Windsor

Olympic Taekwondo was 'boring' Windsor grand master says

New rules designed to modernize the sport, fewer exhibits of technical skill, even changes to the uniform have combined to turn taekwondo into something nearly unwatchable for a grand master from Windsor, Ont.

'There was no action involved, techniques were limited, boring to watch'

Maria del Rosario Espinoza Espinoza of Mexico, left, and Zheng Shuyin of China compete in a women's over 67-kg gold medal Taekwondo event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/The Associated Press)

Watching the taekwondo matches at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games was painful for Thomas Oh.

The sport he watched on TV didn't look anything like the martial art he's dedicated his life to perfecting.

New rules designed to modernize the sport, fewer exhibits of technical skill, even changes to the uniform have combined to turn the event into something nearly unwatchable for the grand master from Windsor, Ont.

"Taekwondo is a dynamic art, or at least it was a dynamic art," Oh told CBC News. "It consists of thousands of kicks and combinations. Of those thousands of kicks, Olympic athletes are only doing three or four."

"It's very disappointing. It's a very boring thing to watch," he said.

Oh first began learning taekwondo — which translates to three words: foot, hand, and way — when he was four. His dad began teaching him the art and he's been practicing it for nearly 40 years. He now runs his own school in Windsor.

"I know a lot of masters and grand masters who teach taekwondo, and they were very disappointed with these Olympics," Oh said. "There was no action involved, techniques were limited, boring to watch."

Thomas Oh has been training in taekwondo for nearly 40 years. He says he's not impressed with the showing in the sport at the Rio 2016 Olympics. (Laura DaSilva/CBC)

After a scoring debacle of the Beijing 2008 Olympics, when the results of one match were overturned, taekwondo officials introduced a new electronic scoring system for the Olympics in Rio.

Although the new system eliminated the subjectivity of human judges, it tends to reward athletes who use unorthodox kicking styles.

Oh blames these changes for turning taekwondo away from its roots as a martial art.

But Chongwon Choue, the president of the World Taekwondo Federation has previously said officials "are committed to finding a balance" between traditional techniques and evolving the sport.

Choue credits this evolution with bringing more medals to countries outside Asia, which used to dominate martial arts events.

But for Oh, that fact doesn't compensate for what he feels is lost in taekwondo performed in the Olympics.  

"It's like learning boxing and only learning to jab," he said. "If you just limited it to jabbing it'd be very easy but if anybody was to want to watch that or learn that, I believe it would be very detrimental to the sport."

With files from Laura DaSilva

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