Contact is the striking force applied to an opponent when sparring. Contact may be no-contact, light-contact, or full-contact, depending on the rules which control the type of sparring. Control of contact is usually over used and under enforced. Most students use too much control and thus too little force, and many instructors do not closely monitor the amount of control being used until it becomes excessive. For no-contact free-sparring or step-sparring, properly controlled attacks and counters should not touch or barely touch the target so as not to cause any pain, bruises, soreness, or red marks. No-contact does not coming a few inches short of the target; this is just as much poor control as is striking too hard.
Sparring consists of six main types
Step-Sparring. This is where two students work together to perform a set of prearranged techniques. Movements may be with one-step, two-step, three-step, etc. Often, students are encouraged to change timing during execution. While there is nothing wrong with this, "tricking" the opponent should not be the aim. Primary emphasis should be on proper form. Techniques practiced should include techniques found in the first few patterns.
Semi-Free Sparring (free one-step). This type is used at the Orange Belt level in Taekwondo America organization. It usually involves the same techniques as in step-sparring, but the attacker and defender are allowed to move around in free-sparring stances until the moment of attack/defense. The completion of the attack and the counter should still be in the full basic form.
Free-Sparring. In this type of sparring, two students fight each other using all permitted techniques in any combination they choose. In competition, a referee controls a free-sparring match, and the referee and corner judges award points and determine the winner. In training, many pairs of students may free-spar simultaneously under the supervision of the instructor and his or her assistants. In this type of free-sparring is a learning experience, so the sparring students judge themselves and must decide in their own minds if their opponent was the winner.
Hand/Foot Sparring. This type of sparring is used to improve techniques by forcing the students to use either hand or feet for both attack and defense. By limiting techniques to either hands or feet, students are able to perfect the use of each.
Model Sparring. This type of sparring is chiefly used for demonstration purposes but it is also useful for students to see how techniques should be performed, how they should be used, and if the technique is the correct one for the particular situation. Model Sparring is performed choreographed movements, usually once in slow motion and once at normal speed.
Pre-Arranged Free Sparring. This type of sparring is similar to free sparring except that all the attacks and defenses are choreographed in advance and, as such, the participants have no fear of injury. It is used during demonstration to sow fighting techniques against one or more opponents.
Protective equipment is worn over designated body target areas during free-sparring and the range of allowable techniques is restricted to provide a demanding, challenging, and yet safe, competition. Sparring injuries are few and are usually very minor. As sparring skills increase and the body is hardened by training, injuries become rarer. Beginning students are not allowed to free-spar for their first few months of training, so they may learn to block effectively and to control their attacking techniques. When free-sparring, an inexperienced student is more dangerous than an experienced student. Therefore, instructors usually pair inexperienced students with experienced students. The experienced students are better able to protect themselves from poorly controlled attacks and they have better control of their attacks, thus protecting the inexperienced students from injury.