A pattern is similar to a song sung in a foreign language.
It sounds beautiful, but unless you understand the language, its words are meaningless.
A pattern (also called a form) is a prearranged series of different defensive, counter, and offensive techniques that must be performed in a precise, logical sequence with specific foot movements and stances in imaginary combat against a number of assailants. The student must systematically deal with several imaginary opponents who are attacking with various techniques from different directions. The student begins a pattern by standing at attention, bowing, and then stepping with his or her left foot in a certain direction using a specific technique. Some patterns are performed solidly, some quickly with acrobatics, some gracefully, and some are performed very slowly with great muscle tension. The closest relatives of patterns are shadow boxing, dancing, or a gymnastics floor routine.
"Hyung" (connected moves) is the Korean term for a pattern. "Kata" is the Japanese term for a form or pattern. The World Taekwondo Federation uses the term "poomse." The International Taekwondo Federation used to use the term "hyung," now they use the term "tull." The Taekwondo America organization uses the English term "pattern." TKDTutor.com uses the term pattern.
The "founder" of one of the "realistic" martial arts says that patterns are useless. He says that "Learning to dance is not learning to fight." In his opinion, pretending to learn how to fight while dancing is a way for instructors to drag out the time required to advance. Although patterns have been used by millions of great martial arts masters and their students for centuries, this "master" says it is all useless. As others of the same ilk have done in the past, if you do not enjoy doing something or you cannot do something, then criticize it and invent something you can do.
Patterns help students develop
- Stronger, faster, and more effective kicks, blocks, and strike
- Stronger and more secure fighting stances and positions
- Sparring techniques
- Defensive and offensive moves for every self-defense situation
- Build endurance
- Condition muscles to be harder and stronger
- Rhythm and grace of movement
- Awareness of oneself and body
- Effective breathing techniques
Patterns mark the progress of student development. Higher ranks require more complex patterns that challenge them to increase their level of discipline and proficiency. As students progress in rank, the patterns they are required to learn increase in complexity and difficulty. Traditionally, students must perform a pattern hundreds of times before learning the next one, but in modern Taekwondo, this level of proficiency is not usually required.
In the ancient Orient, a law similar to the law of Hamurabi (an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth) was rigorously enforced. If you injured another person, you had to be punished, even when the injury was caused accidentally. Since modern free-sparring had not yet been developed, Taekwondo students who practiced their fighting skills against other persons risked their own safety if they harmed their opponents. Therefore, the development of fighting proficiency was somewhat hindered until the first patterns were developed. Then students were able to fight imaginary opponents with no chance of injuring an opponent.
Through the practice of patterns, students learn to apply various Taekwondo techniques in practical ways and to join the techniques into useful combinations. They improve their sparring skills by developing fluid, smooth, rhythmical, powerful movements. Gichin Funakoshi, the father of Shotokan karate, taught only a little sparring, he based his teaching on patterns. Funakoshi believed that "Once you have completely mastered kata, then you may adapt it to kumite." Patterns also help students refine their coordination, flexibility, balance, timing, endurance, and breath control, all of which are essential to the proper execution of Taekwondo techniques. Patterns enable students to practice techniques alone and to practice them against simulated attacks that are difficult to duplicate during class exercises or while sparring. While free-sparring enables students to compare their fighting skills to those of other students, patterns permit students to evaluate critically their own individual techniques in a controlled situation. Karate master, Richard Kim, always believed that within kata was all he would ever need to know to defend himself.
Just as individual letters form words, which are then used to compose sentences that express a thought; individual techniques and movements form patterns, which are then used to express the essence of Taekwondo. Just as students in elementary school first learn to print precisely and then to write in their own personal style, Taekwondo students first learn to perform each movement in a pattern in a specified manner, and then they begin to develop their own personal performance style. Patterns are the link between technique training and actual fighting.
Taekwondo competition may be compared to figure skating competition. Taekwondo free-sparring is similar to a figure skating free-style performance. Both are spectacular, very physical, and entertaining. Taekwondo patterns performance is similar to the figures of figure skating (which are no longer required in competition) where a skater is judged on how perfectly he or she can skate specific figures on the ice. In both, everyone does the same movements, movements are precise, mental concentration is more important than in sparring, and competition is relatively boring to watch.
Why 24 Patterns?
A human life may be considered as a day when compared to eternity. A day is 24 hours long, therefore, General Choi developed 24 patterns to represent each of the 24 hours of one day.
No First Attack
There is no first attack in Taekwondo. The tenets of Taekwondo demand that a student of Taekwondo never initiates an attack. Therefore, most patterns begin with a block.
Chunbi Hand Positions
All patterns start and end with a chunbi (ready) position. The position symbolize various states of readiness. The basic chunbi (both fists in front of the belt knot) shows a warrior who is ready to defend him or herself at a moment's notice. Chunbi using high twin open hands held in a triangular shape shows a warrior in meditation. Chunbi using low crossed open hands shows a warrior at peace with him or herself. Chunbi using an enclosed fist symbolizes the restrained force of Taekwondo. Taekwondo may be a destructive force when unleashed, this is symbolized by the closed fist. However, we train to restrain this force and only use it for a just and honorable reason. This is symbolized by the open hand that encloses the fist.
Patterns must be learned from a qualified instructor. Pattern movements may be learned from a book, but the emphasis and flow of the movements and the metal aspects of a pattern are learned from the watchful eye of an instructor. All patterns have specific movements that must be perform in a specific order and speed, but there is still room for variation. The height, weight, gender, age, etc. of a student affects the performance. These factors also affect how the instructor teaches the pattern.
Karate has the concept of "shuhari." "Shu" means to copy the techniques and teachings of the instructor as closely as possible. "Ha" refers to the freedom permitted for subtle changes that will inevitably occur due to variations in physiques combined with the student’s own experiences and understanding of the techniques. "Ri" is when the student has mastered the techniques to the point where they are no longer just techniques, but are a part of his or her being.
All patterns consist of a combination of five techniques: