- Note: this page focuses on un-armed taekwondo forms. For weapons forms, see Taekwondo Weapons Training. For creative or freestyle forms, see Freestyle Forms.
The Korean terms hyeong, poomsae and teul are all used to refer to Taekwondo forms or "patterns."
- The word hyeong is often romanized as hyung - hyeong is the term usually used in Traditional Taekwondo.
- Poomsae is sometimes romanized as pumsae or poomse - poomsae is the term officially used by Kukkiwon/WT- and ATA-styles of taekwondo.
- Teul is often romanized as tul - teul is the term usually used in ITF-style "Chang Hon" taekwondo.
A hyeong is a systematic, prearranged sequence of martial techniques that is performed either with or without the use of a weapon. In traditional dojang (training gymnasiums) hyeong are used primarily as a form of interval training that is useful in developing mushin, proper kinetics and mental and physical fortitude. Hyeong may resemble combat, but are artistically non-combative and woven together so as to be an effective conditioning tool. One's aptitude for a particular hyeong may be evaluated in competition. In such competitions, hyeong are evaluated by a panel of judges who base the score on many factors including energy, precision, speed, and control. In Western competitions, there are two general classes of hyeong: creative and standard. Creative hyeong are created by the performer and are generally acrobatic in nature and do not necessarily reflect the kinetic principles intrinsic in any martial system.
Types of Forms
Different taekwondo federations (ATA, ITF, WT, etc.) use different taekwondo forms. Even within a single federation, different schools in the federation may use slightly different variations on the forms, or use different names for the same form (especially in older styles of taekwondo). This is especially true for beginner forms, which tend to be less standardized than mainstream forms; see Comparison of Beginner Forms for more details.
These forms are often practiced in Traditional Taekwondo such as Moo Duk Kwan Taekwondo and Tang Soo Do. These forms pre-date even the ITF forms (below); these forms date back to the 1940s-1950s when the Nine Kwans first began to establish the foundations of what came to be known as taekwondo. Many of these forms were used to train the South Korean military. Many of these forms are derived from forms used in other martial arts, such as Karate or Kung Fu.
- In the table below, forms marked with an asterisk * are derived from Karate.
- Forms marked with † are derived from Kung Fu.
- Forms marked with ‡ are derived from the Muye Dobo Tongji
Because Traditional Taekwondo really represents an amalgam of several difference styles, there are many forms that fall into the category of traditional. Unlike ITF, ATA, and WT-styles of taekwondo, there is no "standard" definition of a Traditional Taekwondo curriculum; different schools use very different curriculums. Nonetheless, there are forms such as the Pyong Ahn forms for example that are fairly commonly used across many Traditional Taekwondo curriculums.
International Taekwon-do Federation forms (teul)
ITF-styles schools use 24 Chang Hon forms (firstly known as hyeong and currently known as teul), developed primarily in the 1960s by Choi Hong Hi. These are the first forms developed for what would now be called a modern style of taekwondo. Some people refer to ITF-style taekwondo also as a "traditional" form of taekwondo. Because this represents the first attempt at a "consolidated" style of taekwondo, the number of forms seen is much smaller than the amalgam of forms associated with Traditional Taekwondo.
- ITF beginners (White Belts) do not study forms per se; instead, ITF uses short exercises for introductory lessons: Four Direction Block and Four Direction Punch. A third exercise, Four Direction Thrust, is also sometimes used, but often with more experienced students.
- ITF patterns are described in more detail in the main article: ITF Patterns.
- Important note: some ITF-style schools (but not all) adopt the Sine Wave approach to doing these forms.
- Some forms from Traditional Taekwondo sometimes find their way into ITF curriculums at some schools, for example Chul-Gi and Bassai. Some authors consider these to be "unofficial" ITF forms, though this practice is far from universal.
- GTF Patterns
- After the establishment of Global Taekwondo Federation in 1990, Park Jung Tae added six patterns to the original 24 ITF patterns. These are Jee-Sang, Dhan-Goon, Jee-Goo, Jook-Am, Pyong-Hwa and Sun-Duk.
World Taekwondo / Kukkiwon forms (poomsae)
The Palgwae forms used in Kukkiwon/WT-style taekwondo were developed in the late 1960s, but were later deprecated, as they were not authorized to be exported to countries outside Korea, and replaced with the Taegeuk forms in the early 1970s. These forms, initially conceived for children, are geared toward preparing the students for sparring in sports-style taekwondo (i.e., they are less combat oriented). So for example, these forms tend to use more natural, upright sparring stances (such as the Walking Stance), rather than long, low stances.
- Taegeuk forms - the forms currently used for color belts (geup grades)
- Palgwae forms - these forms predate the Taegeuk forms but are still taught at some schools
- Black Belt forms (also called the Yudanja series of forms)
- Beginner forms (Kibon forms) - these are non-standardized, and can vary greatly from school to school.
The Kukkiwon/WT-style of taekwondo generally recognizes 10 geup grades before black belt, and yet there are only 8 forms in the Taegeuk series. For this reason many Kukkiwon/WT-style schools will incorporate two Kibon forms into their curriculum, so that there's one new form to learn at each geup level.
