Adaptive Martial Arts

Carlisle Taekwondo & Fitness Academy, LLC specializes in Adaptive Martial Arts Training for individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities. Our team works hard to provide an a fun but challenging atmosphere where people with disabilities can succeed.


WTF-Low-Res-3Taekwondo is an ancient Korean martial art using dynamic movements including a variety of foot skills. The sport gets its name from the combination of three Korean words “Tae” meaning foot, “Kwon” meaning fist and “Do” meaning way or discipline. The combination provides the basis of the sport, which focuses on sparring techniques utilizing kicks and punching motions that incorporate both speed and agility. An emphasis is placed on head-high kicks and jumping and spinning kicks. Taekwondo attempts to teach athletes the balance of unity and confrontation.

Earning Your Rank

Participants in our program earn rank and awards based on their individual performance. The coaches develop training plans with each member and carefully monitor their progress.

World Ranking

Participants in our program compete at the National and International level earning World Ranking Points. Currently our school is the only school in the United States with multiple Paralympic World Champions and Pan-Am Champions. We also work closely with the Veterans Affairs Paralympic Taekwondo Program to provide coaching, training and other support for Veterans on the National Team.

Competition Rules

WTF-Low-Res-6-300x199At the Paralympic level, Taekwondo competitions are broken into two categories: Poomsae (forms) and Kyorugi (sparring). Recreational competitions and demonstrations may also include Gyeokpa (breaking), where athletes incorporate techniques to break wood, bricks or other blocks.

Pooomsae competitions ask athletes to perform a prearranged sequence of techniques, while judges score them on precision, speed and control.

Kyorugi competitions pair two competitors against each other to spar. Depending on the competition, sparring could be freestyle (competitors spar without interruption for five minutes) or timed (three rounds of two minutes each). Timed sparring is the most commonplace, and is utilized within all USA Taekwondo and World Taekwondo Federation sanctioned competitions including Paralympic competition. Points are awarded when a permitted technique is delivered to the scoring area. Electronic PSS Scoring is utilized for fairness and transparency.

Points are awarded as follows:

  • Two points for a valid kick on chest protector
  • Three points for a valid turning kick to the chest protector
  • Head kicks are not allowed
  • One point awarded for every deduction (Gam-jeom) given to the opposing athlete

Simple Adaptations for Athletes with Disabilities

WTF-Low-Res-7-300x199Adaptive Taekwondo is remarkably similar to its able-bodied counterpart. The difference comes into play in sparring competitions, as adaptive athletes are not allowed to earn points for strikes to the head area. Instead, athletes earn points only when a permitted technique strikes their competitor’s trunk protector. Athletes earn a warning for any unintentional attack to the head and a deduction for intentional attacks to the head area.

Permitted techniques include foot and fist strikes. Fist techniques involve a straight punching motion using the knuckle part of a tightly clenched fist. Foot techniques involve a variety of movements using any part of the foot below the ankle bone.

Points are awarded as follows:

  • One point for a valid kicking technique on trunk protector
  • Three points for a valid turning kick to the trunk protector


Who Can Participate?

WTF-Low-Res-300x199Taekwondo will be featured as a Paralympic medal sport for the first time in the 2020 Tokyo Games. To qualify for the Paralympic team, athletes must be medically classified under the minimum disability rule for their discipline. Athletes looking to qualify in the Kyorugi (sparring) discipline are required to have an upper arm disability, such as amputation or paralysis of the arm. The Poomsae (forms) discipline is open to athletes with intellectual disabilities. The medical classification process ensures athletes are paired with competitors who have the same ability levels.

In other adaptive competitions, the following sport classes are also recognized: Visual Impairment, Deaf, Short Stature, Limb Deficiency/Impaired Passive Range of Movement and Wheelchair. We allow training for individuals with Intellectual Disabilities, Autism and learning disabilities to participate in our program.

At a recreational level, competitions are integrated, allowing athletes with disabilities to enter local Taekwondo competitions and compete against able-bodied athletes and other athletes with varying disabilities.

As with many other martial arts, all sparring competitions are broken up by gender and weight class. In recreational settings age groups may also be utilized to help keep an even playing field.


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