Philosophy In Taeguek Poomsae

Miles

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Sorry for what is sure to be a long post, but we were discussing philosophy and history of the Taeguek poomsae.

During the 1950's Korean martial artists were primarily performing Okinawan and Chinese forms. With the efforts to unify the various Kwans came an effort to standardize the material taught. To this end, the Korea Taekwondo Association had representatives from the various Kwans become members of the Poomsae Committee.

The task of the Poomsae Committee was to create uniquely Korean Taekwondo poomsae. The members of the Committee and their Kwan affiliation were:

1) KWAK Kun Sik (Chung Do Kwan)
2) LEE Yong Sup (Song Moo Kwan)
3) PARK Hae Man (Chung Do Kwan)
4) HYUN Jong Myung (Oh Do Kwan)
5) KIM Soon Bae (Chang Moo Kwan)

These original members created the Palgwae poomsae and the Yudanja poomsae (Koryo through Ilyo). It is important to emphasize that the Oh Do Kwan, which were using the Chon Ji forms created by Gen. Choi, participated in the creation of the new KTA poomsae, and thus were an active part of the unification process. The Oh Do Kwan member who participated was GM HYUN Jong Myung, the Oh Do Kwan Jang at the time.

The Palgwae poomsae were the first uniquely Korean Taekwondo poomsae. Unfortunately, they were created without the input of two of the original Kwans: the Jidokwan and the Moo Duk Kwan. The reason for this is that the Kwan Jangs of these Kwans: Dr. YOON, Kwe Byung and GM HWANG, Kee, respectively, had left the Korea Taekwondo Association and had a rival organization, the Korea Soo Bahk Do Association.

Several years later, a majority of Jidokwan (under the leadership of GM LEE, chong Woo) and Moo Duk Kwan (lead by GM HONG, Chong Soo) members rejoined the Korea Taekwondo Association. At that time, it was felt that the input of these Kwans should be included, and new poomsae, the Tae Guek series was created. The additional members from the Jidokwan and Moo Duk Kwan were:

6) LEE Chong Woo (Jidokwan)
7) BAE Young Ki (Jidokwan)
8) HAN Yong Tae (Moo Duk Kwan)
(Names and Kwan affiliation of Poomsae Committee members comes to me courtesy of my friend and senior Glenn U. from his many conversations with Kwan founders and pioneers).

Background. In order to discuss the philosophical context of the Taeguek series, it might be a good idea to look at what "Tae" "Guek" means. "Tae" means "largeness" and "Guek" means "eternity." Together the thought behind "Taeguek" represents the creation of the universe. The symbol for Taeguek is the familiar red/blue yin/uhm (negative) and yang (positive). The circle of the Taeguek symbolizes infinity-no beginning or end. Around the outside of the Taeguek are 8 "gwes" or "Palgwe".

Each of these "gwe" consist of various combinations of three solid (yang) or broken (uhm) bars. From the 12 O'clock position and moving clockwise, the order of the Palgwe is as follows: "keon", "seon", "kam", "kan", "kon", "jin", "ri", and

"tae." For those who are not familiar with what the Palgwe symbols look like, you can see them here:

http://fisks.com/tkd/taeguek_poomse.html

Philosophy:
Taeguek 1 represents "keon" which is heaven-that which is great and original-it is the first poomsae so it is easy to learn. Since it has 3 solid bars, it is all "yang" or positive.

Taeguek 2 represents "tae" which is strength of mind-gentle or soft on the outside, firm of intention on the inside.

Taeguek 3 represents "ri" which is sun or fire or light. It is hot and bright like one's passion for training. It is the last of the beginner poomsae.

Taeguek 4 represents "jin" which is thunder. It is loud and strong but disappears and brings forth freshness. This poomsae is for intermediate students-those who have trained long enough to have a grasp of basic techniques but desirous of new challenges. One of the challenges of this poomsae is the introduction of returing the kicking leg to its original position.

Taeguek 5 represents "seon" or wind. Wind can be refreshing like a gentle breeze or overwhelming like Hurrican Rita. Like a gathering storm, Taeguek 5 starts out with easy motions and builds up to a crescendo with the front kick/stomp and backfist combination at the end.

