May 29, 2024

US National Taekwondo Association

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Five Lessons from a Traditional Forms Judge by KwanJangNim Fred Parks

Five Lessons from a Traditional Forms Judge by KwanJangNim Fred Parks

In my forty plus years in the martial arts I have been judging for thirty years. I have seen what judges look for when scoring forms. Today we are going to discuss the top five lessons you need to learn to become a forms champion.

1.   It’s about showmanship. The better you perform the more the crowd cheers the higher you score. So, show skill, focus and intensity.

Judges can tell the difference between a dance and a fight. If you just walk through the movements like a dance, you won’t score well. But if you go out there and really fight imaginary attackers and move with the power and balance that a good form teaches then you will steal the show.

Show skill. Let people see your good technique by pausing at just the right moment. Next be sure to demonstrate focus. Keep your eyes on your imaginary attacker. Don’t be distracted because the judges are watching very closely. And finally, be intense. Use the correct facial expressions to let the judges visualize what you are really doing. This is a tough one and so many people get it wrong so you must practice it.  Don’t scream for 3 minutes like a psycho. That is a major no-no to most judges. 

2.   Focus and concentration are more than just your facial expressions.

You must focus on correct movement if you want your techniques to be accurate. Concentrate on what you are doing. Nothing says “I’m not confident” like looking around while you are doing your form because you didn’t practice enough.

Practice when people are around and doing other things. There are thousands of things going on at the same time at tournaments so don’t expect everyone to halt what they are doing so that you can have silence to perform your form. Practice your form in busy public areas. You’re going to perform the way you practice.

3.   Fighting Champions and Forms Champions have a few things in common. Excellent flexibility is one of those things.

Great flexibility not only improves speed and balance, but it improves your technique and energy level as well. The truth is that everyone is impressed by watching someone throw a kick straight up with good execution and power.

Traditionalists know that good flexibility will allow you to move with greater ease. Even if you’re not a traditionalist, it’s a martial arts forms competition. It’s the most traditional part of what we do.

4.   Give personality to your form without changing the moves.

Sometimes judges see the same form several times in a day. Learn how to pause for effect to get their attention. Don’t change the moves because some judges may think that you made a mistake. But if you pause for just a second to demonstrate your power and flexibility it gives personality to the form and shows the judges that you have just a little more effort than the other competitors.

What really ruins a form to most judges is when someone throws in a black flip just because he can. A back flip can be impressive to watch. But what was the point? Most judges will knock off a point because you don’t just change the art. Check with your instructor to get some acceptable variations within your form. There are artistic approaches that can be personalized to you.

5.   Have a great back up form.

You should never enter a martial arts forms competition without a good backup form. In the event of a tie score they will often ask you to do another form to be scored to break the tie. Normally, whoever does a DIFFERENT form as a tie-breaker wins. No judge wants to see you do the exact same form twice in one event. Even if they don’t require a different form, have a solid backup.

About the author: Grand Master Fred Parks is and internationally certified Master Instructor, Judge and Referee. He is the Technical Committee Chairman for the US National Taekwondo Association. Like and follow him at Follow us at  Subscribe to our channel at