Dynamic forms

Recently, I've switched from TKD and HKD to an art that is much less rigid in training: BJJ. In BJJ, there is so much to learn that it can't really be broken down in the same way a TKD curriculum is. Instead, you learn some things by drilling the "move of the day", and you learn others just in sparring and getting feedback. The move of the day is often tied to a concept each week, which is tied to a larger concept each month.

In BJJ, this manifests as: in May, we're working on lasso guard. The first week we're working on sweeps, the second on passes, and the third on submissions from lasso guard. And during the first week, we might learn a sweep on Monday, refresh it on Wednesday and learn another, and then learn a few others on Friday.

The way that might work in TKD is that May is spin kick month, Week 1 is back kick month, and we do different drills focusing on the back kick each day of the week.

This is the idea behind doing dynamic forms instead of static forms. With static forms, it quickly gets into the territory where people just have too many forms. I heard it said by different higher-level folks at my old dojang (i.e. 2nd and 3rd dan) things like, "I can either learn new forms or I can improve the ones I already know, I can't do both," or, "I'm tired of learning forms, I want to learn application." This is kind of like the problem that BJJ beginners have, in that there's so much breadth to cover in the art.

This is to take the move-of-the-day approach and apply it to forms, in such a way that folks don't need to remember a dozen or more forms, but can still learn the techniques and concepts behind them.


One of my fellow students at my old school had a saying, "Good is the enemy of great." The idea that if you're complacent with doing a good job, you'll never do a great job.

Going back to BJJ, there are a variety of ways that BJJ teaches. Some schools try and have a curriculum, where at each stripe of white belt you learn XYZ. Most I think follow the move-of-the-day approach I mentioned above. More recently, some schools have started training the ecological method, which is where instead of drilling, you just basically do a bunch of games designed to teach a certain concept (i.e. top person can't use their hands and has to maintain pressure, which teaches how to manage your weight and balance).

I personally prefer a hybrid of the "traditional" move-of-the-day style and the "modern" ecological approach. I feel some drills on each side is better than going all-in on one of the methods. If BJJ guys had simply gone, "eh, move-of-the-day is good enough", we never would have gotten the ecological training.

Similarly, I can look at the Taegeuks, or I can look at the forms I've created and say, "eh, they're good enough." But then I'm teaching something that's just "good enough", and can I really take pride in that?
No one said anything about just doing a 'good' job, you seem to have come up with that yourself. Excellence is in the original forms (most all forms if done correctly).

I am sorry you had such a bad TKD experience, it is not the norm.
 
Standardization is not a bad thing - as long as it's recognized that forms must have some flexibility in them in actual application, otherwise the self-defense combat value of learning the form is lost and it becomes merely exercise and practicing basics, although some may say this is OK. Some students may be wanting only this.
It has its pros and cons. But I personally don't like it when bureaucrats get to do the standardization.
No one said anything about just doing a 'good' job, you seem to have come up with that yourself. Excellence is in the original forms (most all forms if done correctly).

I am sorry you had such a bad TKD experience, it is not the norm.
It was directly in response to you saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." "Ain't broke" doesn't mean, "Can't be improved."
 
It has its pros and cons. But I personally don't like it when bureaucrats get to do the standardization.

It was directly in response to you saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." "Ain't broke" doesn't mean, "Can't be improved."
It is a saying, an inference, a conclusion based on reasoning.

You are absolutely correct in context, but not in application. "Ain't broke" means the system or process is working and efficient. It has nothing to do with throughput (ala, trying hard).

To put it in specifics, you can take any form set from any reputable martial arts style and find almost everything you need to learn the particular style. Here is one of the cool things about this. Anyone can practice the forms at their physical discretion, and yes, hopefully at Their best. But who makes that measuring stick? You, me, the judges? There are a ton of variables to consider as an instructor.

And here is something factual that I know you struggle with; there is SO much to learn in forms beyond just knowing the pattern and movements. You have already expressed your disbelief in this, so I am not going to try to convince you otherwise.
 
It is a saying, an inference, a conclusion based on reasoning.

