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Position of the Judges

Each judge is assigned a particular position in the ring which will allow him/her the best view for judging traditional point sparring or traditional one-step competition. The other two judges should take a position in the opposite corners from the center judge, creating a triangle. All three judges should try to maintain this triangle, so that as the competitors move around the ring, so do the judges. The center judge must maintain his/her primary position directly facing the scorekeeper and timekeeper during any calls. This is to ensure the scorekeeper and timekeeper receive, understand, and write down all instructions and scores. When the center judge has confirmed a point(s) and called that out to the scorekeeper, the scorekeeper should repeat the point(s) back to the center judge. This process will confirm that the proper information was heard and recorded.

Bye System

The ATA bye system is to be set up before any traditional one-steps or traditional point sparring begins. The ATA bye system is based on the concept that each division must achieve a point at which exactly four competitors are left to spar in the semifinal matches. Simply having an even number of competitors will not ensure that a division will reach this point. A bye would be considered an “automatic win.” The competitor who receives a bye would not have to do one-steps or free-spar in the first round of the competition and would automatically move into the next round.

Procedure for Awarding Byes

All World Champions and last tournament season's District and State Champions in sparring events will receive preference in the awarding of byes. For the 2017-2018 tournament season, All World Champions, 2018 District champions, and 2018 State Champions will receive bye preferences. The US Tournament Year runs from the Saturday of World Championships through the Tournament of Champions. Pan-Am Tournament Year runs from Saturday of the Pan-Am tournament throught the Pan-Am Tournament of Champions. Notice that District, Pan-Am, European, and State Champions only receive bye preferences for the competition year after the title is earned.

The procedure for administering byes will be as follows:

  • The center judge will calculate the number of byes needed.
  • The center judge will have all the competitors turn around so he/she can view the uniform backs and determine who is wearing the appropriate uniform to receive a bye preference. You must be wearing the uniform that day to get the bye preference. Verbal or written confirmation of champion status will not be allowed.
  • The byes will be awarded in this order:
  1. World Champions: The most current World Champion receives the first bye, then byes are awarded in descending order of year.
  2. District Champions (For competition year after the title is earned). Pan-Am and European Champions are considered a District title.
  3. State Champions (For competition year after the title is earned).
  4. Award any remaining byes needed by a random drawing.
  • If there are two or more champions of the same year and status, a random drawing among those tied will be used.
  • This rule does not guarantee that everyone that is eligible for a bye preference will receive a bye.
  • Should a competitor receive a bye in the first round, thus placing him/herself in the medal round and then refuse to spar in the next round, the competitor will forfeit any points.
  • A competitor who wishes to change dobok tops for sparring events at the ring may do so, provided that the ring is not delayed in any manner. Competitors may not "share" dobok tops.

Same School Rule

When the center judge is pairing the competitors for traditional point sparring or traditional one-step competition, he/she will make every effort to prevent competitors from the same school from competing against each other in the first round of competition. If a competitor receives a bye in the first round, they may face an opponent from the same school the first time they spar. The procedure for determining byes will take precedence over the rule of competitors being separated by school for the first round. The byes cannot be reassigned if this procedure leaves only members from the same school competing against each other in the first round.

Traditional One-Step Sparring Competition

Rules and Guidlines

  • All white, orange, and yellow belts are eligible to compete in traditional one-step sparring. Electing to compete in one-step sparring DOES NOT preclude them from also competing in traditional point sparring. White, orange and yellow belts may choose to participate in both events.
  • A competitor cannot mix one-steps from two different ranks, but the set of one-steps which a competitor uses does not have to match the form the competitor used during form competition (i.e. a competitor may do Songahm 2 Form and Songahm 1 One-Steps).
  • A competitor must do at least two different one-step combinations on the first two attempts to win both points.
  • If a competitor does repeat a one-step during the first two attempts, they are prohibited from winning the second attempt. They may, however, repeat a one-step during the final round and win the tie breaker.
  • One-step #1 and #2 can be performed in any order.
  • The #3 one-step will not be allowed.
  • If there is a tie and a tiebreaker is necessary, the competitor will use his/her choice of the #1 or #2 one-step.
  • A one-step match will last for a maximum of three one-steps.
  • If a competitor accidentally makes slight contact during one-step sparring, he/she will not be penalized. If excessive contact is made, a penalty point may be awarded, or the student may be disqualified if appropriate.
  • The only one-steps options are from the White, Orange, or Yellow curriculum.