American Taekwondo Association forms (poomsae)
Contemporary to ITF-style taekwondo, ATA forms were likewise developed in the late 1960s in the United States, based on the teachings of Traditional Taekwondo. Like ITF-forms, these forms tend to be focused on combat (rather than sport). These forms however tend to emphasize kicking more than the ITF forms do. Being a franchise organization, ATA forms are copyrighted by ATA, so one rarely seems them documented outside official ATA publications. ATA franchise schools are provided with PDF files that define the forms. See for example MyTaekwondoUSA.com
Jhoon Rhee forms
When taekwondo pioneer Jhoon Rhee first brought taekwondo to the United States, he taught Traditional Taekwondo (what he was calling Korean Karate at the time). Later, Rhee's schools switched and began using the ITF-style forms instead. Due to the controversies surrounding Choi Hong Hi, Rhee eventually switched again and developed his own series of forms for Color Belts. First-Dan Black Belts in Jhoon Rhee-style taekwondo then go on to study the ITF-style Color Belt forms. Second-Dan Black Belts study the ITF-style Black Belt forms.
Somewhat unique to Jhoon Rhee style of taekwondo is the idea of setting forms to music; this is referred to by Jhoon Rhee schools as Martial Ballet:
- The Jhoon Rhee form Might for Right is performed to the music of Theme of Exodus when performed as part of Jhoon Rhee's Martial Ballet.
- The Jhoon Rhee form Jung-Yi is performed the song Granada.
- The form Marriage of East to West is performed to the music of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. This form is still performed at Martial Ballet competitions but is no longer part of the mainstream Jhoon Rhee curriculum.
Since the development of the Martial Ballet, other schools will sometimes set their forms to music as well, in an attempt to help reinforce the cadence and rhythm of the movements.
There are other niche styles of taekwondo that use other forms, for example:
- Chun Kuk Do is an American hybrid of Traditional Taekwondo developed by Chuck Norris. It uses Traditional Taekwondo forms as well as some forms that are unique to the style.
- WanJeonHan Taekwondo - this style of taekwondo is used by only a few schools. It uses a combination of ITF-style forms and other forms that are unique to this style.
- Ho-Am Taekwondo - also known as Tiger Rock Taekwondo
Comparison of Forms
- A * mark indicates a form derived from Karate
- A † mark indicates a form derived from Kung Fu.
- A ‡ mark indicates a form derived from the Muye Dobo Tongji
History of Forms
Authors typically attribute taekwondo's adoption of forms to the the influence of Okinawan karate on the original Nine Kwans of taekwondo. In karate, forms are called kata. Kata, in turn, are believed to have been inspired by forms used in Chinese chuan fa and kenpo. In 1429 C.E. many Chinese nationals immigrated into Okinawa and other parts of Japan, and it is believed that these immigrants brought the idea of forms study with them. In fact, some of the karate kata still studied today bear the names of the Chinese practitioners who inspired them. The idea of forms study then is likely a Chinese invention.
In Korean martial arts history, the first documented use of form is in Muye Dobo Tongji, published in 1795 C.E.
Forms in Competition
In tournament competitions (see also: Taekwondo Tournaments), there may be several different types of events:
- For Open Poomsae events, you know ahead of time which form you will be demonstrating. The form you will be demonstrating is usually determined based on your belt rank.
- For Sport Poomsae events, you do not know ahead of time which forms you will be demonstrating. At the time of the event, you will be asked to perform any of the standard forms with only short notice. So for Sport Poomsae events, you essentially need to practice your style's entire curriculum (or at least the levels appropriate to your rank).
- For Team Poomsae events, you perform poomsae as part of team of people who all perform the same poomsae at the same time. In addition to all the usual judging factors (see below), in this event your team is also evaluated in terms of how well the team can stay synchronized during the performance.
- For Creative or Freestyle Poomsae events, you perform a poomsae that you yourself have designed. See Freestyle Forms for more detail.
Of course each tournament will have its own guidelines for judging forms competitions. Performance of forms is typically evaluated (in part) by the judges using technical factors such as:
- Are the feet the correct distance apart for that stance
- Are the toes pointed in the correct direction
- Are the correct parts of the feet (heels, balls, toes, etc.) for that stance touching the ground
- Are the knees bent the correct amount
- Is the performer's weight distributed correctly among the two legs
- And most importantly: did the performer finish the form at the same spot as where he started (within a few inches), thus demonstrating consistent length to his stances
- Blocking, Punches, and Strikes:
- Were the arms chambered correctly prior to the movement
- Did the arms travel along the correct path, and finish in the correct position
- Were the hands shaped properly before, during, and after the movement
- Were the wrists held correctly
- Did the kicking leg travel along the correct path, strike in the correct position, and then recover along the correct path
- Did the supporting leg have the correct amount of bend and twist before, during, and after the movement
- Did the kicking foot use the correct striking surface (top, toes, ball, heel, etc.)
