It is often asked by students, and asked more often by those not in the martial arts, what practical application does do long, uninteresting forms benefit a practitioner of the martial arts? You certainly will not perform a pattern (tul or kata) in a confrontation. But this does not mean that patterns are not important. They are the core within nearly all martial arts systems from gung-fu to karate to tang soo do to taekwondo. They are the basis for learning and practicing techniques that are taught in other applications, such as self defense and sparring. Tul or kata are full of varying techniques and applications from simple front kicks and punches to double knife hand strikes, jump kicks, and more. They contain just simple blocks and punches. Turn left, block the kick/punch coming from that guy, turn right, block the kick/punch coming from that guy and then hit him in return and so on and yada yada yada yawn... If this is what you think form training is then you have not been taught properly nor may understand the subtle nuances of what these forms are teaching.
All patterns hail from a series of movements that ancient foot fighters from China and Japan built and practiced in order to help train their bodies, ingrain their muscle memory and increase their knowledge of techniques in order to defend themselves as well as their families. Jujitsu, for example, used on the battlefield for close combat in situations where weapons were ineffective. In contrast to the neighboring nations of China and Okinawa whose martial arts were centered around striking techniques, Japanese hand to hand combat forms focused heavily upon throwing, immobilizing, joint-locks and choking as striking techniques were ineffective towards someone wearing armor on the battlefield. The original forms of jujutsu such as Takenouchi-ryū also extensively taught parrying and counterattacking long weapons such as swords or spears via a dagger or other small weapon.
In a true fight or in sparring you do not use all the moves taught in a tul or kata over and over until your opponent falls over. If you need more than two moves from any one tul or kata then you have not really learned the meaning or application of those moves within the tul or kata. In most patterns there is a repetition of certain moves, but they are not necessarily doing the same thing. In a sequence of moves that consist of a straight punch followed by a groin block followed by another straight punch, consider this:
Each move from a pattern has specific applications. After you execute one of these moves on an opponent, you should have a good idea of the position he is going to be in, where his head should be, where his torso should be, etc. If you execute the same move with your eyes shut in a pitch black cave, you should still know exactly what you have just done to him and his body position. Depending on the exact application used, you should know whether you need to follow up with something else, and depending on his (and your) body position you should know which pattern technique you should use next.
Even the simplest of patterns can be powerful. Take one simple move found in tae jo double outer forearm blocks can not only block against double knife hand block but it can be used to defend yourself from an attacker that has both hands on your body by bringing up your arms between his you can knock them off, perhaps grab them as they come off and pull him into a front kick to the groin, stomach or chest. Further, depending on how your engaged with the opponent it may turn into an arm break/elbow dislocation, a throw or even a self defense control tactic. This is all buried in the pattern. If successfully executed then this move is all you need to stop the fight.
Patterns help train the mind and muscle memory inevitably linking the two. With every single move that is executed in a pattern, you should be visualizing what you are doing on your opponent. As your knowledge grows you will have more options to visualize, even back in the basic form you learned when you were a white belt. This visualization is what helps to cement the knowledge of your techniques, you know exactly what you've just done and what position the opponent is in. Visualizing the techniques of the form assists with the state of mind, where you do not have to consciously think about your current or next move, it just flows.
Tae Kwon Do Patterns – 5 Reasons Every Martial Artist Should Know Their Patterns:
If you have done any traditional martial art, you have probably done something similar to Tae Kwon Do Tuls, or Karate Katas. Many martial artists underestimate and even dismiss the importance of these forms, but they would be greatly mistaken to do so. Every style has a different version of their forms, including Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and many others. These can be broken down to the different lineage of that specific art form. Different groups of Tae Kwon Do practice different patterns including Chon Ji, Palgwae, Songahm, and Tae Geuk. Currently the World Taekwondo Federation recognizes Tae Geuk as their style of Forms. However, no matter what style you practice, here are 5 reasons you NEED to know your Tae Kwon Do Tuls.