Traditional One-Step Sparring Competition Procedures

  • Traditional one-step sparring bracket will be set up using the ATA bye system. Once the bracket is completed, announce the competitors that received the byes.
  • One-steps must be done with a “partner” facing each other and as if in a self-defense situation. The only exception to this rule is for ATA Tigers.
  • After the competitors bow in, the center judge assigns one competitor to be red (using a piece of red cloth attached to the competitor’s belt in the back) and one competitor to be white.
  • The competitor on the center judge's right will always be red and low block first.
  • The center judge will start each one-step segment by telling the red competitor to “Step Back, Low Block!”
  • The center judge will break the competitors between each one-step.
  • Using flags, the judges will score the first one-step as soon as both competitors have finished. One point will be awarded to either red or white.
  • This will continue until one competitor scores two points and is declared winner of the match.
  • The winner of the match should then confirm his/her name with the scorekeeper to insure that the proper competitor is credited with the win, and advances to the next round.

Traditional One-Step Sparring Judging Criteria

All one-steps will be judged by the following criteria. The judges will check each of the criteria, moving down the list until he/she sees a significant difference between the competitors. This determines the winner of the one-step.
The following criteria is in order of importance:

  • The quality of the basic techniques: stances, blocks, kicks, etc. As mentioned earlier about forms, memorization is not the organization’s sole objective. A student that has “great” technique but leaves out a move (or does an incorrect move) should not lose to a student that does the one-step “correctly”, but has only “fair” technique.
  • If both are even, the judges will look at power; which competitor uses the stronger techniques.
  • Next, look at the flow (or smoothness) of the one-step.
  • If the judge still can’t decide, choose the competitor striking closer to the target.
  • If they are still tied, the competitor with the better competitive attitude should win.

Traditional Point Sparring Competition

Rules & Guidelines

  • At all tournaments, all ranks will be eligible to free-spar including white/orange/yellow belts.

Traditional Point Sparring Competition Procedures

  • Prior to the first sparring match, the center judge will personally check the stopwatch to ensure it is working properly.
  • Prior to sparring competition, the center judge must verify that all competitors are wearing all the required sparring gear and all gear is ATA approved.
  • Traditional point sparring bracket will be set up using the ATA Bye system. Once the bracket is completed, it is imperative that the center judge checks the bracket using the following procedure.
    1. Have all the competitors line up in the center of the ring
    2. Announce each match using the competitors first and last names. Have each competitor kneel as their name is called.
    3. Upon completion, make sure everyone still standing is not competing in traditional sparring.
  • The center judge will call up the competitors in pairs according to the sparring bracket.
  • Each competitor will answer “Yes, Sir/Ma’am!” when his/her name is called, and run to the mark indicated by the center judge. From that point to the end of the match, the competitors will follow the instructions of the center judge.
  • The competitor on the center judge's right will always be red and this will be indicated by using a red piece of cloth attached to the competitors belt in back.
  • Each round will be timed for a maximum of 2 minutes.
  • Time runs continuously unless the center judge or corner judge indicates that time should be stopped.
  • If one competitor reaches five points before the end of the two minutes, he/she will be the winner.
  • Unless a disqualification is declared, the competitor who scores the greater number of points at the end of regulation time will be declared the winner.
  • Ties will be determined by “sudden victory” -- the first competitor to score a point will win.
  • There is no time limit on “sudden victory."
  • "Sudden victory" match may be decided by penalty points.
  • At the conclusion of a match, the winner should then confirm his/her name with the scorekeeper to ensure that the proper competitor is credited with the win, and advances to the next round. It is the center judges responsibility to ensure the correct competitor is advanced to the next round.
  • After the semifinal matches, the competitors not advancing to the finals will spar for 3rd place.
  • There will be a one-minute break before the 3rd place match begins.
  • Once the 3rd place match is completed, the final match will determine 1st & 2nd place.
  • A disqualification or warning given during traditional sparring competition does not carry forward to combat weapons sparring with the exception of unsportsmanlike conduct.