You are absolutely correct in context, but not in application. "Ain't broke" means the system or process is working and efficient. It has nothing to do with throughput (ala, trying hard).

To put it in specifics, you can take any form set from any reputable martial arts style and find almost everything you need to learn the particular style. Here is one of the cool things about this. Anyone can practice the forms at their physical discretion, and yes, hopefully at Their best. But who makes that measuring stick? You, me, the judges? There are a ton of variables to consider as an instructor.

And here is something factual that I know you struggle with; there is SO much to learn in forms beyond just knowing the pattern and movements. You have already expressed your disbelief in this, so I am not going to try to convince you otherwise.
Even if I did believe it, the forms hardly contain the kicking techniques you would learn in Taekwondo. Especially not enough to be "almost everything you need to learn the particular style".

I've learned up through Sipjin, I just watched the other 4 forms. There's no hook kick, spin hook kick, or axe kick at all. Because Ilyo includes the flying side kick, we can also start to pick which jump kicks are excluded. At the very least, it is inarguable that these techniques are missing, and the hook and spin hook are staples of Taekwondo training.

Then there's ones that you could argue, depending on how far you want to stretch it. There's a tornado crescent kick in Chonkwon, but no tornado roundhouse kick. There's a little bit of sliding footwork in one of the upper forms, but nothing close to the amount you see in TKD sparring. There's no lateral movement that I can see. Nothing that resembles a counter attack (i.e. slide back and roundhouse kick, or pop back and back kick).

Then there's techniques that are in the forms, but so functionally late that it doesn't really matter. When do most students learn a back kick? I'm guessing before 4th Dan, which is when you're supposed to learn Pyongwon, the first KKW form with a back kick in it. When do most students learn a roundhouse kick? I'm guessing before 3rd keub, which is when students learn Taegeuk 6. And I'm certain that a tornado kick is learned before 7th Dan (Chonkwon).

This is all fine because we practice the kicks in drills and sparring. We don't use the forms to develop our kicks. But it's definitely not true that you can learn most of TKD from the forms, when the bulk of the kicking training requires teaching outside of the forms.
 
Even if I did believe it, the forms hardly contain the kicking techniques you would learn in Taekwondo. Especially not enough to be "almost everything you need to learn the particular style"
This has everything to do with the PURPOSE of forms, which in the course of evolution, has been progressively lost in each stage as it has travelled from Okinawa>Japan>Korea. The perspective you are looking at this from is seeing forms as merely a collection of techniques, which you think is incomplete. This last part is true - forms do not contain all of a style's techniques, nor were they meant to.
To put it in specifics, you can take any form set from any reputable martial arts style and find almost everything you need to learn the particular style.
Mostly true, though I think you have to look at several forms to make this statement more accurate.
there is SO much to learn in forms beyond just knowing the pattern and movements
Of course. A "style" is more than the techniques it contains. More telling is the type of techniques, how they are executed and in what context/doctrine. These are what define a style. It's not so much the "what" but the "which, how and why."
 
This last part is true - forms do not contain all of a style's techniques, nor were they meant to.
No, but if the forms are missing what I would consider foundational techniques to the style, then it would be pretty attrocious.

Imagine if boxing had forms and belts. And they didn't have a jab until brown belt.
 
This has everything to do with the PURPOSE of forms, which in the course of evolution, has been progressively lost in each stage as it has travelled from Okinawa>Japan>Korea.
I agree with everything but this. As you well know, there are both good and bad teachers. While someone may have been given bad instruction with regard to forms doesnt mean every system or school from a particular country does the same.
 
I agree with everything but this. As you well know, there are both good and bad teachers. While someone may have been given bad instruction with regard to forms doesnt mean every system or school from a particular country does the same.
I think it's more about the translation of what happened from place to place.

This is my understanding anyway:

In Okinawa (the birthplace of Karate), you had forms that generally served a martial purpose. In Japan, Karate was more of a kid's PE thing, so the martial aspects got dropped and the tamer versions rose to the forefront. The older Japanese students still learned the martial applications, but the kids did not.

