Limited Emphasis on Forms/Poomse

Independent_TKD

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How do you view schools that place limited emphasis on poomse? My opinion of poomse varies. Clearly, poomse are not practical in terms of self-defense or sparring. I do believe they are useful in developing balance and muscle control. They also provide an artistic element and a tie to tradition.

However, I use much more practical and functional drills with my students that achieve both of these goals. If I can help students build balance and muscle control thorugh practical drills, do forms offer only an artistic element? If so, should they be categorized as parts of a "martial" art?

I feel it is possible for students to study forms as a personal suppliment to their training. I don't feel it is a necessary skill needed to be a good practitioner of TKD. As it stands now, my students do manditorily practice forms, but I am debating the idea.

Any thoughts?
 

Kacey

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I think that in limiting patterns, and teaching your students that they are only valuable to "provide an artistic element and a tie to tradition", but that they are "not practical in terms of self-defense or sparring", you are doing them a major disservice. For more detail on why I think this, see this thread for a discussion of the value of patterns in training.
 

exile

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I think that in limiting patterns, and teaching your students that they are only valuable to "provide an artistic element and a tie to tradition", but that they are "not practical in terms of self-defense or sparring", you are doing them a major disservice. For more detail on why I think this, see this thread for a discussion of the value of patterns in training.

Kacey, you took the words out of my mouth!
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dortiz

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As a lot of starting martial artist probably also felt I was not a big form fan in the begining. As I got better and better I still grew to love sparring and not to care for forms. Luckily my teachers knew better. Now forms are my foundation. They are my training , my passion and teach me more every time I do them.

Shocked as I am to say...forms rock!
 

simplelogik

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I used to compete in sparring in my younger years and had always thought poomsae was a waste of time, but as I've "matured" *cough*, I've learnt to realise that poomsae requires it's own dedication and now finding it more challenging than sparring had to offer.
 

bluemtn

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I think that in limiting patterns, and teaching your students that they are only valuable to "provide an artistic element and a tie to tradition", but that they are "not practical in terms of self-defense or sparring", you are doing them a major disservice. For more detail on why I think this, see this thread for a discussion of the value of patterns in training.

I have to agree with Kacey on forms, and will point you to the same thread that she just did. There are certain elements in forms that are useful in sparring and self- defense, if you look for it.
 

stoneheart

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TKD is not my main art. I consider myself more of an Okinawan karate guy, and kata is the essence of karate. Kata, kihon, and kumite should be different faces to the same coin, and practice in all three should lead to effectiveness in combat. If you don't think kata is practical for self-defense, I respectfully submit that you're not practicing kata in the "correct" manner.

Correct practice means performing the moves at all speeds, slow and fast, methodical and with broken rhythmn. It means exploring what all the turns and chambers can really mean and then practicing them both solo and with a fully resisting partner. Showing kime or focus in kata means more than just glaring at an imaginary opponent and shouting loudly - you demonstrate unified body movement and move realistically. Too often we only learning the overly formal steps taught by a well-meaning instructor, but if he doesn't also teach you HOW to use kata, those steps can be too restrictive for a student and he begins to think that forms are a waste of time.
 

wade

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Forms, forms and more forms. It never stops amazing me how many people love doing forms. So let me ask you, if you were a swimmer, and you were taught the breast stroke, the butter fly and all the other different strokes that make a swimmer a swimmer but you never got in the pool, would you still be a swimmer? OR! Would you just be doing forms and calling your self a swimmer?
 

stoneheart

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Do boxers shadowbox? Yes. Do BJJ guys practice moves on the mat slowly with a partner? Yes. Both of those examples are also forms practice.

Like I said, the people who don't value kata or forms generally aren't practicing them fully or properly.
 

exile

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Forms, forms and more forms. It never stops amazing me how many people love doing forms. So let me ask you, if you were a swimmer, and you were taught the breast stroke, the butter fly and all the other different strokes that make a swimmer a swimmer but you never got in the pool, would you still be a swimmer? OR! Would you just be doing forms and calling your self a swimmer?

