Are TKD patterns useless?

Discussion in 'Taekwondo Patterns' started by dojo, Apr 17, 2012.

  1. dojo

    dojo Member

    I have had this discussion for years with other martial arts enthusiasts from all over the world. Such styles (as TKD) not rely solely on sparring, but also have patters being taught to the students and performed by them. Some claim these are just a waste of time, while others consider them to be a good base for the sparring qualities a martial artists would develop.

    What do you think?
  2. Kevin

    Kevin Administrator Staff Member

    Initially, I hated patterns. As I moved up the grades, I began to appreciate the benefits of performing patterns. They are a great way to warm up as they can be quite tiring (when done correctly). It's also the best way to practice a wide range of techniques such as chops, knifehands, different stances etc.

    I can understand the argument that they are a waste of time though if you look at other ways your time could be spent. For example, consider those who train two hours a night twice a week and spent 30 minutes each night doing patterns. Would that one hour a week be better spent doing kicking drills, doing bagwork or sparring. Perhaps in most situations someone who did more padwork and drilling would be a better fight.

    Personally I think that in a 2 hour class you have enough time for a warm up, stretching, techniques/padwork, sparring, patterns and even some breaking at the end of the class.

    Like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. If you take your patterns seriously and strive to improve them, you will improve many techniques that can't really be done on bags and pads.
    Master Fahy likes this.
  3. Don

    Don New Member

    If one has a perfect center of balance, understands and has perfected the long-form set up for all blocks, strikes and kicks and as well has mastered the very difficult discipline of correct breathing, then yes, forms are a waste of time. If however, like myself one has a long way to go in these areas then the moving meditation that is poomse are invaluable.
    Kevin likes this.
  4. TexasTKD

    TexasTKD New Member

    I have had several students ask me what the point of Kata is. The fact of the matter is, the true reason behind kata has been watered down and diluted and many do not realize what they are actually doing. A low block, for example, is not a low block at all. You would never "fold" for a block in a real fight, so why do it in kata? Because you aren't blocking, but instead locking your opponent, and striking to finish them.

    Outside of that Kata teaches you to master your body. Each move must be done a certain way. Your feet go in a certain place, point a certain direction. You must be aware of your entire body, and focus your mind on doing each technique as close to perfect as you can. The practice of kata, done correctly, has amazing benefits for the practitioner of the arts as well as the fighter.

  5. Kevin

    Kevin Administrator Staff Member

    Good post Steven. I'm sure many moves were originally designed for the 'martial' side of things too e.g. disabling a sword or gun.

    From the art side of things, I do enjoy watching team displays of forms.

    Laurinda likes this.
  6. ninjanurse

    ninjanurse New Member

    Mastery of self begins with kata practice.
    Karen tkd likes this.
  7. Jon Sloan

    Jon Sloan Member

    I have started teaching the forms as 1-step (Il soo shik) exercises for the students to look at what some of the applications are. I start with the students paired with an attacker. The defender is simply going through the pattern, but needs to focus on the timing that is needed for one-step sparring. I've had many students tell me this makes them look at forms in a whole different light, and not as useless as some people might assume they are.
  8. John Hulslander

    John Hulslander Active Member

    The pat answer for why we do forms from our gwan jang nim is
    1. To practice fighting without an opponent
    2. To learn and master new moves and techniques
    3. To develop the art of Taekwondo

    While you can argue about how effective Hyung/Poomse/forms are for 1 and 2, one of the key values is in 3. Forms help preserve the art of Taekwondo and at the least are a tribute to the roots/history of the art.

    That being said, in our particular system, I think that forms are a good test of discipline, focus and the mental side.
    For first dan we have 17 forms the candidate is expected to know. They are asked to perform approximately 8 at random, with one form guaranteed to be included.

    To be able to do it, do it well with a quick recall is a test of mental ability and focus that certainly carries over to all other aspects of Taekwondo.
    Master Fahy likes this.
  9. Rcoskrey

    Rcoskrey New Member

    I am a returning student to ITF after being out for nearly 15 years. I was a red stripe.
    Patterns teach us discipline and how to control what we do. The patterns do seem as
    a waste of time until you learn what each move is for. Eventually you what you do becomes
    a habit like tieing your shoe. The patterns really deserve more respect than to use to work up
    a sweat. If this is all you want, go for a run or ride your bike. Don't do patterns because they are
    named after a significant time or event in Korean History.
    Karen tkd likes this.
  10. Jim lord

