There are numerous Taekwondo organizations throughout the world, many of which teach different patterns. The following tables identify the pattern sets used by some major Taekwondo organizations (may not be up-to-date since organizations change requirements periodically).
Pattern sets allow students to remember hundreds of combinations of techniques. At a black belt testing where a student must perform all patterns up to and including the current rank, it means the student must remember over 600 individual pattern movements in the correct order. This is similar to taking a test with 600 questions, where one missed question results in failure. This would be almost impossible to accomplish under the stress of testing if all the movements were in one pattern. However, if the movements are broken into 20 individual patterns of 30 movements each, it would be similar to taking 20 separate 30-question tests, which is a much easier task. This grouping of individual movements into a group of integrated movements that function as a whole over and above the sum of the individual movements is called "gestalting."
Differences Between Patterns Sets
Chang-hon Pattern Set
This is the original Taekwondo pattern set developed by General Choi Hong Hi, founder of the International Taekwondo Federation (ITF). The set contains 24 patterns each named for a significant person or event in Korean history. The total of 24 patterns is maintained since 24 represents the number of hours in a day, as described above. Choi originally had only 20 patterns, but later he dropped Ko-Dang and added Eui-Am, Moon-moo, Ju-che, So-san, and Yon-gae. Ju-che is difficult to perform so some organizations either do not use it or allow a substitution for older students.
This pattern set is one of the most difficult for new students since it uses intricate footwork and jumping kicks for color belt rank patterns (most schools using this pattern set use the first nine patterns for color belts). The black belt patterns are long (Yu-sin has 68 movements) with numerous jumping, spinning kicks, which make them physical and mentally demanding, especially during testing and competition.
Palgue Pattern Set
This pattern set was originally used by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) but, due to their Shotokan Karate influence, they were replaced in the 1970's by the taegeuk pattern set, which is easier to for beginners to learn. For schools still using the pattern set, the first eight patterns plus Koryo are usually required for black belt. Patterns 1 through 4 are relatively easy to learn and then the patterns become more difficult.
Taegeuk Pattern Set
This pattern set replaced the palgue pattern set that was used by the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF). The first eight patterns plus Koryo are usually required for black belt. For color belts, these patterns are relatively easy to learn. Since this is the pattern set used in international and Olympic competition, it is very popular. The black belt patterns are physically demanding and each is relatively unique.
Songahm Pattern Set
The American Taekwondo Association (ATA) was one of the first Taekwondo organizations in the United States (1969). It used the chang-hon pattern set until the mid-1980's when its founder, Haeng Ung Lee, developed his own forms he called songahm. The ATA has a copyright on them so they cannot be used in competitions by non-ATA members. Lee developed a symbol to represent the pattern set and each pattern in the set represents a portion of the symbol.
Heian Pattern Set
This pattern ser developed from the heian patterns of Shotokan karate during the Japanese occupation of Korea (1905-1945) when many Koreans went to Japan to study or work. Many traditional schools still teach these patterns under the Korean name pyong ahn, although many patterns still retain their Japanese pronunciation. The set is composed of five, relatively short patterns that increase in difficulty.