Taeguek 6 represents "gam" or water. Water can form to fit any container yet can also be dangerous. Like water, this poomsae has both fluid and strong motions such as the ending combination of pushing blocks and reverse punches.

Taeguek 7 represents "kan" or mountain. A mountain is majestic and can be either tranquil or angry.This is an advanced poomsae and the majesty of the covering fist (ITF stylists begin "Won Hyo" in this position) pause followed by the scissors block is an example.

Taeguek 8 represents "kon" or earth-the opposite of heaven so it consists of 3 broken sets of bars (all yin-negative). The earth is firm, rooted, like those ready to test for black belt who are grounded in their knowledge and like earth, ready to spring forth with new knowledge.

Technical Aspects:
The first 3 poomsae are for beginners. They are characterized by simple, straightforward moves such as walking stances, low blocks, middle and upper section punches. The only kicking technique is a front kick, again, the most basic of the kicks.

Nevertheless, they increase in level of difficulty from 1 through 3. For example, in Taeguek 1, the 5th motion is a low block in front stance followed immediately by a reverse punch. In Taeguek 3, there is a middle section knife hand block in a back stance followed immediately by a stance change before the middle section punch.

The second set of 3 (i.e. Taeguek 4-6) are intermediate poomsae. These poomsae introduce increasingly difficult techniques. For example, Taeguek 4 introduces double knife hand block, spear hand strike with push block, simultaneous knife hand block and neck strike, consecutive side kicks, and body-weight concepts (i.e. returning kicking leg to original stance, use of forward momentum from front kick in subsequent front back fist strike).

The final 2 poomsae in the Taeguek series, Taeguek 7 & 8 are advanced poomsae. They have a different feel and flow than the earlier 6 poomsae. In fact, Taeguek 7 has what I perceive to be an almost "kung-fu-like" feel with soft palm blocks, body-weight shifting 180 degrees in tiger stances, and inside crescent kicks to open hand targets. Taeguek 8 likewise diffentiates between kicking combinations moving forward and those which are stationary. It also introduces in the final half a sliding stepping motion not seen in any of the earlier poomsae.

What is fascinating about the Taeguek series is that the footwork matches the respective Palgwe symbol. So, if one were to do Taeguek 4 for instance in the sand, from overhead, the sand would be marked with the Palgwe symbol "ri." Clearly there was a great deal of thought put into the series.

Miles
 

terryl965

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Miles that was a great brief statement of the taegueks can you in detail give the reasoning behind each poomse starting with #1. Such like why are they in walking stances and why are the kick so simple and the blocks be so basic. If they where invented to bring out the best that each kwan had to offer at that time why are they so simple compares to the Chonji poomse and the pawlgues. If they was suppose to bring unity from withen should the stances be at a wider gap for support one of the biggest arguments about the tae gueks is it simplicity, a strong wind could move a person in a walking stance. I'll wait for your reply and then I'll put in my two cents worth over my own questions.

Sincerly
Terry Lee Stoker

P.S. I can only wait in anticipation to every one's views over this subject.
 

ajs1976

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Any thoughts one why there are few kicks? With Taekwondo being a kicking art, it seems like there should be more balance.
 

rmclain

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Hi Miles,

Thank you for posting this information. I've enjoyed reading it.

I know that the yudanja forms (koryo-ilyo) were created and introduced in clinics by the KTA (the first clinic in December 1967). The Palgue hyung were not introduced at this time. I am assuming they were created sometime in 1972-73 as the first clinics teaching these form by the KTA were in 1972-73. I can find out for sure on dates for this.

I believe the Tae Guek forms were introduced in 1974, along with a new version of Koryo - but perhaps you can give me the date on this since I don't practice those forms (Taeguek & koryo #2).

The story you wrote sounds like a noble effort of various leaders to create something unique and have as many people involved as possible.

What I curious about is:

1) Was the Tae Guek creation (& Koryo #2) decided by this group in what appears to be 1 or 2 years (Palgue creation until Tae Guek creation)?

2) Why would those original kwan leaders abandon their original hyung & lineage to create this second group of new forms, which appear to be thrown together rather quickly, IMO?

