Pattern training offers a link to tradition and helps practitioners bring a sense of dignity and honor back into their lives. The main problem that arises when instructors teach only fighting techniques is that students forget the basic spirit of Taekwondo, which is to seek peace first, and use force only as a last resort. By stressing defensive techniques, patterns help promote the proper attitude in martial artists. The study of patterns also helps students realize a sense of inner achievement, instead of outer victory. Since only a few students ever achieve outer victory—the winning of trophies at tournaments, for example—the majority of students are, in effect, being left out of the loop. Patterns give them a way back into the loop.
Patterns offer students a standard—anywhere and at any time—in a way that encourages them to contemplate the beauty, and not just the practical application, of the techniques they practice. After all, Taekwondo should have something to offer everyone, not just the exceptional few who want to compete in tournaments. If patterns are not emphasized sufficiently by the instructor—or are neglected altogether—students are encouraged to think that only by winning fights can they progress. This is not the type of message instructors should be sending to their students. Indeed, it can be disheartening to students, and it gives credence to those who would try to ban the martial arts on the grounds that they encourage violence.
Pattern training is a lifelong challenge and is culturally enlightening, since many Taekwondo patterns are passed on from generation to generation, thus preserving ancient empty-hand techniques. Some instructors tend to emphasize tournament fighting techniques over pattern practice, which gives students an unbalanced sense of training. Patterns add further to a deeper understanding of Taekwondo by offering students a connection to the past, a link with tradition that many people have lost elsewhere in their lives as society quickly changes around them. People need some understanding of the past if they are to develop a healthy attitude toward the present. The study of patterns encourages students to see themselves as part of a long and honored tradition. This feeling helps give them a sense of respect, and it challenges them to enter that tradition honorably themselves. A sense of belonging grows within students and helps them keep their interest in Taekwondo. It also helps prevent them from abusing their skills. On the other hand, psychologists say, a lack of respect for tradition is one of the factors that contributes to aggressive behavior.