Target Areas & Techniques

Legal Target Areas and Techniques

In a traditional point sparring competition, points are scored by competitors using only hand or foot techniques to legal target areas. The following guidelines apply:

  • Hand techniques may only strike the front of the torso.
    • The front of the torso is restricted to the front of the body starting at the bottom of the belt and going up to the base of the throat, and from one side seam of the uniform to the other side seam.
    • Legal hand techniques include only the following: punch, backfist, hammerfist, ridgehand and knifehand techniques..
    • Striking techniques going towards or making contact with areas outside of this definition will be considered illegal. (See Warnings)
  • Foot techniques may strike the following:
    • Front of the torso.
    • Any area of the head covered by headgear (face shield is considered part of the headgear).
    • Kicking techniques directed towards or making contact with areas outside of this definition will be considered illegal (See Warnings).

Illegal Target Areas and/or Illegal Techniques

Illegal target areas include any part of the body not described in the above definitions. The type of technique, striking or kicking, will determine which definition to use.
In traditional sparring, Illegal target areas include:

  • All areas below the belt. This includes side, front or back areas and applies to kicks or strikes.
  • The back of the torso.
  • Techniques that strike any part of the head not covered by headgear this includes the throat.
  • Blind hand and kicking techniques are illegal techniques. A hand or kicking technique is considered “blind” if the attacker is not looking at the target at the time the technique is thrown. A spinning backfist would be an example of a “blind” hand technique. Throwing a spinning heel kick while not looking at the target would an example of a “blind” kicking technique.
  • Fingertip techniques are not allowed.
  • Any hand techniques to the head & neck.

Neutral Area

Neutral areas are defined as areas of the body which when contact is made it is not illegal and does not score. The arms and top of the shoulders are neutral areas.


How a Competitor Scores a Point

Scoring points will be done by striking legal hand or foot techniques to or near the legal target areas.
The following techniques will score points:

  • Non-jumping or jumping hand techniques to the legal target area will score one point.
  • Non-jumping foot techniques to the legal target area other than the head will score one point.
  • Non-jumping foot techniques to the head, face, side or back of the neck, will score two points.
  • Jumping foot techniques to the legal target area other than the head will score two points.
  • Jumping foot techniques to the head target areas score three points.
  • The criteria for a technique to qualify as a jump kick is that the non-kicking foot must be off the ground at the time of the kick coming close to or touching the legal target area.
  • Techniques cannot score if the competitor (the attacker) is falling during the execution of the technique.
  • No technique can score if any part of the competitor other than the base foot is touching the ground.
  • Neither color belts or black belts are required to make contact to score points, but may make light to moderate contact to legal areas.
  • In the interest of safety, if a judge feels that the technique was close enough to score, (no attempt was made to block or evade) but contact was not made because of exceptional control by the attacker, a point should be awarded.

Example: Competitor A strikes the chest of Competitor B with a side kick, but in the process puts his/her hand on the floor while executing the kick. The judges should use the "No point" call.
Note: It is imperative that judges understand the importance of calling a point for a student that is obviously trying not to hit a less talented student. If Competitor A does a spin kick just over the head of Competitor B, and it is obvious to the judges that Competitor A did so in order not to hurt Competitor B (competitor B did not evade, attempt a block, or otherwise demonstrate that the kick was seen and dealt with), the judges should award 2 points to Competitor A just as though the kick had actually hit the head of Competitor B. This is strictly a judgment call, and not open to interpretation by other competitors, judges, spectators, or seniors. It is put in the rules to remind judges that the most important aspect of judging is competitor safety. If Competitor A is continually denied points because he/she is looking out for the other competitor, the student will become frustrated and be more inclined to "make contact".

The Signals Used for Point Calling

Corner and center judges use signals to indicate calls in a ring. The center judge will point to the proper competitor rather than raising a flag. A corner judge will use the flags as an indicator.
The calls are:

  • Point - raise the correct flag color (as well as pointing the flag toward the competitor who scored) and number of fingers corresponding to the number of points scored. This means the judge saw a technique come close to or touch a legal target area.
  • No Point - cross both forearms downward. This means the judge saw a technique but did not feel that it qualified as a point due to reasons such as, but not limited to:
    • The technique was not close enough to the competitors.
    • The technique was blocked by the other competitor.
    • The technique was not a proper technique (weak or poorly thrown).
    • The technique was thrown when the competitor was out-of-bounds.
  • No See - one hand covers the eyes. This means the judge either did not see a technique thrown or was not in a position to judge whether the technique came close to or touched a legal target area.
  • Warning - wave the correct flag color down low. This means the judge saw the competitor do something that was illegal.

