What is the purpose of a Taekwondo form?

Discussion in 'Tae-Kwon-Do' started by skribs, Nov 26, 2018.

  1. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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  2. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    Been thinking about this thread some more...

    Martial Arts are supposed to make us better and give us more options. That is, they make us faster, stronger, more flexible, give us better balance... They give us more options, punches, kicks, throws, locks... Forms and Katas are tool used to do just that... to increase our abilities and give us more options to use.

    When we start using the Martial Art or the form / kata to put fences up and take things away... we are doing it wrong. They are not there to say "you can't do that technique... we are studying x art and y form." They are supposed to say: "here are some things that will help you do your stuff better, and have you thought of this yet... well, now lets make it better."

    The sports are a little different. They are sports, and by definition, do have fences put up. They have created a game to play, and rules to use when playing. The mistake is to use the sport (the subset of the art) to define the art itself.

    If you are going to play the sport... you need to know the rules, and practice those things within the rules. If you are going to study the art... then there are no fences or boundaries. Your forms / katas and other training techniques should only be adding and making you better... increasing your abilities. There is some overlap between the sport and the art... but they are not the same.
     
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  3. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    What do you mean by this?
     
  4. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm just getting around to digging through this thread, so ignore my posts if I'm repeating something already covered in the intervening 2 weeks. What you describe in the second sentence is my definition of "application" in a MA context. Perhaps part of the frustration here is a difference in usage of terms?
     
  5. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    We have similar blocks (we call them "cross-blocks") in NGA. I've reduced to teaching only one of them (originally there were 4) because I don't see them as all that beneficial. However, in extreme cases (caught off guard, can't shift out of the way of a power strike, so have to go force-on-force), they have potential application. I don't think the application gets much deeper than that, unless you look for non-blocking uses.

    Something to consider: maybe some of the techniques in forms are - as you start to ponder at the end of this post - for building movement, rather than direct application. If I can get you to successfully move your arms in different operations at the same time, your ability to deal with combination attacks probably improves. And it's a harder thing to do, so I'm helping build your overall movement ability, which is good for you, even if there's no direct application.
     
  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    *Perfect practice
     
  7. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I have to say I disagree, PDG. As an instructor, I don't want my students to have to rediscover anything important entirely on their own. I want to teach them to discover, but I want them to be able to make more progress than I did, so I provide them some help (sometimes answers, sometimes just clues). So, if I were teaching TKD and had any idea what the purpose of that chamber was, I'd teach it. I might not teach it to beginners, but once they've got that basic movement down, it's time to give them some purpose to a chamber that really doesn't serve a purpose in live use (you need to keep that guard up, so the chamber can't be fully used). And if the motion of the block has other uses, I want to introduce some of them.

    Why take away that early discovery? Because if I give them a better start than I had, they can develop better skill in some areas than I could. And that's always my goal as an instructor: help them find something they can do better than me.
     
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  8. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I'm not a fan of this. Here's my view: I've never met an instructor who was entirely satisfied with the way they taught. They were still learning, and using that learning to adjust their delivery.

    I assume that to be true of the founder/codifier of any given system, as well. (I'm wrong at least sometimes, I assume, but shouldn't be.) If they were still tweaking for better effect, why should that stop when they are no longer available to teach (either because you're teaching far away, or because they have died)? You know something today that General Choi did not. Your students should benefit from that by adjustments in what is taught and how.

    So, my strongly held view is that when teaching an art for effectiveness (at competition, at defensive fighting, at board breaking, whatever), the learning over time and generations should change things. I would want to see that changes exist, as evidence that the system hasn't stagnated. The only times I could see following it exactly is if it's done purely for historical preservation (people in civil war reenactments don't upgrade their gear to modern stuff), or if it's being used just for the joy of learning something, without any plan to use if for context. (That latter case could still argue for changes to improve learning, but let's ignore that for the sake of keeping things simple.)
     
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  9. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Looking at the way it can be used is an application. The issue I have is with the claim that the form "teaches" that application, if 90% of the application is not in the form.

    We have a kick combination at my school that is a front kick followed by a 360 hook kick. Could I claim that our basic form #2, which includes a front kick, teaches you that application? No, because the 360 hook isn't in there. I can say "here's a way to follow up that front kick" but I can't claim that the form teaches it.

