By Lauren Mattera 

World Taekwondo Poomsae ChampionshipsDecember 6 - The seventh World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships have kicked off today in Tunja, Colombia, where a record number of participating athletes perform free-style poomsae for the first time.

Poomsae is a form of taekwondo consisting of various fundamental stances, blocks, punches and kicks logically arranged in a meaningful order in response to attacks from multiple imaginary assailants attacking from different directions.

Free-style poomsae features individual, pair and mixed teams of athletes performing attacking and defending taekwondo techniques, along with a composition of music and choreography of their choice for 60-70 seconds, which is then scored on technical skills and presentation.

Technical skills are scored on the level of difficulty of foot techniques, accuracy of movements and degree of completion of poomsae, while presentation consists of creativeness, harmony and expression of energy.

"It is fantastic for Colombia to host its first major taekwondo competition – we are all delighted to be here at this event," said President of the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) Chungwon Choue.

"Five hundred and fifty six athletes are participating from 53 different countries across the globe, ranging from under 17 years to over 59 years of age, showing the truly universal nature of taekwondo – which is quickly becoming the second most practiced sport, behind football, in the Pan American Region.

Poomsae taekwondoFree-style poomsae is the performance based on taekwondo techniques with composition of music and choreography

"Another milestone is that these are the first Championships where freestyle taekwondo is being introduced – making the event all the more exciting for both athletes and spectators."

The competition's Opening Ceremony entertained an audience estimated to be over 10,000 including a number of VIPs, such as the WTF President Chungwon Choue, Fernando Florez Espinosa, the Mayor of Tunja, Ana Edurne Camacho, the director of the seventh World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships and the President of the Colombian Taekwondo Federation Raul Pinzon.

The South American country has enjoyed a substantial growth in popularity for the sport of taekwondo since national Oscar Munoz won a gold medal at the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympic Games, which he followed up with a bronze for Colombia at London 2012.

Espinosa expressed what the Championships mean for his city.

"This event is the first global taekwondo event ever held in Colombia," he said.

"The people in this city are so excited to see the competition.

"This sport is the fastest growing sport, not only in Colombia, but also around the world.

"This is why it is such a great opportunity to show Tunja to the world as a sport city.

"At the same time, it will boost further development of taekwondo in the city and in the entire country."

WTF Poomsae uniformPoomsae competition uniform allows identification of discipline and authority by distinguishing the order or rank

The competition also showcases the new Poomsae Competition Uniform rules which require all athletes who participate in the WTF World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships to wear Poomsae competition uniforms according to their dan or poom grade – a decision made during the WTF Council meeting and WTF General Assembly held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt earlier this year.

The difference between a poom grade and a dan grade is not skill but age.

A second degree poom and a second degree dan may possess the same skills, but the dan is an adult and the poom is a child, and that difference is displayed in their rank.

Poom ranks can be converted to dan ranks when the person is past 15 years of age.

The highest poom is third poom and the highest dan can be ninth.

The WTF first launched the World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships as part of their aim to further promote the martial art to all age groups across the world.

The first competition commenced in 2006 in Seoul, Korea, drawing an impressive 584 athletes from 57 countries.

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