& Guidelines



Rules and Guidelines Highlights:

  • Pre-registration required by mail or ONLINE prior to the tournament. No registration on day of the event.
  • All Competitors must wear all white uniforms with minimal patches. (See Rule X)
  • Referees are required to wear all black uniforms and must be currently TKL certified to officiate.
  • School Instructors, non-competing or uncertified Black Belts should wear their black uniform or school represented shirts to be allowed on the competition floor.
  • Spectators are required to stay in spectator seating areas.
  • In Forms Competition, competitors will perform and be judged two at a time; except for Adult Black Belts. (See Rule XII)
  • Only traditional forms(Katas) may be performed. (See Rule XII.6)
  • In Sparring Competition, 1 point awarded for scoring hand techniques and 2 points for scoring kicking techniques.
  • All Sparring Competitors must wear all required and authorized safety equipment. (See Rule X)
  • Competitors, Referees, Spectators, and Instructors are expected to be professional, respectful,  positive, and show good sportsmanship to all participants and each other at the tournament.




  1. All matches will be two running minutes in duration. The referee may stop time:
    • When a competitor is injured.
    • When a competitor requires a uniform or equipment adjustment.
    • For an officials conference.
  2. The match is officially over when the timekeeper informs the referee of its completion.
  3. Matches ending in a tie will be decided in a “Sudden Victory” overtime. The first competitor to score will be declared the winner.  Penalties carry over into overtime and further infractions can cause the loss of the match by awarding a point to the other fighter.



  1. All matches will be conducted in a ring at least 20 X 20 feet square.
  2. Two starting lines, each three feet in length, will be centered in the middle of the ring 12 feet apart. One line is red and the other line is white.
  3. It is mandatory that a visible sign reflecting the ring number is erected at each ring.



  1. TARGET AREAS – Points shall be awarded to competitors who punch or kick opponents in one of the following areas: face, head, side of neck, rib cage, abdominal area, groin, kidneys or face guard.
  2. METHODS OF SCORING – Points shall be awarded when a technique is delivered to an unprotected target area with speed, good balance, power, form and focus. The technique must be delivered with enough power that had it reached the target without being pulled short of hard contact, it would have inflicted serious damage to the receiver.
    • Adult beginner, intermediate, and ALL children divisions no contact to the face or throat is allowed. In order to score, techniques must come within a 1-2 inch distance of the target and the performer should clearly be able to reach the target if they do not pull.  In addition, the opponent must have made no effort to block or avoid the technique.
    • In adult men and women advanced divisions, light head and light face contact is allowed. Light to medium body contact is required to score points.
    • In adult Black Belt competition, light face and head contact is allowed. Medium to heavy body contact is required to score points.
  4. AUTHORIZED SCORING TECHNIQUES – These offensive techniques from Karate, Kung Fu, Taekwondo and other open hand systems are legal attacks: punching, back fist, knife hand, ridge hand, hammer fist, front kick, side kick, roundhouse kick, back kick, spin back kick, wheel, heel, axe and jump kicks. Leg sweeps are allowed in all divisions. Sweeps are unsnapped motions (boot to boot) used to upset a competitors balance.  Grabbing is allowed if a scoring attempt is made within 1 second of the grab.



  1. The referee and each judge have one vote. A majority vote is required to verify a score (2 of 3 or 3 of 5).  If a majority of officials agree the same fighter scored but they show different point counts on their scores use this formula to award points.  If there are two different scores being called, award the lowest point called.  Judges must only score what they actually see.  If the judge is unsure whether a technique reached the scoring area, the judge should not signal.
  2. All techniques executed with the hand will receive one point.
  3. All techniques executed with the foot will receive two points.
  4. The first competitor to gain a seven point advantage over his or her opponent automatically wins.
  5. The competitor who has the most points at the end of two running minutes is the winner.


