To our knowledge, this work is the first attempt to present
weight divisions (i.e., light, middle, and heavy), a within- a extensive picture of the time-motion analysis of official
subject repeated-measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) Youth (i.e., Cadet) Olympic TKD competitions, including
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the occurrence and duration of active (i.e., fighting, non- weight category. Reporting gender-related differences in
fighting) and passive (i.e., stoppage) combat phases in post-competition (i.e., first qualifying matches), strength
relation to gender and weight division of athletes. The main and power performances of 14-year-old TKD competitors
findings of this study showed (a) the intermittent nature of (13) speculated that female and male athletes might adopt
Cadet combats is characterized by a 1:2 ratio of fighting and different techniques and tactics. Actually, the results of this
nonfighting phases, (b) a high sparring intensity determined study do not substantiate this hypothesis, indicating that at
by a high occurrence of tactical movements and technical this age, tactical organization of the combat is independent
exchanges during fighting, and (c) duration of activities and of the conditional capabilities of the athletes. However, this
intensity of combats similar for gender and weight division study included only data recorded on the most successful
of athletes, independently from round and tournament stage. athletes who qualified for the semifinal and final tournament
Before an attack, the 2 TKD fighters perform preparatory stages. Therefore, it could be possible that these athletes had
steps to select the proper technical sequence in relation to similar technical and tactical skill levels, which could have
the opponent’s movements. For this reason, in this study, the affected the results.
classification system of combat considered active phases, Finally, it is interesting to note that the time-motion
both technical exchanges and preparatory steps. Investigat- structure and intensity of Cadet TKD competitions proved
ing activity profiles of elite TKD athletes during the 2005 to be independent from weight divisions. In the literature
World Championship, Bridge et al. (3) reported that elite (3,26), the activity profiles of elite combats significantly var-
athletes tend to engage in fighting periods ,2 seconds with ied according to the athlete’s body mass and somatotype.
a 1:6 ratio between F and NF activities. In this study, youth The lack of differences in young athletes competing in dif-
athletes maintained fighting for around 3 seconds, alternat- ferent weight categories could be because of their pubertal
ing F and NF with a 1:2 ratio. The tendency of Cadets to phase, during which a defined somatotype does not corre-
engage in a more dynamic combat with respect to elite spond to a given weight category, and marked differences in
counterparts is preserved when considering F in relation to terms of relative strength, speed, and power exist among
the sum of NF and ST (1:3 ratio). These findings indicate young athletes.
a high fighting intensity of youth combats, which corrobo-
rate previous studies on the psychophysiological aspects of PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS
youth TKD competitions (8,12,14). Several aspects could be Taekwondo can be described as a complex combination of
considered to interpret the discrepancies in activity profiles various basic and compound techniques, which require
of elite and Cadet athletes. First, the reduced NF phases a high level of general physical fitness, agility, quick
observed in youth combats could be ascribed to the recent reactions, and a high capacity to kick powerfully at a limited
introduction of the rule that restricted to maximum 5 sec- scoring area under strict time constraints (33). Thus, from
onds the duration of fighting stances leading to an attack a metabolic point of view the intermittent nature of TKD
(35). Second, having lower technical and tactical TKD capa- involves high-intensity movements alternated with low-
bilities with respect to elite athletes, youth fighters might intensity periods, sustained by the anaerobic alactacid and
underestimate the tactical importance of nonfighting phases, aerobic metabolisms, respectively (6). The present findings
which could lead to longer fighting time and a higher number provide an ergonomic framework to help coaches planning
of technical exchanges (n = 4 6 1) to score points. sound conditioning sessions for young talented athletes. To
To examine the athlete’s tactical strategy, the structure of better prepare 14-year-old TKD athletes, coaches could
his/her combat has to be related to the different rounds and structure their training plan including a work to rest ratio
tournament stages. The ample experience of elite athletes of 1:2, which better corresponds to the specific activity struc-
allows them to adopt different technical and tactical fighting ture of Cadets combats. Furthermore, activity bouts should
strategies to better manage their energies across rounds include various combinations of complex techniques, requir-
(3,5,13,21–23). This difference did not emerge in young ath- ing agility, quick reactions, and significant generation of
letes (11). Actually, being in a developmental stage, they power. For example, interval and circuit training formats
tend to employ a stereotyped combat style because of their could be suitable to train the physiological and technical-
limited tactical capability. In fact, few years in the TKD tactical demands of the match. Specifically, interval training
academy might not be sufficient to allow 14-year-old ath- should include high-intensity general physical exercises or
letes to fully master the tactical skills required in a combat. specific TKD techniques for 2 to 4 seconds interspersed with
Moreover, the 1.5-minute round arrangement of Cadet com- 6–9 seconds of low- or moderate-intensity movements. Fur-
petition might urge the young athletes to attack from the thermore, circuit training should include 7–9 stations of spe-
very beginning of the combat, whereas elite athletes have cific TKD sequences of attack and counterattack techniques.
more time (i.e., 2 minutes) to plan and execute their fighting
strategies. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
To reduce major differences between athletes, compet- The authors would like to express their gratitude to the
itions are organized according to the athletes’ gender and taekwondo athletes who participated in the study, to Angelo

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Time-Motion Analysis of Youth Taekwondo

Cito, the General Secretary of the Italian Taekwondo The International Olympic Committee consensus statement on age
Federation (FITA), for his assistance in the organization of determination in high-level young athletes. Br J Sports Med 44:
476–484, 2010.
the experimental sessions, and to the Regional Council of
17. Federazione Italiana Taekwondo. Rules section and documentation:
Calabria for its financial support. None of the authors has Official Competition Rules of the Italian Taekwondo Federation.
any conflicts of interest, and the results of this study do not Available at: http://www.taekwondowtf.it. Accessed January 18,
constitute endorsement of the product by the authors or the 2010.
National Strength and Conditioning Association. 18. Haddad, M, Chaouachi, A, Castagna, C, Wong, DP, Behm, DG, and
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