R. McLain
 
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Miles

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terryl965 said:
...If they was suppose to bring unity from withen should the stances be at a wider gap for support one of the biggest arguments about the tae gueks is it simplicity, a strong wind could move a person in a walking stance.

I can post something about each individual poomsae, but am afraid it will only serve as a remedy for insomnia. :)

I believe that the reason the poomsae start from such easy simple motions is that there is a need to start from basic, foundational movement before transitioning to more advanced movement.

The walking stance is very simple, but it is also pretty deceptive. As a stance with a high center of gravity, it allows for quick movement. However, as you point out, it is at the expense of stability. It is deceptive because it does not appear to be a "fighting position."

Miles
 
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Miles

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doc clean said:
Any thoughts one why there are few kicks? With Taekwondo being a kicking art, it seems like there should be more balance.

Andy,

You hit the nail on the head. The reason for so few kicks in the poomsae, is that there is a need to balance the kicking in the kyorugi/sparring with the hand techniques the poomsae primarily stress. Neither of these aspects of Taekwondo exist in a vacuum.

Miles
 

terryl965

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Miles said:
I can post something about each individual poomsae, but am afraid it will only serve as a remedy for insomnia. :)

I believe that the reason the poomsae start from such easy simple motions is that there is a need to start from basic, foundational movement before transitioning to more advanced movement.

The walking stance is very simple, but it is also pretty deceptive. As a stance with a high center of gravity, it allows for quick movement. However, as you point out, it is at the expense of stability. It is deceptive because it does not appear to be a "fighting position."

Miles
Miles I was under the impression the walking stance was for the military to use it, in a more approbiate way while fighting. Also with all the background one has with all the help from all the Kwans you would believe it to have more of a Okinawa base instead of walking stances. For simpliticy we must first find out why, and then the how come will come in.
He is my two cents worth the Tae Gueks was brought together for the sole purpose of teaching TKD to the masses, kind of the way keep it simple stupid mentallity. They needed to seperate themself from everybody else and the walking and long stances did that for them it allowed them to have something nobody else had. It gave them there freedom.
terry
 

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Just an observation but I used to think the early Taeguek forms looked kinda ugly and simple, mostly because of the short stance

Then in working on some self-defense I noticed how many times at close range you would move your feet in a short manner. a lot of timing going from a 'ready' stance to a walking stance as you countered a move. It sorta dawned on me that while waking stance doesn't look like much, being self-aware of your body in that position and being able to reliably step the proper distance with balance is a good technique to learn
 

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Miles said:
During the 1950's Korean martial artists were primarily performing Okinawan and Chinese forms. With the efforts to unify the various Kwans came an effort to standardize the material taught. To this end, the Korea Taekwondo Association had representatives from the various Kwans become members of the Poomsae Committee.

The task of the Poomsae Committee was to create uniquely Korean Taekwondo poomsae. The members of the Committee and their Kwan affiliation were:

1) KWAK Kun Sik (Chung Do Kwan)
2) LEE Yong Sup (Song Moo Kwan)
3) PARK Hae Man (Chung Do Kwan)
4) HYUN Jong Myung (Oh Do Kwan)
5) KIM Soon Bae (Chang Moo Kwan)

These original members created the Palgwae poomsae and the Yudanja poomsae (Koryo through Ilyo). It is important to emphasize that the Oh Do Kwan, which were using the Chon Ji forms created by Gen. Choi, participated in the creation of the new KTA poomsae, and thus were an active part of the unification process. The Oh Do Kwan member who participated was GM HYUN Jong Myung, the Oh Do Kwan Jang at the time.

Miles


I am not sure how to split this into a new thread, so if someone else can help, please jump in and lend a hand. I know my question is going to be off-topic, so I think splitting it would be appropriate. Thanks.

I was wondering about the different Kwan referenced above, and what information people can give about them. I assume they are older lineages of some sort? is this correct? How are they related, different, similar? Do they have distinct histories? Thanks.

Michael
 

rmclain

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Each Kwan has its own history and lineage. I'm sure you can find a thread on this web site that has already discussed it. But, if you would like new discussion, a new thread is probably most appropriate.

R. McLain
 
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Miles

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rmclain said:
Hi Miles,

What I curious about is:

1) Was the Tae Guek creation (& Koryo #2) decided by this group in what appears to be 1 or 2 years (Palgue creation until Tae Guek creation)?