    V.  FOULS

  1. When a competitor commits any three fouls, one point is awarded to their opponent. After a competitor is penalized one point for committing three fouls, their opponent will receive a point for each additional foul.
  2. Fouls are head butts, all ripping or gouging techniques to the facial area, attempts to attack the joints, blind techniques, knee strikes, elbow strikes, take downs, drop kicks, attacking downed competitors, leg kicks, hitting after the break has been called, stepping out of bounds, pushing your opponent out of bounds, kicking within 3 inches of the spine, holding for longer than one second to score and flipping an opponent, any kick or punch executed with excessive contact.
  3. Stepping out of bounds explanation.
    • A contestant is out of bounds when either footsteps on or over the boundary line.
    • A contestant who retreats out, fights out, or is kicked out is out, unless a confirmed score is called. (A judge/referee cannot call a point and an out of bounds foul in the same exchange).
    • The referee must warn a competitor each time they step out of bounds.
  4. A contestant cannot commit a contact foul and receive a score in the same exchange.
  5. No one may coach a competitor during a match. Cheering is encouraged. Continuous coaching will result in a foul for the competitor.
  6. When a majority of officials call a foul on a competitor during an exchange, the foul will be considered confirmed; regardless of whether the officials call the same foul type.



  1. In all beginner and intermediate divisions and in ALL children’s divisions, any face contact whatsoever will result in the awarding of a point to the competitor who is struck. The face is that area which is not covered by the head gear, including the throat.  Three face contacts by the same competitor in the same match will result in disqualification of the offender.  Face guards may be struck without a face contact penalty as long as the contact is light.
  2. If face contact causes swelling, skin abrasion or bruising, or bleeding, the offender will be disqualified. The Black Belt division is excluded from this rule with special provisions.
  3. In the adult Black Belt divisions, knockouts, fractures, broken teeth or a cut which requires stitches are injuries which would call for the disqualification of the offender.
  4. A majority of officials is required to confirm a contact penalty. Discoloration on the face is one confirmation.
  5. If less than a majority of officials confirm a face contact and there is bleeding or swelling, the injury will qualify as an additional vote for disqualification of the offender.
  6. If a competitor scores with a legitimate technique and is struck in the face during the same exchange, in a division where face contact is not allowed, the competitor will be awarded a face contact point as well as the points for the legitimate technique.



  1. Unsportsmanlike conduct will result in the immediate disqualification of the offender. The following are examples of unsportsmanlike conduct.
    • Malicious head, face or body contact.
    • Disrespect displayed towards opponents or officials.
    • Unsportsmanlike conduct by a parent or instructor of a competitor (results in the disqualification of the competitor).
    • Any use of foul language.
  2. A majority of officials must agree on the disqualification.
  3. Any competitor who is disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct may be subject to additional sanctions or suspensions as determined by the TKL Board of Directors.
  4. Any competitor shall forfeit a bout when they have failed to appear at the ring within one minute after their name has been called for the third time.
  5. In the event of two competitors pre-arranging the outcome of an event or participating in non-competitive fighting, both competitors will be disqualified. A majority of judges must confirm the disqualification.
  6. The only acceptable reason for a “bow-out” will be an injury sustained by one of the competitors.



  1. An instructor of a competitor may protest any infraction of the rules. Judgment calls (including the calling or not calling of points and fouls) may NOT be protested.  A judge’s decision may be protested only if the official’s decision is against TKL rules.
  2. All protests must be submitted to the referee at the time of the infraction of the rules. Protests submitted after the infraction when the match has continued or at the conclusion of the match will not be considered.
  3. All protests must be submitted in a sportsmanlike manner.
  4. Adult Black Belt competitor may present their own protest in a sportsmanlike manner.
  5. The promoter or arbitrator has the option to replace any official as they choose.
  6. In the event of a stalemate or if a clarification is needed in the process of a protest, the referee should request the assistance of an arbitrator.



  1. All competitors must be in good physical health. The competitor’s instructor is responsible for assuring the tournament director that their student is in good health.
  2. All entrants must be clean. Any competitor who is dirty will be denied participation.
  3. Fingernails and toenails must be clean and neatly trimmed prior to competition.