But Wade, so far as I know, no one is advocating that—certainly not the people who see forms as the core of the SD content of MAs. Look at the training protocol here, for example. Step 1 involves simultaneously learning and practicing the performance of the form and working out the most realistic bunkai possible, but once you've got them, Kidswarrior's summary of Abernethy's steps 2 and 3 involve `destructive testing' with a partner to weed out the impractical applications, and step 4 involves use of the surviving applications under very realistic conditions—conditions way more like actual streetfighting than ordinary kumite in a typical dojo training session. Abernethy, in one of his articles, comments that

The fourth and most neglected stage is to practise applying the techniques, variations and principles of the kata in live practise. The only way to ensure that you will be able to utilise techniques in a live situation is to practise your techniques in live situations. You need to engage in live any-range sparring if you are to make your kata practise worthwhile. No amount of solo practice or drilling the techniques with a compliant partner will give you the skills needed to apply what you have learnt in a live situation...

and comments in his book that `it should be a self-evident fact that the only way to become an able fighter is to practise actual fighting!' He is talking here about competence in defensive combat, and although he indicates ways in his book to minimize the hazards of `all-in' fighting, he also mentions, somewhere else, can't dig it up right now, that he's broken bones in this kind of kata-based `sparring'. For Abernethy and others in his group, karate is primarily a jutsu, not a do, and bunkai are the textbook for fighting techniques; realistic simulated combat is the `exercises at the end of the chapter' that, as with any textbook, you have to get good at in order to learn the subjects, as vs. just knowing about the subject.

Using your analogy, people who train swimming this way not only practice it, but, when they get good enough, go out to places like Monterey Point and test their knowledge out in the rip tides and killer undertow areas.
 
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Originally Posted by wade
Forms, forms and more forms. It never stops amazing me how many people love doing forms. So let me ask you, if you were a swimmer, and you were taught the breast stroke, the butter fly and all the other different strokes that make a swimmer a swimmer but you never got in the pool, would you still be a swimmer? OR! Would you just be doing forms and calling your self a swimmer?

I have to agree. I have been wrestling with the concept of forms in the TKD curriculum for several years. I only have experience with the Taegeuk forms and Judo kata. From a Judo standpoint, the kata are a very small and relatively unrealistic aspect of the art/sport. Nearly all practitioners accept this. Rather, a heavy emphasis is placed on practical and effective techniques that truly work under pressure. With that being the case, I don't think anyone would claim that Judo is a substandard martial art.

In terms of Taekwondo, I just have not been convinced that (Taegeuk) forms are any better or more beneficial than more focused and practical drills that reinforce good technique, muscle memory, and logical reaction to realistic attacks.

In others words, I want my students to build muscle memory and respond in a practical and realistic way. In terms of an artistic activity, the Taegeuk forms are great, much like a dance would be admired. I just don't believe they reinforce the most beneficial martial arts responses to attacks, or the most practical kinds of attacking techniques.

Again, I feel the study forms as a suppliment to training is fine. I don't feel it is necessary to be a good practitioner of TKD. If you take a look at some very effective and respected martial arts (boxing, wrestling, muay thai, BJJ), there is actually no forms system at all.
 

zDom

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How do you view schools that place limited emphasis on poomse?

With pity. "Their loss," is what I would say.

I think it is more that coincidence that the 9 out of the 10 best fighters I have seen over the years are also the best forms practitioners.

None of them look like they are doing forms while they fight — but they all move SO damn well.

Now, I definately think you ALSO need free sparring, but there is no doubt in my mind: forms practiced correctly are great training and make you a better fighter.