Difference between 'No Point" and "No See": *A judge must SEE (not just hear contact, etc.), any technique he/she calls. If a judge is not sure that a technique scored, he/she will call “no see.” The call of "no see" removes that judge from the decision.If he/she calls “no point,” he/she could prevent a competitor from receiving a legitimate point.

Making a Call – Points

If a point is seen (without a warning), the following actions will occur:

  • One or more of the three assigned judges should clearly call out “Break!” to stop the action.
  • On the direction of the center judge, each judge will indicate one of the three calls; “point”, “no point”, or “no see”.
  • The center judge and the corner judges are required to show their vote at the same time.
  • Each judge has one vote with all the votes carrying equal weight.
  • When indicating a point for either color, the corner judge should raise the appropriate flag and point in the direction of the competitor for whom they are calling, while indicating the number of points awarded. If the judge both raises the flag and points in this manner, and an error is made in the color of flag raised, the judge may change the flag for the correct call. If a corner judge calls a point for red but raises the white flag, red is possibly being deprived of an earned point. Honest mistakes do happen. If the judge points in the direction of the proper competitor but raises the wrong color flag, it is evident to everyone for whom he/she meant. It would be permissible in this event to change the flag color.
  • Points will be awarded according to the majority of judges who saw the techniques.
  • If two or three judges score different points for the same competitor, the highest common score called by the majority of judges will be awarded.

Example #1: Two judges call “no see”, and one judge calls “point.” In this case, the competitor who scored will be awarded the appropriate point(s). If a judge calls“no see”,he/she has eliminated himself/herself from that particular scoring vote. In this situation, only one judge saw the scoring technique, so this would make him the majority.
Example #2: One judge calls “no see”, one judge calls “1 point Red” and one judge calls “no point”. In this case, there is no majority, and no points would be awarded.
Example #3: First judge scores Red 1, second judge scores Red 1, and third judge scores Red 2. The highest common score is 1 and Red is awarded 1 point.
Example #4: First judge scores Red 1, second judge scores Red 2 and third judge scores Red 3. At least two judges scored 2 points or higher and Red is awarded 2 points.

Out of Bounds for Point Sparring

A competitor is considered completely out of bounds when any part of the body is touching the floor beyond the ring boundary during sparring. Judges should tap the floor if they see a competitor is out of bounds to help him/her realize his/her ring position.
The following rules apply:

  • A competitor out of bounds cannot score.
  • A competitor out of bounds can still be scored upon.
  • A competitor is not required to “let” the person out of bounds return in bounds. If in the judgment of the officials, there is no danger to the competitors, or spectators, they may allow the ring to continue even if one competitor is out of bounds.
  • If a competitor has one foot in bounds and one foot out of bounds, the competitor can only score with the foot that was out of bounds. By picking up the out of bounds foot, he/she is now back in the ring.
  • A competitor cannot score with a jump kick if initiated with both feet out of bounds. However, a #3 style kick can score if the out of bounds foot is the one that initiates the elevation for the kick (and the other foot was in bounds). Once the out of bounds foot lifts off the floor, the base foot is in bounds and the competitor would be considered in bounds.
  • A competitor can score on an out of bounds competitor with a jump kick if initiated inside the ring and the scoring occurs while both feet are still in the air.


The safety of all competitors is the main concern of every judge involved. It is because of this safety concern that the calling of warnings is a very important aspect of the judge’s responsibility. There are three different types of warnings: Noncontact, Contact & Excessive Contact or Unsportsmanlike Conduct.

Procedures for Calling a Warning

The following procedures and guidelines are used in the calling of a warning:

  • If a judge sees an illegal technique or illegal action, that judge will call “Break” to stop the action.
  • Any judge that saw the warning, will immediately wave the matching colored flag of the offender towards the ground.
  • The center judge will look at the time-keeper and say “Stop Time!”
  • A discussion will then take place about what that judge saw and whether any of the other judges saw that illegal action. The only purpose of this discussion is informational in nature only. One judge should never attempt to persuade the other judges to change their minds.
  • The center judge should then call for verification of the warning similar to calling for verification of points. The signals used to verify a warning are as follows:
    • Verify the warning - Wave the matching colored flag of the offender towards the ground. This indicates the judge saw the action and agrees that it was illegal.
    • Disagree with the warning - cross the arms low. This indicates the judge saw the action, but did not agree that was illegal. This could be because of a different visual position to the action and did not see the action as illegal.
    • No See - hands cover the eyes. This indicates that the judge did not see the action and cannot agree or disagree with the call.
  • The results of this call are handled similar to calling for points. The majority indicates the final call. It is important to remember that two calls of “No See” do not negate a warning or a point. The “No See” calls are treated as if the judge wasn’t there at the time and the majority of what is remaining indicates the final call, even if the majority is only one judge.
  • A competitor cannot be issued a warning and be awarded a point at the same time
  • Judges should make every effort to make sure the competitor and spectators understand any discussions that occur.