When Japan occupied Korea in WW2, they mainly taught the kid version of the forms, in part because the Koreans were beginners, and in part because of a small amount of national pride (I'm being diplomatic with that word choice). Then, after WW2, the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms. The Koreans also had a lot of national pride, and so wanted their own forms, so they took what the Japanese had and chopped them up and rearranged them.

This was all in the 50s and 60s, so the forms we have today are well over half a century old. But they're still just rearranged Karate forms, or yoda-speak Kata.
 
I think it's more about the translation of what happened from place to place.

This is my understanding anyway:

In Okinawa (the birthplace of Karate), you had forms that generally served a martial purpose. In Japan, Karate was more of a kid's PE thing, so the martial aspects got dropped and the tamer versions rose to the forefront. The older Japanese students still learned the martial applications, but the kids did not.

When Japan occupied Korea in WW2, they mainly taught the kid version of the forms, in part because the Koreans were beginners, and in part because of a small amount of national pride (I'm being diplomatic with that word choice). Then, after WW2, the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms. The Koreans also had a lot of national pride, and so wanted their own forms, so they took what the Japanese had and chopped them up and rearranged them.

This was all in the 50s and 60s, so the forms we have today are well over half a century old. But they're still just rearranged Karate forms, or yoda-speak Kata.
I agree if your system did that, but not all Korean systems did. When I cross trained in Shotokan, they taught the same applications that we learned. The only differences were small technique differences that were changed to fit our system. After speaking with some traditional TKD instructors, I discovered that they learned the same interpretations that we did.
 
When Japan occupied Korea in WW2, they mainly taught the kid version of the forms, in part because the Koreans were beginners, and in part because of a small amount of national pride (I'm being diplomatic with that word choice). Then, after WW2, the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms.
Can you document this? Specifically, that they were "taught the kid version of the forms" and that "the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms."

Multiple people, who helped develop TKD, studied under people like Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate). They reached the dan ranks... Some actually opened Shotokan Dojos in Japan, with Funakoshi's blessing to teach Shotokan Karate to the Japanese.... I do not believe that Funakoshi would allow someone with only a surface-level understanding of his art, to open a school in Japan and teach it.

My study has shown that the Koreans who went to Japan and studied the various forms of Karate, studied with the masters or founders of those arts and had a very good understanding of Karate. I have found the same is true with those that studied the Chinese arts as well and again with those that studied the Korean Arts. These were not yellow belts in the Shotokan kiddie class that founded and influenced the development of TKD.

Since you are making a statement, that the Koreans only had a surface-level understanding of the kiddie versions of the forms, can you document that statement or back that up?

Also, going to softly drop this here: https://bin.yhdistysavain.fi/160434...i-Reverberations fromthepasttheearlyforms.pdf
 
Can you document this? Specifically, that they were "taught the kid version of the forms" and that "the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms."
My knowledge of the history of TKD is just like everyone's - some mix of fact and myth accumulated over time from those that were closer to the founding than I am.
 
My knowledge of the history of TKD is just like everyone's - some mix of fact and myth accumulated over time from those that were closer to the founding than I am.
That is actually not like everyone else's knowledge of TKD History. There are many people who have actually done a lot of research and are able to source and document their claims. Sure, there are folks who only know what they learned or overheard in class.... but then there are other people who do real historical research on this stuff... and they publish their findings, so that the rest of us can learn from it as well.
 
That is actually not like everyone else's knowledge of TKD History. There are many people who have actually done a lot of research and are able to source and document their claims. Sure, there are folks who only know what they learned or overheard in class.... but then there are other people who do real historical research on this stuff... and they publish their findings, so that the rest of us can learn from it as well.
A lot of that documentation is dubious or biased in some way.
 
A lot of that documentation is dubious or biased in some way.
Are you suggesting that we throw out all the historical research that has been done, because some sources are dubious or biased? Just go with the myths instead? Specifically, just go with the myths that support the way we want to think?
 
Are you suggesting that we throw out all the historical research that has been done, because some sources are dubious or biased? Just go with the myths instead? Specifically, just go with the myths that support the way we want to think?
I don't have a good solution for the problem. I just know it's a problem.