- Did the supporting foot support the performer's weight using the correct parts of the foot (usually the flat or the ball of the foot)
- Note that according to some published technical guidelines for some styles, no guidance is provided for arm position during the kick
- Are the kihaps performed in the right places, and are they strong
Poomsae performance is more than just technical correctness however, it is a performance, i.e., "an entertaining show", so the technical factors listed above are not the only considerations typically evaluated. (In this sense, poomsae performance is a bit like gymnastics or figure skating - part of the score is technical correctness, but part of the score is also the quality of the showmanship.) Typically judges consider a wide variety of things such as:
- Was the poomsae performed properly of course (no forgotten steps, and no steps performed incorrectly).
- Were the basic techniques especially (basic kicks, basic blocks, basic strikes, etc.) performed well. (There may be less emphasis on evaluating "advanced" movements since these tend to be less standardized.)
- Did the athlete exhibit accuracy, balance, power, snap, speed, coordination, rhythm, and energy. A competitor who makes a minor technical error might still win based on the merits of these other very important factors.
- Expressiveness is also sometimes evaluated, though this factor can be even more subjective.
- In summary, was this performance an "entertaining show" that highlights excellence and correctness in taekwondo.
Note: In some competitions, scoring begins not when you start the execution of your form, but when you first step onto the mat. In this situation, judges are also evaluating you in terms of how you enter the mat (do you bow as you enter), do you bow to the judges before the start of the event, etc.
Scoring of Poomsae
Typically there are at least three judges and one referee for a poomsae competition. Only the referee interacts with the athletes. The judges typically sit in a line along one edge of the ring, usually near a score-keeping table.
Some tournaments will assign an actual numerical score to poomsae performances, with each judge assigning a score (such as 1 through 10) based on the quality of the performance. In this case, often 4 points are assigned to technical correctness, with the remaining 6 points assigned to the quality of the performanc. Other tournaments will simply have each judge designate a winner among pairs of competitors, with the best 2 out of 3 judges determining the winner. In this case, at the end of a match the referee first calls-out something along the lines of "Judges, ready!" The judges then raise both elbows outward, the front of the fists touching in front of the judge's chest. The referee then calls-out something along the lines of "Judges, score!" The judges then raise either their right hand or the left hand, depending on who they are picking as the winner. The hand is swung upward into the air to point in the direction of the winning athlete, then held there for a moment so that the referee can tally the score.
The job of the referee is to:
- Bring athletes out onto the ring (and again, in some tournaments, scoring can begin at this point, with the judges evaluting how the athlete enters the ring, does the athlete bow respectfully, etc.)
- Place each athlete onto their starting spot (often somewhat toward the rear of the ring, so the athletes have room to move forward during the poomsae).
- Have the athletes bow to the judges. ("Chay-ryeot! Kyung-nyeh!")
- Start the athletes in their performance. ("Joon-bee! Shee-jahk!")
- End the athletes' performances. ("Bah-ro!")
- Call for the judges to score. If no designated score-keeper is assigned to the ring, the referee also records the scores.
- Have the athletes leave the ring, and then begin the next round of competition.
A division continues in this way eliminating competitors in brackets until a winner has been determined. The referee then:
- Calls the winners (in 3rd place, 2nd place, 1st place order) back into the ring, and lines the winners up facing the audience with 3rd place on the audience's left and 1st place on the audience's right.
- Starting in 3rd place, hold three fingers above the athlete's head and announce "Third place!" Likewise proceed through 2nd and 1st place.
- Has the athletes bow to the audience, then turn, and bow to the judges.
Personal Interpretations of Forms
Even though most taekwondo forms are very standardized, it is still possible to broadly interpret a form when performing it. As an example, the video below is a very exaggerated version of Koryo. While it is technically incorrect in many areas, it serves as as stark example of what we mean when we say "interpret" a poomsae.
|Standard Version of Koryo||An Example of a Personal Interpretation||Another Very Different Interpretation|
|This version of Koryo is technically correct.||This version of Koryo has many technical innacuracies, but it serves as an example of how broad a personal interpretation of a form can be (as well as demonstrating impressive athleticism).||In this version of the same form, chambers have been almost entirely eliminated, in favor of super-fast combinations.|
See the article Koryo for additional discussion of this interpretation for the form.
- Category:Teul - for a list of ITF forms on this wiki
- Category:Poomsae - for a list of WT forms on this wiki
- Taekwondo Forms and Patterns on Black Belt Wiki
- Taekwondo Animals
- Taekwondo Forms on Taekwondo Preschool
- Taekwondo Patterns on Taekwondo Information.org
- Hyeong/Poomsae/Tul on Wikipedia
- Poomsae.me - a blog with useful Kukkiwon/WT poomsae diagrams (now dated - the diagrams on this wiki are more up-to-date)
- The history of forms: Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae - Original Koryo and Koryo (book)
- The following website compares Tang Soo Do forms to Karate kata: http://www.tangsoodoworld.com/reference/reference_hyung_kata_comparison.htm
- World Taekwondo Federation judging guidelines for poomsae competitions: http://www.worldtaekwondofederation.net/images/Poomsae_Competition_Rules_and_Interpretation_20131206.pdf
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