Example: During the action, one judge saw “Red” punch towards “White’s” face and two judges saw “Red” kick towards “White’s” head. After break is called, the judge that saw the punch waves his/her red flag towards the ground. The center judge sees the call for a warning and stops time so the judges can discuss what was witnessed. After the discussion, the center judge asks for official verification. During the verification process.

  • Case #1: One judge votes for a warning and the other two vote "no warming" by crossing their arms low. The warning is not verified. The center judge calls for points 1 judge votes "no point" and the other two vote 2 points red. Result: no warning for red and 2 points awarded to red.
  • Case #2: One judge votes warning and 2 judges vote "no see." The warning is verified and red can not receive points for the kick to the head.

Non-Contact Warnings

A competitor may be issued a non-contact penalty. Non-contact penalties include, but are not limited to the following:

  • The technique was going in the direction of an illegal target area (this would include fakes or feints).
  • The technique came close to an illegal target area.
  • The competitor was running out of the ring to avoid being scored upon.
  • The competitor was purposely falling to avoid being scored upon.
  • The competitor is delaying the match (slow returning to mark, slow getting up, etc).
  • The competitor is receiving coaching.
  • The competitor is grabbing an opponent.

Non-contact warnings will receive the following penalty:

  • For the first infraction in the match, the competitor will receive a warning only.
  • For each additional infraction in the match, a penalty point will be awarded to the compeitor's opponent.

Contact Warnings

Contact warning rules are for the safety of competitors. The safety equipment is only effective in stopping cuts and bruises from accidental contact made with controlled technique. It will not protect against full-power attacks. Contact warnings are awarded when contact is made to an illegal area.
Examples would be:

  • Contact made with any hand techniques to the head.
  • A legal technique makes contact to any illegal target area.
  • The technique used was illegal and made contact.
  • Contact is excessive in nature.

Contact warnings will receive the following penalty:

  • The first infraction in the match, will result in a penalty point awarded to the competitor's opponent.
  • The second infraction in the match, will result in the automatic disqualification of the competitor.
  • All contact penalties will result in a point awarded the defender. This includes non-intentional contact that does not fall under the “NO FAULT” rule.

No-Fault Rule

If a competitor throws a technique that is intended for a legal target area, but due to actions outside of his/her control, strikes (or comes close to) the opponent in an illegal target area, the competitor will not be penalized. An important factor in determining if the no-fault rule should be exercised is if the competitor recognized what was about to happen and tried to further control the technique. It is also important to remember that this is a judgment call by those judges in the ring. Judges will use their experience and the attitudes of the competitors as guidelines when using the no-fault rule.
Example #1: A competitor throws a sidekick towards his opponent’s ribs. The opponent does a spinning hook kick at the same time and is therefore kicked in the back. This would result in a no-fault call.
Example #2: A competitor throws a reverse punch towards his opponent’s chest. The opponent ducks down and is hit in the face, or blocks the punch up into his/her face. This would result in a no-fault call.

Excessive Contact

Excessive conduct warnings are in the sole discretion of the center judge and may result in a penalty point or disqualification. Remember that the purpose of this rule is to protect the competitors physically and mentally. It may result in disqualification if excessive contact was due to negligent lack of control. A competitor disqualified for excessive contact can advance and participate in the 3rd place match. Excessive contact due to malice will result in an unsportsmanlike disqualification, and the competitor is done for the day in that particular event.

Disqualification for Contact Warnings

If a competitor is disqualified for two contact warnings during sparring, he/she losses the current match.If a competitor is disqualified in the semi-final match, they can advance to the third place match. If a competitor is disqualified in the finals they will be awarded 2nd place. The only exception is disqualification due to unsportsmanlike conduct.