Taekwondo utilizes set forms or patterns that are practiced in order to learn and further understand the techniques of the Korean Martial Art. The Korean term for these forms are poomsae. The poomse learned by the Taekwondo practitioner will depend on the school or organization that is attended. There are many forms used in Taekwondo but the three major poomsae taught are Palgwe, Taegeuk and Hyung. Many dojangs (schools) also practice all sets of forms, depending on the personal preference of the instructor. Furthermore, schools may also train in a combination of the various patterns used.
The World Taekwondo Federation practices the Taegeuk patterns. “Tae” literally translates as “bigness” and “Geuk” is the meaning of “greatness.” Together, “Taegeuk” means “Great Eternity.” Taegeuk represents the unity of all opposites that encompasses the universe. The Taegeuk Poomse were given their meanings by the basic tenets of the “Jooyeok” or “The Book of Changes” which is the oldest philosophical work of the Orient. The Jooyeok describes the universe as being divided by eight coming combinations that are formed from the two major forces of the universe: Yin and Yang.
“Yin” represents the ultimate power of creativity, while “Yang” represents the ultimate power of receptiveness. The Trigram is the symbol used to represent each of the eight combinations. Placed in a circle, the Trigram encircles the Yin and Yang symbol with opposite pairs being across from each other in order to represent the interdependent polarities that exist within our universe.
Put simply, Yin and Yang are two values that in order to exist, they must be completely dependent on the other. Always working together, Yin and Yang comprises the total balance of all nature and in life, which is the ultimate goal for training within Taekwondo.
Often referred to as Taegeuk 1-8, each poomsae has its own seperate meaning and must be performed with precise skill before the practitioner can move forward to the higher colored belt rank. Once all eight poomsae and techniques have been mastered, the student has achieved the rank of 1st Kup Red Belt with Black Stripe and is ready to study further for the black belt ranks.
The eight WTF Poomsae for the lower colored belts are:
- Taegeuk Il Jang
- Taegeuk Ee Jang
- Taegeuk Sam Jang
- Taegeuk Sa Jang
- Taegeuk Oh Jang
- Taegeuk Yuk Jang
- Taegeuk Chil Jang
- Taegeuk Pal Jang
You will find those practitioners who believe that forms are a waste of time and impractial. However, each poomse are an important part in Taekwondo training. Not only do they provide “practice” for the individual techniques, they build a stronger, well-rounded martial artist by developing balance, coordination, stamina, breathing control, concentration, flexibility, timing, positioning and achieving perfection in skill.
To perform the Taekwondo forms simply for the sake of performing poomsae should never be the complete goal. The serious martial artist will see the importance of these patterns intertwined together within an art of self-defense that roots date back for thousands of years. The forms within Taekwondo are just one aspect of the five major components which we must strive to learn as a whole and not just in parts.