Sloppy weak forms? Those probably are a waste of time. But done right — with precision and power — they are essential.
 

stoneheart

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I only have experience with the Taegeuk forms

No offense intended to Taegeuk fans, but these forms are perhaps the most simple with little meaning to them beyond the obvious block/punch/kick application. The Palgwe and Chang Hon sets of forms are richer and deeper in my opinion and they can contain deadly blueprints for maiming or killing an assailant.

Consider the opening movements in Toi Gye. There's an clear groin tear/rip occuring as you slap or chop down on the base of your opponent's skull. The next step as you turn back to center is an unbalancing, throwing movement to rid yourself of the person you have just dispatched. This is one of the easier applications to "see". There are dozens if not hundreds more to explore.

Proper forms practice means you need to take these applications or bun seoh out of the hyung or poomse and practice them in a realistic manner. We often say the form is a catalog of the techniques. Well, when you shop for a shirt through a catalog, do you not see what sizes are available and whether it will fit your body or not? Do you not carefully look for the exact pattern of the fabric or its color?
 

Gizmo

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Do boxers shadowbox? Yes. Do BJJ guys practice moves on the mat slowly with a partner? Yes. Both of those examples are also forms practice.

One subtle difference is the fact that boxers and BJJ guys, while doing their "forms" practice as described above, perform exactly the same techniques, the same movements as in free sparring. Unless you fight in TKD in traditional stances using traditional blocks, strikes and punches, your form practice is not the same as shadowboxing. The TKD's equivalent to the above forms of practice would be... shadowboxing (or/and "shadowkicking", which I think many of you do in class) and partner drills, which also have their place in TKD...

Seriously, I don't think that patterns have anything to do with producing a better tournament fighter, unless you compete in a traditional system like ITKF Karate. They won't hurt, but they won't help that much as well, at least not more than say gymnastics or running. As for self-defence... well, I don't think they are necessary, either. I think one would be better off practicing drills with a partner than memorizing long sequences.

And BTW... I have students who do great in patterns and poorly in sparring, or vice versa. I also have some who are great in both aspects. From what I saw on many tornaments - people excelling in both are rather a minority.
 

foot2face

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Let me start off by saying that I strongly disagree with those who have commented negatively on the usefulness of forms, particularly Taegeuk. At my dojang, forms were heavily emphasized, considered one of the four pillars of TKD.

We were taught that hand to hand combat consisted of two components, fighting and self-defence/anti-smothering. Fighting was defined as dominating and destroying your opponent by hitting them hard, fast and as many time as necessary to decisively end the altercation. Optimally with one or two strikes. Self-defence/anti-smothering are techniques which allow you to put yourself in a position to fight. In order to land a powerful, decisive blow you need time and space. If someone standing next to you suddenly swings at you or if someone clinches you with double under-hooks you no longer have the time nor space required to throw a powerful blow. This is were the forms come in to play. There are a variety of techniques within the forms that can be used in these situations, buying you time and creating enough space to were you can begin or continue to fight. Coincidently, this one reason why TKD forms don't particularly resemble TKD fighting. Were as fighting is the delivery of fast powerful strikes, predominately kicks, at distance; the forms are a collection of philosophy and techniques which complement and supplement the TKDist ability to fight.
 

stoneheart

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This is were the forms come in to play. There are a variety of techniques within the forms that can be used in these situations, buying you time and creating enough space to were you can begin or continue to fight. Coincidently, this one reason why TKD forms don't particularly resemble TKD fighting. Were as fighting is the delivery of fast powerful strikes, predominately kicks, at distance; the forms are a collection of philosophy and techniques which complement and supplement the TKDist ability to fight.


Good post. I would only slightly disagree that the reason why TKD SPARRING (not FIGHTING) differs from the forms is because of the modern emphasis on kicking. The original Korean karate practiced back in the fifties and sixties looked quite different by my understanding.

By the way, a couple of people have made the point that forms don't look anything like fighting. My comment to that is that's true if you only practice the surface movements. Sure, in a real fight, I am not likely to perform a down block while chambering my other arm to the side like in the first move from Chon-ji. What if you take the move a little deeper and think of it like a hammerstrike to the opponent'd frontside (throat? groin?) while jerking his lead arm back under your back arm. Next, you just reverse your direction and take him down like in the classical aikido shihon-nage throw.

