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.
"Confused by thoughts,
we experience duality in life.
Unencumbered by ideas,
the enlightened see the one Reality.”
- Hui – Neng
Just as there is a night and there is a day, resting and awake, there are two sides to our human nature. There is the light, good side which contains all that is just, honorable, courageous, and good; then there is the dark, hidden side which contains all the various demons, which contain all that is potentially evil in all of us. Through out our lives these two sides are always vying for control and playing a large role in determining who we are and what we can become.
It is important that we realize this duality of our own nature. That we all have great capacity for good and evil; and that we must thoroughly investigate and test our beliefs and our faith. The strength of either of these sides can determine both our attitude and mood on any given day at any given moment.
Take for instance; one day you are on top of the world and things couldn't seem better. On this day you are more likely to go out of your way to do something good or generous for a stranger. People around you pick up on this. A stranger may base his own idea of who you are or what kind of person you are on their first impression of you. They may think, "What a great person he or she must be". You get up the very next day and you have slept wrong during the night, or have symptoms of coming down with a cold. You don't really feel so good and now things don't seem to be going your way. The darker side of you, or your "demon", becomes more prevalent in your personality or attitude. You become shorter with others, things that just yesterday wouldn't have bothered you at all, today totally infuriate you. After this first encounter with you a person may get an entirely different impression of who you are.
Here is where training in the martial arts can benefit not only your physically well-being but also your mental-spiritual well-being. From the earliest times the term "martial art" has meant the art of conflict prevention. The Budō, at least the modern version of the concept, has no external enemy, onlt the internal enemy, one's ego that bust be fought. It should be the goal of those that practice the martial arts to find a spiritual-mental balance between our dueling duality. We must realize and understand that we actually have both these sides of ourselves. This is the first step in beginning to find this balance.
These two-sides are easily represented in the yin and yang. One cannot live without the other. What we must do is be able to learn is to control the emotions of each of these sides. Setting your mind on what you want it to see does this. This is the concept of "proper thought". Stimulus that our mind picks up from our environment, that is repeated input, programs our minds. The subconscious mind builds itself around what it is most often exposed. Positive input or conditioning leads to a healthy outlook on life. Negative conditioning such as fear, worries, or hate can only lead to personal limitations and eventual self-destruction. One cannot grow with dark thoughts in their heart. Therefore, we can control this by proper thought and becoming at peace with ourselves while finding balance between the two sides.
The dark side of our mental-spiritual life has a very important role in our lives. We must first look again at the differences in our two sides. Like the yin and yang there cannot be one without the other. There would be no good if there were no bad, no up if there were no down, and so on. Our good side is made up of all that is passive, just, good, and pure, while our dark side is made up of all that is aggressive, tainted, revengeful and potentially evil. The key is being able to control this darker side, these demons. They are ingrained us we cannot separate them, if you were able to separate these two sides you would not be able to survive. Alone, the good or passive side of you would not even be able to protect you in most day-to-day confrontations. You would not be able to stand up for yourself. The good or pure side doesn't contain the aggressive traits that you would need. Your dark side contains these qualities. In this part of you lies the aggressiveness we need to stand up for what we believe. With both sides in balance, we are able to control them as easy as turning a light switch on or off. When confronted with danger we release our darker side to protect us and then is immediately placed under control when the threat of danger has subsided. The fear of demons is timeless, but once we begin to understand that our dark side is a vital part of our makeup, and that while under control, it will give us great power in times of need while also giving us balance within. However, it is not something that is learned, but something that with time and a better understanding of one's self will begin to emerge within a true warrior.
For a martial artist, or martial warrior, the perfect control of these two halves is what allows us to be in the "zone." For warriors it is more than just winning a game, it maybe that our very lives and the lives of our loved ones maybe at stake. We cannot make mistakes, for we understand that there may not be a second chance, a time out, a re-play. For martial warriors we must be able to let loose this dark-side, these demons in what is known as "Zanshin" (meaning roughly "remaining mind"or "relaxed alertness") Here we can actually feel the intent of our opponent and we are so alert to their movements that we instantly react to this, perceive it and ultimately crush it. As our skills develop and we begin to control the duality of our nature and find the perfect balance of peace within, we can use this balance to always be aware of any threats around us.