    This is one of the theories I had, and I wanted to see if anyone else came up with the same idea - that the double blocks are more about teaching you to focus on both hands instead of just one.

    The one I hear is "practice doesn't make perfect, practice makes permanent." (Although usually that's followed with "perfect practice makes perfect").

    This is basically why humans have dominated the planet. It also shows up in monkeys and dolphins. The ability to pass down knowledge is how we make progress. Sometimes you want people to critically think about things and sometimes you want people to come up with their own answers.

    The accuracy that Taekwondo aims for in the forms suggests to me that at the very least, there are specific reasons why those motions are used. If there wasn't a reason to do it the way it's done, then it wouldn't matter if you vary the form to fit yourself. Now that's not to say you can't go on and find your own applications. But someone doesn't demand you copy their moves exactly, without having a reason to copy those moves exactly. Just like in Karate Kid, when Daniel started on any of the chores, and Mr. Miyagi corrected the way he was waxing, sanding, or painting. He had a specific reason for Daniel to do the chores in the motions that he used, and that reason became apparent when he showed Daniel the application. So it seems to me if we're training this way, there's an answer, and not a discovery as to why we are.

    (As an aside, I've always been bad at riddles that are just all metaphors. You have to know what the metaphor the riddler is using in order to guess the riddle, and not being psychic I could never figure those out. This may be part of why I have more of an issue than others with "here is a motion, figure out how it is used").

    There's a guy I used to work with that had the attitude of "I had to figure everything out when I started here and nobody helped me, so if you want to be good at this job, you need to figure things out for yourself." I butted heads with him a lot, because every time I'd go to him for advice he'd make me feel like an idiot for not knowing things. I, on the other hand, write a white paper any time I figure something out that would be useful for multiple people, because I'd rather they didn't have to spend the extra time trying to figure out something that we as a team should already know.

    I get that you have to give people room to discover and explore, but that doesn't mean that's ALL you give them. You have to give some guidance, and sometimes if someone is stuck on something, you just have to give them the answer and move on.
     
  10. Denoaikido

    Denoaikido Orange Belt

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    Your view is a interesting one I am not a teacher by any means so I can't really say both sides .I will give my students perspective point of view I do think one should learn the art in is all before trying to recreate or make changes to it that being said use what works for you...... You can learn the exact ways and then make them your own when you have fully trained a majority of them most the times guys are looking for easier ways and that is fine i just think you should be very experienced in doing so first
     
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  11. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    One of the things I've been learning about teaching is "teach the rules, then teach the exceptions."
     
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  12. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Yeah, I'm never a fan of the phrase "the form teaches". It might reinforce (by giving you a chance to repeat a movement), but a form doesn't teach. It's just a tool used for teaching and learning. To me, it's like saying "the mirror teaches..." or "the heavy bag teaches...".

    Agreed. We could accurately say that the front kick in that combination is an application of the front kick in the form, assuming we use my definition of "application".
    Agreed.

    Agreed. In fact, part of what we can teach is how to get to some of those discoveries faster - perhaps by teaching students to ask better questions than we did. A friend of mine encapsulated this principle as the slogan for his style: "Now how. Why." I've also heard this as a quote, which I'll leave unattributed (because I've forgotten who I'm quoting), translated sometimes as, "Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the masters of old. Seek, instead, what they sought."

    I'll suggest another possibility for the precision demanded in forms, though it's no more or less likely than your own supposition. It's possible the precision is the point, in and of itself. To help students develop that attention to detail and the discipline to get things "right". My understanding of Asian cultures is that this is a commonly prized characteristic, so it would make sense that it would be incorporated in martial arts development. Perhaps you and I seek too much meaning in things that were, in fact, their own purpose.

    Or maybe it's both. Or we're both wrong, and it's neither.

    Some of this, too, comes from the traditional teaching methods used in Asia, I've been told. Apparently, it wasn't at all unusual for an instructor to demonstrate a technique (perhaps a throw) once, then simply leave the mats for the students to work it out on their own. That wouldn't be unreasonable with experienced students (I've heard this said about Ueshiba's early teaching), though it leverages their existing knowledge more than it adds to it. But it would pu them on the path to learning to dig on their own. I'm a fan of giving this kind of challenge to experienced folks, but not to (most) beginners.

