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In modern day Korea, the term seonbae (sunbae, 선배) refers to a mentor, or somebody who attends the same school as you, but who is higher rank (for example, a college senior as compared to a college freshman). As applied to taekwondo, the form Koryo has a floor pattern that traces out the Hanja character for seonbae; in this context the term seonbae refers to a class of civic officials in ancient Korea.

Seonbae and Koryo[]

Historically, the seonbae were "learned men" who served as high officials of the state. The Kukkiwon Textbook describes the form Koryo as follows:

"Koryo poomsae symbolizes seonbae which means a learned man, who is characterized by a strong martial spirit as well as a righteous learned man's spirit. The spirit had been inherited through the ages of Koguryo, Pahae and down to Koryo, which is the background of organizing the Koryo poomsae. ...The line of poomsae represents the Chinese letter which means 'seonbae' or 'seonbi', a learned man or a man of virtue in the Korean language."

As a Form of Address[]

In some taekwondo schools, the term seonbae-nim is used to refer to students who are of higher rank than the speaker.

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