Taekwondo: More training will improve referees, judges

A taekwondo referee must stand in a position and distance where he can separate the fighters. PHOTO/ABDUL-NASSER SSEMUGABI

What you need to know:

The course, funded by the Korean Embassy in Uganda and hosted at the CSCA Club in Kisugu, preceded the Korean Ambassador’s Cup June 1.

Facilitators at the recent Taekwondo Training Programme For Instructors and Referees believe trainees can improve if they implement what they learnt.

The course, funded by the Korean Embassy in Uganda and hosted at the CSCA Club in Kisugu, preceded the Korean Ambassador’s Cup June 1.

Hakim Kato, one of the facilitators, tackled different subjects including the need for officials to learn how to tally points in a competition, according to the agreed tournament format.

“Most people think it’s my duty because I have done it for years. But think about a time I won’t be around to do it,” Kato said.

He also said that when a fighter goes down, or claims being injured, a referee must be able to determine whether the fighter is injured or pretending.

Regarding positioning, Kato said, the referee must stand where he or she makes a V-shape considering where the fighters are. “And the right distance must be that when you stretch your arm it reaches between the fighters.”

Karim Mulwana, a youthful coach, was mostly interested in the taekwondo commands, a segment which was handled by Master Kim Kwangjoo. Examples: kalyeo (break or stop), kae sok (continue), seijak (begin), among others, which are essential for instruction during training and combat.

Conflict of Interest

In sports like taekwondo, boxing, kickboxing, judo, etc, it is common for club coaches to be referees and judges. Isaac Kato, technical chairman Uganda Taekwondo Federation, who was also a facilitator, warned against conflict of interest.

“If you have a certain affection for or dislike for a fighter that may bias your judgement, excuse yourself from that fight,” he said, acknowledging that it is not proper for one referee to handle many matches of a certain fighter.

Judith Aujo, a seasoned referee, who was part of the training, said to mitigate that problem, more referees must be trained. “But don’t bring active players, moreover those yet to reach their peak,” she said.

Isaac Kato also emphasised the need for athletes to wear proper gear: head gear, shin guards, etc. He also insisted on mastering the key differences in scoring systems. “When using the manual system, a kick or a fist must hit the target area, not just touching it. That’s when your score will count,” he said.  “And a punch to count, two knuckles must hit the target area.”


Royson Okwera was the best referee of the 2024 Ambassador’s Cup for, among others, being alert and making tough but correct calls. Hakim Kato “Many referees have improved in the hand signals, after the reminders we did in the course. But with more training, they can get better.”

He added that some judges may know what to do but struggle to implement it because they lack the exposure.

He shared a trick. “As a judge, keep your paper and head up so that you don’t completely keep your eyes off the action as you note down the points.”