Each sport or martial arts requires some sort of equipment, Taekwondo is, of course, no exception. For the amateur Taekwondo, you only need to have a Taekwondo uniform and a Taekwondo belt. For competitive Taekwondo, one needs to have headgear, mouth guards, chest guard, groin guards, forearm protector and footwear also.
The most basic piece of equipment for a Taekwondo student is the uniform, or dobok (Korean: 도복). It is usually a two-piece white uniform with the belt tied around the waist. Taekwondo uniform is a closed pull-over and the belt is tied as a symbol, rather than as a practical accessory.
The most common type of Taekwondo uniform is a V-style pullover, as used in most WT competitions and schools. It is basically a long-sleeved shirt with a firm collar, that reaches just above the knees.
The taekwondo trainee uniform is usually completely white, collars included. There are variations with black-red and black collars, but they are typically reserved for holders of a black belt, i.e. instructors.
The rules regarding collar colours vary from school to school. Some schools explicitly prohibit non-white collars for students, while others have a more liberal approach, thus allowing both students and instructors to have black collars on their uniforms.
Although rare, coloured uniforms do exist in Taekwondo. They are typically reserved for higher-belt instructors and special demonstrations or events and can vary in colour. Also there are jackets (like in judo) in Taekwondo. WT has a Y-shaped cross-over jacket, which crosses the torso diagonally. It is usually seen in the younger, poomsae sections. ITF also has a cross-over jacket, but its opening on the torso is vertical.
The taekwondo belt is always tied around the waist, above the top part of the uniform. It usually just holds the uniform in place, but with jacket tops it also closes them along with keeping them in place. Belts are not necessary during training sessions, but are necessary during any ceremonial or competitive event.
For more information about Taekwondo Belts, read our Taekwondo Belts Ranking article.
Special padded helmets, called homyu, are also part of a taekwondo competitive equipment set, the helmets are usually red or blue in colour. They are an obligatory part of WT-sanctioned competitive equipment sets and are usually present in ITF competitions, but are not obligatory, since punches to the head are limited, while head kicks are prohibited. WT allows for more contact during a fight, which is why headgear is necessary to avoid serious injuries.
Since ITF-sanctioned battles only employ light-contact sparring, ITF competitors don’t wear any form of body armour. WT-sanctioned competitions, on the other hand, require a padded torso armour called a hogu. The armour is usually white with a large red or blue patch (always correspond the colour of the headgear) and is tied on the back. Modern armours also have electronic sensors that enable easier point counting.
The armours come in different sizes, usually from #0 do #5, based on the height and weight of the competitor.
Schools usually provide for a certain number of armour for regular practice, but competitors have to acquire their own in order to actively participate in competitions.
Although not necessary, competitors are encouraged to wear special protective gums for their teeth. This is especially important in WT competitions, where head contact is allowed and gives a higher amount of points.
Taekwondo Hands and Feet Pads
WT and ITF (read the difference between WT and ITF Taekwondo) always have in common are pads for the hands and feet. These parts are always padded in both styles; ITF’s lighter sparring makes use of these parts specifically, while in WT competitions, they’re just part of a full set of competitive gear. The hand and feet pads are usually equipped with electronic sensors for WT competitions.
Other Competitive Taekwondo Gear
Usually, since WT uses a more direct approach to sparring, other gear is necessary to compete normally. So, in addition to everything already mentioned in the text above, WT competitors also have protective pads for shins, groins and forearms, all of which are hidden beneath the uniform. The only visible pieces of protective gear are the homu, the homyu and the arms and feet pads. Everything else is hidden underneath the uniform.
There are special shoes for Taekwondo (and other dojo-based martial arts). As far as training sessions go, using footwear is generally discouraged, but it is rarely forbidden. Trainees are encouraged to train barefooted or, during colder periods, wearing socks, but wearing specialised indoor shoes can also be possibility for the trainees. They are prohibited in official competitions as well as in ceremonial promotions, because they give the wearer an unfair advantage and/or go against the guidelines. They are also prohibited during breaking demonstrations.