    I've run into that attitude, as well. And there's some good reason to it (again, if we assume the hardship involved is about developing characteristics that aren't directly related to fighting skill). But it ignores that we know some teaching/learning methods work more consistently well than others. Things like never giving the trainee a handout (in modern context, probably electronically available on a web site), and making them take all the notes. It's good for character building, but means the person who least understands the topic is writing the summary, which will slow the learning process in many cases.

    This, mostly. I'll adjust the last point to say that sometimes even then they don't need the answer, but a better question to work with. And sometimes, the best answer is just to give them an answer so they can move on.
     
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  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    I have a very hard time following that with so little punctuation and some (I think) grammatical errors or word swaps. Can you clarify what you're saying?
     
  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed. One of my personal weaknesses as an instructor is that I tend to get into the exceptions too quickly. Something I'm still working on.
     
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  15. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    This makes a lot of sense to me.

    I think it goes in line with what I've discussed in other threads as the way you learn techniques. You start with the rote memorization and muscle memory, then you drill without resistance, then you drill with resistance, then drill for failure, and then spar, apply, and experiment with it.

    Beginners are obviously in the rote memorization and muscle memory stage. The more advanced students should be in the later stages.

    It kind of pops up with the black belt curriculum, too. Our purple belts, for example, do 80-90% of their test requirements every day, and every 2 weeks will see all their testing stuff at least once. Black belts, we may go months without seeing certain things, or we may be just a few weeks before the test and he'll show us a form once and expect us to do it on the test day based on that.
     
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  16. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    It's also something that happens in Youtube videos a lot. Where the video on a technique is filled with rabbit trails of when you can't use it or how to modify the technique, before they've finished explaining the technique!
     
  17. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    One of my personal pet peeves with videos (and some instructors) is failing to show what the technique looks like before you start describing the steps. Describing the steps almost invariably involves some things to avoid (don't step too deep here, or you'll....). So now the picture the student is trying to form is muddied by all these things (and by those rabbit trails). Show it once, first, without commentary, then they have an accurate picture to use when they're following an explanation of the steps.
     
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  18. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    So... if passing down information is a valuable thing... why not take the information passed down? Why reject it outright?

    I have shown you where the katas that became your forms fit into the Japanese system of transmission. Funakoshi used it, and taught that way when he taught General Choi and other "founders" of TKD. They thought that the kata part of that system was important enough to keep, even if they rearranged the movements. The answer to what use are the forms, would start there.

    As far as applications of moves... again I showed you Funakoshi. I could have shown you Okazaki or Kano or Gracie... but they do not have the same relationship as Funakoshi to TKD. Again, Funakoshi taught Choi and other TKD "founders" Shotokan karate. They brought those katas to Korea and taught those katas before rearranging the moves a bit. Therefore, the start of that knowledge base (or white papers) would include Funakoshi's applications. I linked in the text of one of Funakoshi's books where he details the one steps (kihon) and his katas, including application. All of which you reject out of hand. Another poster mentions General Choi's volumes of texts, explaining the forms and their applications. If passing down information is something you value, then maybe starting with Funakoshi's work, then reading Choi's work and comparing the two, would give you a really good start, and a lot of base applications, beyond "a block is a block." Looking at what Funakoshi was getting at and why, and then understanding Choi's point of view and why he made any changes he did should prove very useful in a search.

    If it were me... I would start with learning the kata or form.Next learn your instructors applications. Then learning what Funakoshi thought the application was. From a TKD stand point, you may want to start with Choi's applications first, then look at Funakoshi's. These would be that good starting point that Mr Seymour was talking about... if I understand him correctly. But you seem to reject any application that does not follow the name exactly. So here we are. The white papers were written and they are available. Learning to see the movements in the forms, in the way the founders of those arts saw them, should be a very valuable insight.
     
  19. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    If I was taking Karate, what Karate wants me to learn would apply. If I was learning ITF forms, what General Choi wanted me to learn would apply. As I am learning KKW forms, what the KKW wants me to learn is what is applicable to the question.

    I have asked the question more open-ended and asked what other arts get out of their forms. I have asked on the Karate forums what Karate gets out of these types of moves. I have looked at this answer. What I'm looking for now is what does the KKW want me to learn from these forms?