And because there's contradictory research and sources, which ones do you pick? My guess is the ones that support the way you want to think.
 
Multiple people, who helped develop TKD, studied under people like Funakoshi (founder of Shotokan Karate). They reached the dan ranks... Some actually opened Shotokan Dojos in Japan, with Funakoshi's blessing to teach Shotokan Karate to the Japanese.... I do not believe that Funakoshi would allow someone with only a surface-level understanding of his art, to open a school in Japan and teach it.

My study has shown that the Koreans who went to Japan and studied the various forms of Karate, studied with the masters or founders of those arts and had a very good understanding of Karate.
I will accept that the above is true. Even so, this had limited effect on the art as was taught in Korea. I think the issue is not the skill or knowledge of those who pioneered TKD, but what they taught. Again, we must look to the purpose of the art as it was taught at a particular time since it and, as a result, the art changed. The emphasis of karate was initially self-defense, then exercise, then sport. This was true not only in Korea, but Japan and even Okinawa as well. Eventually, this led to the situation quoted below:
the Koreans only really had a surface-level understanding of the forms.
The Okinawans of the 1930's certainly understood their kata's deeper applications but did not freely share them with the Japanese. This fact, along with the evolution of purpose noted above, led to much of the self-defense meaning of the kata being lost over time. While the old teachers may have had this knowledge, after decades of emphasizing teaching for exercise and sport, after a couple of generations many/most teachers lost important elements of kata. Well, maybe not important to them because the purpose of the kata had strayed away from their self-defense/combat aspects. The purpose had changed.

US military guys who learned karate in Okinawa in the latter 50's and early 60's definitely learned only the basic version and this was what was imported to the USA. For 40 years most karate black belts here didn't realize they knew only 1/2 of the art, they just "had a surface-level understanding..."

So, some of what wab25 wrote was true, and the same for skrib's comment. Even some of what I wrote is true :)It all comes down to what purpose the teaching had. Without a doubt, there were and are schools in all styles that teach combat aspects of kata, not just the exercise and sport aspects, but for a long time these last two influenced more practitioners as the popularity of the art grew and targeted the general public.
 
The Okinawans of the 1930's certainly understood their kata's deeper applications but did not freely share them with the Japanese. This fact, ...........................
What about the Chinese ? Since "Shorin" is the Okinawan derivation of Shaolin did the Chinese share deeper applications with the Okinawans? Or, were the Okinawans smart enough to figure it out but the Japanese were not?
 
If you want to teach Taekwondo, then I believe maintaining the "official" sequence and moves of the forms is essential, not because there is anything amazingly special about Taekwondo forms, but rather for the historical purpose. If you are teaching your own art, then that is your call.
 
I will accept that the above is true. Even so, this had limited effect on the art as was taught in Korea. I think the issue is not the skill or knowledge of those who pioneered TKD, but what they taught. Again, we must look to the purpose of the art as it was taught at a particular time since it and, as a result, the art changed. The emphasis of karate was initially self-defense, then exercise, then sport. This was true not only in Korea, but Japan and even Okinawa as well. Eventually, this led to the situation quoted below:

The Okinawans of the 1930's certainly understood their kata's deeper applications but did not freely share them with the Japanese. This fact, along with the evolution of purpose noted above, led to much of the self-defense meaning of the kata being lost over time. While the old teachers may have had this knowledge, after decades of emphasizing teaching for exercise and sport, after a couple of generations many/most teachers lost important elements of kata. Well, maybe not important to them because the purpose of the kata had strayed away from their self-defense/combat aspects. The purpose had changed.

US military guys who learned karate in Okinawa in the latter 50's and early 60's definitely learned only the basic version and this was what was imported to the USA. For 40 years most karate black belts here didn't realize they knew only 1/2 of the art, they just "had a surface-level understanding..."

So, some of what wab25 wrote was true, and the same for skrib's comment. Even some of what I wrote is true :)It all comes down to what purpose the teaching had. Without a doubt, there were and are schools in all styles that teach combat aspects of kata, not just the exercise and sport aspects, but for a long time these last two influenced more practitioners as the popularity of the art grew and targeted the general public.
I agree with you that the purpose of the teaching is very important, and goes a long way to help understand changes. But, a claim was made that many of the founders only had a surface level understanding of the kiddie version of the karate kata, and used this as their basis for creating TDK.

