What martial arts book are you currently reading?


Master Black Belt
Feb 28, 2019
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Las Vegas
I recently had a long conversation about the value of poomsae in Korean MA's. Due to their relatively young age many do not see or understand the value of learning forms in depth. I argued that of Korean the form sets, the Palgwe forms had much more depth than any others, especially the newer Taegueks that really only have value in competition. While older, the Pinon (Pyong Ahn) forms are very basic in movements, evolving from the school/academy days of Korean military.
There are tons of books that talk about the Taeguek forms in regards to the static movements/patterns but very few that talk about any real depth or application, essentially because it does not exist. In a nutshell, it is left up to the instructor or student.
It is understandable why there is so much confusion about them.
All the poomsae you refer to are quite stylized and straight forward in appearance (very similar to their Shotokan root style), and for this reason, it's harder to identify possible in-depth applications. Many of the techniques have lost the subtlety that allows for application beyond the obvious basic ones. They seem to be constructed more for drilling/demonstrating the basic blocks, strikes and kicks, rather than for actual down and dirty combat. (I find it odd that low kicks are non-existent in the poomsae.)

This doesn't mean the potential for advanced application is not there. It's like a latent recessive gene, lurking in the background but able to show itself in the right circumstances with exploration and understanding of the original intent.

I did notice that by Taeguek and Palgwe 6 & 7 more involved techniques capable of advanced app show up; and I agree with you that the advanced Palgwe seem to have more depth compared to the Taeguek. As for the Pyong Ahn, let's look at their history.

Itosu drew on some existing Okinawan kata techniques and adapted them to construct the Pinans1-5 for their use in public school teaching. Even so, Funakoshi maintained that the combat function still remained. Then they were exported to Japan under the name Heian, and then exported to Korea as the Pyong Ahn. It's reasonable to think that along the way some of the original meaning faded and thus the perception (only partly true) that they are "very basic." Many Pyong Ahn moves can be seen in the newer Taeguek and Palgwe, so perhaps an additional "import" has taken place.

All the above factors, plus commercialization and competition, give us modern poomsae. While their depth of application may be harder to find, they are still there to some extent. Strong, fast, basic moves, along with tactics and a fighting spirit, go a long way. If poomsae can develop these traits they are useful, even without the fancy applications. But if you read about the history of Okinawan karate and its core concepts, you will gain some insights on poomsae application.


Senior Master
Jan 3, 2018
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Highly recommended to me by people I highly respect, finally starting it!