Many of these applications from the forms are easier to understand if you have had some cross-training in a grappling/throwing art. I believe the old Okinawan karate masters were all well versed in their native wrestling art, so culturally they had an advantage when learning forms applications compared to the average western karate student.
 

foot2face

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Good post. I would only slightly disagree that the reason why TKD SPARRING (not FIGHTING) differs from the forms is because of the modern emphasis on kicking. The original Korean karate practiced back in the fifties and sixties looked quite different by my understanding.

My master learned TKD during the fifties as a child in Korea. According to him they kicked a lot, when they fought. You must remember that TKD was not one of the original Korean karates but was derived from them and developed an emphasis on kicking. With regards to "TKD SPARRING," if you don't spar like you fight then what's the point?!
 

stoneheart

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if you don't spar like you fight then what's the point

It might be different in your school, but we practice various techniques that involve poking out eyes and ripping groins, throats, and faces with claw strikes. Vital points and soft tissue targets are taught from day one. Many throws and takedowns are practiced also. For obvious safety reasons none of those techniques can be performed when sparring at full speed.

I suppose you probably just mean the usual list of kicks and punches and evading movements when you talk about sparring = fighting. If that's the case, I agree that you want to train your sparring as intensely as possible.

But I don't equate sparring with fighting. For me, they're not the same at all. For me sparring is more about practicing distance (Maai) and tai sabaki and countering.
 
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a couple of people have made the point that forms don't look anything like fighting. My comment to that is that's true if you only practice the surface movements. Sure, in a real fight, I am not likely to perform a down block while chambering my other arm to the side like in the first move from Chon-ji. What if you take the move a little deeper and think of it like a hammerstrike to the opponent'd frontside (throat? groin?) while jerking his lead arm back under your back arm. Next, you just reverse your direction and take him down like in the classical aikido shihon-nage throw.


I am not trying to be stubborn here, but why not just practice the techniques that are supposedly "hidden" within the forms. The basic argument I have heard for a long time supporting forms as integral to being proficient in TKD is that somehow hidden within them are practical techniques/sparring techniques/vital techniques.

My basic argument is: why not practice those actual techniques directly until students build actual proficiency? I have asked this question amongst my fellow instructors and trusted TKD artists and I have never really received a convincing answer.
 

exile

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I am not trying to be stubborn here, but why not just practice the techniques that are supposedly "hidden" within the forms. The basic argument I have heard for a long time supporting forms as integral to being proficient in TKD is that somehow hidden within them are practical techniques/sparring techniques/vital techniques.

My basic argument is: why not practice those actual techniques directly until students build actual proficiency? I have asked this question amongst my fellow instructors and trusted TKD artists and I have never really received a convincing answer.

The answer to that question which has always satisfied me is that a single hyung, just like a single kata or hsing, contains a large number of techs, depending on alternative interpretations of certain moves, and alternative `parsings' of the hyung into combat-complete subsequences. Practicing the whole form in effect keeps it alive, and you, or one of your students, or some deeper descendent in your lineage, may discover new techs—different and even more effective sequences of moves based on those movements. But if you extract a few techniques from the hyung, teach them as drills and throw away the hyung itself, you're very likely ruling out the chance of that later discovery.

There's a related reason as well: if you become adept at `decoding' the hyung into techs, you have a way of carrying around a large number of potential techs, and therefore combat drills, in a small package. The mnemonic role of hyungs is therefore considerable. Combat Hapkido doesn't have hyungs; what they have are dozens—or scores—of separate drills, and there's a hell of a burden on memory! So I think there actually are good reasons to maintain the hyungs, kata, hsings or what have you, to practice them, analyze them and train their applications seriously, rather than compiling them out into a bunch of techs...
 

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