    Jim lord New Member

  11. Joe

    Joe Member

    I find patterns teach each movement properly, each has to snap and show a controlled kick. I also believe that it looks amazing when you get 20+ people at once doing everything perfectly in sync. Shows that you are controlled and when you do each movement properly, you have a decent workout with it as well.
  12. Leighton

    Leighton Member

    Patterns for me are a great way to work out if performed correctly, the teach technique, breath control, balance and discipline between different speeds of movement. You can get some funny looks when practising outside of a Dojang but most 'outsiders' will look with interst and be fairly impressed. Also doing patterns as well as other areas of TKD keeps the tradition going, otherwise it might as well just be kick boxing.
    Master Fahy and John Hulslander like this.
  13. Don

    Don New Member

    Me too Kevin...I went to World Hanmadang in Seoul a couple of years ago, and the team forms were incredible. The creative ones were very good and impressive, but the pairs and team traditional forms for me at least were the most enjoyable to watch.
    Kevin likes this.
  14. dojo

    dojo Member

    Our sensei was very careful to demonstrate the underlying technique for each kata block/kick/punch. It's not ballet, everything has A REASON and AN USE. So he'd demonstrate why we're doing this and that, so it would take the 'dance' out of the kata. we did have students coming from other clubs who were just doing a 'routine' and had absolutely no idea what they were doing. In this case I'd say the forms are useless, since they don't teach anything. have them done properly, let the student know WHY that happens and how in translates into a single real blow and it's really making sense.
  15. walt hardinge

    walt hardinge New Member

    I've been retired from the art for several years , but i do look in to the dojang from time to time to see whats going on , I've trained in several arts over the 36 yrs that i dedicated to martial arts , and the students that have the patience and dedication to do the patterns are better!!! !....... better martial artists , better teachers , better co-workers , and better people !!!!!

    the patterns teach much more than just moves , they are an important part of a bigger picture !!!!

    what i have observed over the years sadly is that they are being done incorrectly !!! people are doing the moves for the purpose of making them look as pretty as possible not as functional techniques !! and others just go through the motions and look sloppy. what most are un aware of is, that if your patterns are sloppy or not technically correct then
    neither are the moves you make when sparring or in an actual fight !!!!

    my first instructor some 42 yrs ago told me that to learn a single move , kick or punch.. requires 4,000 repetitions just to say that you know how its done and at least another.....
    5,000 .....before you can say that you have mastered it !!!!

    the technique of patterning is part of that you do the moves over and over till i becomes second nature and if or when you find your self in a real fight you won't have time to to think about moves you just do them !!!!!!
    Brian Mc and Kevin like this.
  16. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    Hi all this is my first post, I chose this particular thread because its a topic that i feel some instructors should be aware. I like Stevens interpretation very much.... To answer the question in my own way, patterns are not useless otherwise they would be discarded. Patterns are a crucial technique development tool, and are a key founding method of training for instructors to teach the art as a whole. Every technique is taught in the patterns. Some instructors say that patterns/kata are a form of shadow boxing or pre-determined sparring. I've never believed this to be the case. Sparring is not TKD, sparring is sparring. Patterns are a demonstration of power and form. In sparring you never go into a walking stance or sitting stance or L-stance, you adopt a sparring or fighting stance. But as Walt says if your technique is sloppy, so too will be your fighting.
    c5sparkchaser likes this.
  17. Brian

    Brian Member

    Going along with the majority opinion here, I feel the forms are useful. They do show if you're getting the basics down correctly; there are multiple levels in the moves (a book I have on grappling and TKD breaks down many forms and shows how a lot of moves can lead to locks and throws); when done correctly they are a pretty good workout in and of themselves - when I practice all my forms and one steps I work up a sweat; and while they aren't teaching sparring directly many of the techniques can be adjusted for sparring - i.e. doing a 'snap block' instead of a crossing block.

    Granted, Bruce Lee felt and several other people feel katas aren't practical...but that didn't mean they were useless.
  18. Christina

    Christina New Member

    I like the patterns. I think that they are beautiful. I work up a sweat, and my heart is exercised. That is enough for me. I just hope that I am as graceful as the pattern appears to me :)
  19. Master Fahy

    Master Fahy Active Member

    Forms/patterns teaches discipline. Those who think they are useless lack discipline themselves. They teach many things like techniques, follow up techniques, combinations, balance. Forms/patterns were initially used to remember and pass on the techniques to the next generation.
  20. Kevin

    Kevin Administrator Staff Member

    Good point. I've always thought that patterns were a fantastic way of remembering and improving certain techniques that can be applied in real life situations but would never be used in sparring.

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