    The problem you have is that you see a question I like and assume that's the only question I'm asking. It's not. I compartmentalize my threads because I ask targeted questions aimed at discovering specific answers. Sometimes my questions are more generalized, and sometimes they are more specific. If I am asking a specific question and I get generalized answers, that doesn't help me answer the specific question.

    You are under the false assumption that this is the only question I am asking. This is why you think I'm asking the wrong questions. I am also asking the questions you think I need to. I'm just not doing it in this thread. There's tons of things you think I'm not doing, and I am.
    • You say I need to look at Karate - I do! I watch Karate application videos, read Karate blogs, and post on the Karate forums some of my questions. So I am doing that.
    • You say I need to look at what Choi says. In this case, I actually don't so much. I do get advice from ITF trainers, but I don't go to the "source" in this case, because my organization has evolved since Choi founded the art.
    • You say I need to experiment with the forms. I do! But that doesn't tell me what the creator wanted me to learn. Are you familiar with the blind men and the elephant? Essentially, they each touch a different part of the elephant and get a different idea of what it's like (ear -> blanket, trunk -> snake, leg -> tree, side -> wall, tail -> rope, tusk - > horn, etc.). So I can go in blind and come up with my own ideas, and that's fine, but that doesn't tell me what the KKW wants me to learn.
    I get that you're trying to help, I really do. But you should probably take a step back. You're worried about the questions I'm not asking, well I didn't list the other questions I ask in this thread. To be perfectly honest, I don't really know that you can help me in this thread, because I'm asking questions specific to my art that you don't have the experience in. The information you are providing is off-topic for this thread. That doesn't mean I think it's bad information. It's just not the answer I'm looking for in this thread.

    EDIT TO ADD: The biggest reason I've been so negative on the advice you've given in this thread, is because the advice you gave started off as criticism that we're not using the methods you use in Karate. You seemed surprised we don't train the same way.

    This had two effects: first, it made it clear that you do not have first-hand knowledge of Taekwondo training methods. You just assumed that because Taekwondo evolved out of Karate, that we must be the same.

    Second, it did kind of create a bit of animosity, that you're telling me my methods are wrong because I'm not following the methods you do.

    Because of this, I am wary to accept your input on this thread, because your input is not coming from experience, and your input is coming from what I see as a point of condescension and arrogance - that I would be a complete failure if it wasn't for your guidance. And that if I reject your guidance I am doomed to failure.

    The rest of our discussion in this thread has basically been you trying to convince me that I need your guidance.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2018
  20. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

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    KKW came from the Korea Taekwondo Association. The first president of the Korea Taekwondo Association was General Choi, before he left to start the ITF. It would seem that his influence would be in your lineage, with Un Yong Kim between you and him.

    (Korea Taekwondo Association - Wikipedia)

    Funakoshi taught Choi and a few others who brought the art to Korea and modified it. Who exactly is the creator, from whom you want to learn this stuff? These moves have not been new for a long time... they are much older than Funakoshi and his teachers even. If you want to know what the original creators wanted you to learn... that line would take you through Funakoshi and Choi and the other Koreans who trained under Funakoshi, before creating TKD. If your creator is someone more recent... then your creator's lineage and where he learned things also would come through that same line. But, you don't want to look at any of them, and still want to know what the creator wanted you to learn... Ok. You will have to be specific about who you consider the creator to be.

    I am not surprised at all that you don't train the same way as Karate. I am surprised that you claim to train differently than any other TKD school or practitioner I have ever trained with or talked with. (its been quite a few... I spent 3-4 years training in a TKD dojang... but would frequently train with the TKD class as well... The TKD master and I were pretty good friends and would cross train with each other quite a bit... and talk about what we were learning and how... additionally I have been on both sides of the US training with TKD guys in various fashions, and have a great deal of respect for TKD)

    In this case you are reading into things, what isn't there. The only guidance I ever wanted to give you was to look to the founders of your system, and see what they wanted to teach you in your forms. Apparently, I have not been able to decipher who the "creator" was. But, once I find out, the only guidance I would try to give, is to find out what he thought that answers were and maybe look to where he learned from. And then explore from there. Many of the things I have shared are things that I have learned from TKD people (masters and students) that helped me start looking for the same answers you are looking for.
     

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