You bring up good points about the Okinawans not always teaching everything to the Japanese, and the same with the Japanese not always teaching everything to the Koreans or the Americans... and even the emphasis changes going on in Karate. I am contending that many of these people, specifically the ones that trained under Funakoshi, had a much better than surface level understanding. (I cannot vouch for all the others, as I have yet to research those other arts.... but when some of these guys are getting 7th dan ranks from the founder of a system of Karate, I tend to believe he has some understanding of it) Reading Funakoshi's book "Karate-do Kyohan" you can see that he has a very deep understanding of the kata and the martial aspects of it. When looking to the writings and teachings of his other students, they certainly received that understanding as well. So, we can establish that the source the Koreans had for Karate, had more than a surface level understanding of the kiddie version.

The point we can debate is whether Funakoshi taught his Korean students the same depth as he did his Japanese students. I consider the fact that General Choi opened up a Shotokan Karate dojo, in Japan, and taught Japanese people Shotokan Karate, with the blessing of Funakoshi to do so. I do not think Funakoshi would have supported someone with only a surface level understanding to spread his art to other Japanese. (had he opened his dojo in Korea, it might be a different story...)

We also know that the original forms in TKD were based on and very similar to the Japanese Karate Kata (some still are). This is why, when people ask about what there is to be found in the forms.... I tell them to look to the history of where the form came from. So, initially, the forms still had much of the depth of the Karate forms that they were copies of or derivations from. This means that many of the applications came over as well. But, applications are only the first level of depth beyond memorizing the pattern. Many of these deeper teachings would have still been present as well.

Now, we can argue whether those deeper things were kept, abandoned, forgotten.... or iterated on, and improved.... with the changes made in TKD. Certainly, these Koreans would have known the Shu-Ha-Ri process. I would not expect them to directly mention it as a basis of TKD, as they were trying to separate themselves from the Japanese influence. However, they did keep at least some (if not all) of the pieces in the style that they created. While that may have been lost going forward.... the brilliance of the Shu-Ha-Ri method is that the lessons are encoded into the movements of the kata.... so they are still there to be found.

Understanding the history of an art will help us understand more of what is in the art. From the little bit of research I have done.... I think the TKD forms go much deeper than just surface level memorization and some application. Having studied the Shotokan Kata.... when I watch the TKD forms.... I see them discussing the same points and the same ideas, though from different perspectives, different emphasis and using different words and ways to compose the thought.... the same as you would get by studying any subject under different professors. While you might not agree with all professors, or even with all of what a particular professor says on the subject.... you can certainly get a better understanding of the subject by approaching it from different points of view.
 
What about the Chinese ? Since "Shorin" is the Okinawan derivation of Shaolin did the Chinese share deeper applications with the Okinawans? Or, were the Okinawans smart enough to figure it out but the Japanese were not?
This is a valid question, but somewhat non sequitur. A few relevant facts:

The Okinawa-Chinese connection in MA was most prevalent roughly 1760-1900 as this was the time most of the kung fu was integrated into the Okinawan fighting system and many kata were developed.

The Okinawans responsible for developing early karate during this time were from their equivalent of the Samurai class and many were professional LEO's and bodyguards for royalty. They were trained warriors and skilled in weapons as well. Two notables were Seisho Arigake (whose lineage was passed down to Hagashionna>Miyagi, Mabuni and Itosu) and Sakugawa Kanga (whose lineage was passed down to Matsumura>Itosu and Funakoshi.

Since the karate developers were fighting men, they did not learn the arts for spiritual, exercise or sporting purposes. They studied for practical combat. Period. At the time, there was no such thing as "deeper" applications - there was only one application - fighting.

The whole concept of deeper/hidden applications only came about in the post 1930 era after karate was popularized and non-fighting purposes evolved. This was when some of the true combat meaning of kata began to be lost and other purposes for them were stressed.
 

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