Why The Best Taekwondo Teachers Love to Practice Forms by KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim
Taekwondo, forms, also called Poomsae or Hyung training consists of practicing a series of hand strikes, blocks, and kicking techniques executed in various stances and patterns to practice self-defense skills as solo training.
There are several styles or sets of forms in Taekwondo. A common element is that the forms are an individual self-defense practice or alternatively a kind of shadow sparring. Within each form are pre-choreographed techniques that directly translate to blocking and countering the attacks of one or more opponents. We describe the Taekwondo forms, called poomsae in Korean, as “a series of alternate attack and defense actions.” Typically, there are one or multiple forms that correspond to each belt level which provide a foundation for learning the martial art’s techniques and their application.
Layers of a Form
There are several layers that comprise a form. The fundamentals include the footwork pattern traced on the floor, the stances or shifts of weight at each step, the kicks, blocks, and upper body strikes. Straightforward memorization of the pattern of motions establishes the groundwork for confident progression of incorporating more meticulous elements of a form.
The next layer can be called the application layer. Visualizing attacking opponents promotes understanding of why a technique works and the context in which it may be effective. Furthermore, the meaning behind the form, which is often related to a martial art’s philosophy or history, provides additional insight into understanding why certain techniques are included in their respective pattern. The World Taekwondo Federation’s website, for instance, offers the meaning behind one set of forms practiced in Taekwondo. In this set, called the Taekgeuk forms, “the first form symbolizes the beginning of the creation of all things in the universe” and therefore the beginning of a practitioner’s Taekwondo training.
The last layer could be called the performance or effectiveness layer. Details such as rhythm, breathing, power, control, and technique refinement elevate the forms practice from simple imitation and memorization. Hand and foot techniques work together to form a fluid pattern in which steps are gracefully connected or firmly emphasized. The understanding of application guides the eyes in the direction of an attack prior to executing a block or counterattack while inhaling and exhaling channels inner strength and power throughout.
Application to Martial Arts
As practice progresses with constant repetition, each technique in a form is executed to blend effectiveness and art. As the layers fuse together, practitioners will find that forms directly translate to other aspects of their martial arts practice. Kukkiwon states “the Taekwondo Poomsae are so designed to cope collectively with the outside threats . . . weakening the necessity of solitary individual defense measures.” Thus, while real attacks are certain to be unpredictable and more chaotic, the detailed practice of the pre-choreographed technique with emphasis on balance, power, control throughout initiation, execution, and transition can form a solid foundation for un-choreographed delivery of technique.
The Benefits of Practicing Forms
Forms develop balance, control, power, and technique proficiency, providing an opportunity to practice in a deliberate, pre-choreographed, pattern. Practitioners of forms must accentuate each and every detail and element of a series of techniques in a precise manner. Through the process of learning the pattern, application, and sensory elements behind the movements, practitioners can prepare their mind for effective reactions to unpredictable situations.
Yours in Taekwondo,
KwanJangNim Jong Sung Kim
Chairman of the USNTA Board of Directors
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