  1. Regulation white Karate, Kung Fu, black V-neck Taekwondo (Black Belts only) uniforms must be worn with sleeves reaching below the elbows. All competitors in the Black Belt divisions must wear black belts. A school patch and association patch may be worn on the sleeves or chest. No extra decoration on the pant leg or back of the uniform will be allowed.  School name or logo may be worn on the back of the uniform.  All Black Belt officials are required to wear black uniforms.
  2. All uniforms must be neat and clean.
  3. All male competitors must wear a groin protector on the inside of their uniform.
  4. All competitors must wear a mouth guard and keep the mouth guard inside of their mouth during the match.
  5. All competitors must wear TKL approved safety sparring gear. The polyurethane (dipped-foam type) protective gear on the hands, feet and head are preferred. Other types of sparring gear may be approved for use. See TKL approved sparring gear list.  All gear must be worn appropriately.
  6. All protective equipment must meet with the approval of the referee. The equipment must be on the competitor prior to the match and remain on for the duration of the match.  All striking surfaces of the protective equipment should be free of abrasive tapes, tears, cracks, etc.  Rib protectors are optional.
  7. No hats or headdresses are allowed unless a religious head cover is worn and meets the approval of the referee.
  8. All shin pads must be soft. No plastic or metal is allowed in shin pads(Shin pads are optional gear.)
  9. Sport goggles are allowed. Glasses will not be allowed during fighting divisions.



  1. Students from the same club should not be required to fight each other until the final matches.
  2. If a competitor participates in a certain rank division of a tournament, they may not compete in a lower ranked division at any future tournaments unless such ring assignment was made by and for the convenience of the promoter.
  3. A competitor may enter only one forms and one fighting division per tournament.
  4. Size as well as age will be a determining factor in deciding which division a child competes in.
  5. The promoter is responsible for ring assignments, including the number of weight divisions and fighter distribution; the competitor should compete where assigned.
  6. Only the promoter will be able to make changes or approve changes to the brackets. In addition, the promoter must approve any ring assignment changes of officials.



      1. A form judging board will consist of three qualified Black Belt officials. Once a panel of judges begin judging a division no changes in the judges may be made until that division is completed.  In the Black Belt divisions the judges will consist of 3rd Degree Black Belts or higher.
      2. Judges will be positioned at each corner of the ring. The chief official will sit at the front center of the ring. Two competitors, in all divisions except adult Black Belt divisions, will enter the ring together and perform their form. After the first four competitors having competed they will be called back up to be scored.
      3. In case of a tie between two competitors, the tie breaking procedure will be as follows. Beginners may perform the same form, intermediate and above must perform a different form.  To determine the winner, the officials will stand and (on command) point to the competitor of their choice as the winner.  This is referred to as a “point off”.  In case of a tie with three or more competitors, officials will re-score the competitors to determine the winners.
      4. Competitors will be divided into divisions according to belt rank, age and sex.
      5. Each competitor will address the chief referee by stating only the name of the form they will perform.
      6. All competitors must execute true, traditional forms from traditional martial arts systems. Competitors must execute forms instructed at their own rank level. For example, a beginner should not do intermediate forms and an intermediate should not do advanced forms.
      7. Advanced competitors may do any traditional form they know.
      8. All officials will score each form simultaneously when the referee says, “judges…score”.
      9. The officials will make score cards visible to competitors and spectators and the scores will be announced in a loud clear voice.
      10. SCORING FORMS FOR GRAND CHAMPION WHEN USING 5 BLACK BELT JUDGES. The scorekeeper will omit the high and low score and add the remaining scores. If there is a tie the tied contestants will perform another form and a “point off” will be executed.


8.0 Forgets the form and cannot continue.
8.1 – 8.4 (poor form) Hesitation, disorientation loss of balance, weak movements and flaws in the form of movements.
8.5 – 8.7 (average form) Weakness in some moves, breaks in concentration, slight loss of balance.
8.8 – 8.9 (above average form) Strong form but lacking in smoothness and/or continuity.
9.0 – 9.4 (good form) Overall good performance with slight flaws in balance, kicking, punching, blocking, speed, power and timing.
9.5 – 9.9 (excellent form) Demonstration of superior movement and balance. Extreme level of difficulty taken into consideration.  Exceptional power, speed, focus, balance, smoothness and continuity demonstrated.


  1. The scorekeeper will double check all scores. The referee will verify the correct scores.
  2. Forms should be judged without regard to style or organization. The proper execution of traditional martial arts techniques in a dynamic and effective manner should be the end goal of each contestant. Judges should not let individual stylistic knowledge affect or impair judgment.  Each contestant should be judged on how they perform their form regarding power, speed, focus, balance, timing and overall effect using the above criteria and point scale only.