2) Why would those original kwan leaders abandon their original hyung & lineage to create this second group of new forms, which appear to be thrown together rather quickly, IMO?

R. McLain

I don't know the time frame but will do some further research.

As to the second question, I believe that the answer is that the desire to be inclusive was so great and the Palgwe poomsae had not been universally accepted so it was relatively easy to start fresh.

Miles
 
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Miles

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rmclain said:
Each Kwan has its own history and lineage. I'm sure you can find a thread on this web site that has already discussed it. But, if you would like new discussion, a new thread is probably most appropriate.

R. McLain

Michael, as Robert mentions, there is are threads on TKD History. However, here is a link to a site with the translated version of "The Modern History of Taekwondo."

http://www.martialartsresource.com/korean/korframe.htm

This book is only available in the Korean language but was translated by my senior Glenn U.'s students.



Miles
 
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Miles

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terryl965 said:
Miles I was under the impression the walking stance was for the military to use it, in a more approbiate way while fighting. Also with all the background one has with all the help from all the Kwans you would believe it to have more of a Okinawa base instead of walking stances. For simpliticy we must first find out why, and then the how come will come in.
He is my two cents worth the Tae Gueks was brought together for the sole purpose of teaching TKD to the masses, kind of the way keep it simple stupid mentallity. They needed to seperate themself from everybody else and the walking and long stances did that for them it allowed them to have something nobody else had. It gave them there freedom.
terry

Terry,

Remember the Walking Stance is Okinawan-you can see Funakoshi Gichin Sensei in this stance in his earliest book. I don't know if it was ever used by the military of Okinawa or any other Asian country.

I agree that the Taegueks were created to specifically differentiate Taekwondo from other striking arts like Karate-Do or Kung-Fu. But, I don't think they are necessarily simplistic-they utilize many of the same motions or combinations of motions as seen in those arts. Also the Taegueks are generally balanced so that what is done on the left side is done on the right side too.

Another point that makes them actually quite complicated is that most of the motions transition very easily so that they can appear to be performed quite smoothly. I think this is deceptive as it makes the poomsae look easier to perform. For instance, notice how in Taeguek 2 the right arm in the high block at the end of the first sequence is exactly in position for the spinning inside middle section block. Nevertheless, to create something that looks so easy is very difficult and complicated.

Miles
 

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Sa-Jang was the first form to me that was actually a physical workout :) Probably my age/weight combination (36/180lbs) but all the moving in extended stances, and especially the multiple sidekicks, it can give me a workout
 

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FearlessFreep said:
Sa-Jang was the first form to me that was actually a physical workout :) Probably my age/weight combination (36/180lbs) but all the moving in extended stances, and especially the multiple sidekicks, it can give me a workout

A rude awakening from the first three to be sure. Just when you start thinking you got it, wala. Sah Jang. :) Doing the 2 sides followed by a pefect back stance is tricky to say the least. Very hard to make look good much less just trying to keep your balance. :uhyeah:
 

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One of my instructors called Sah Jang the first real Taeguk form. The first three were just basic or introductory forms.
 
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FearlessFreep said:
Sa-Jang was the first form to me that was actually a physical workout :) Probably my age/weight combination (36/180lbs) but all the moving in extended stances, and especially the multiple sidekicks, it can give me a workout

:) Sa Jang is a good workout. Since it is symbolized by thunder, you have moments of build-up and explosive power. It has a cadence different from the earlier poomsae. Some of the more intermediate aspects of this poomsae is the introduction of the augmented knifehand block, the spearhand strike with palm block (first instance of simultaneous block and counter), the neck strike and knifehand high block (second instance of simultaneous block and counter), the consecutive side kicks, and body-shifting involved in returning the kicking leg to its original position while simultaneously doing a block with the same side arm. Lots of good material to work on!

Miles
 

matt.m

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Il,EE,Sam,Sa, O.........These are all great for a workout. If your not getting a workout then slow down your speed tempo.....not only that but you aren't getting the correct snap/pop or dropping your hips correctly for the hand strikes. Just and opinion, I have used poomse for physical conditioning / physical therapy for about a year now and it is all good.
 
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