Are TKD patterns useless?

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


    RTKDCMB Active Member

    Feel free to voice your opinion on any subject - This a forum after all. It would not be much of a forum if everybody had the same opinion.

    And many don't.
    Sabomnim Dan and John McNally like this.
  2. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    That is true, but I dont think the topic is moving in a good direction. Maybe because of the way I have handled the topic, or maybe another reason. Either way, its getting increasingly personal and im not here to upset people. It has been made clear to me that people are not willing to discuss this so why bother pressing the issue?
    Also true, but I feel the need to point out that im not alone in thinking what I do under the criticisms of being close-minded, too inexperienced and wrong at every level.
  3. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    You can learn a very large proportion of what you need to effectively defend yourself and those you love in a very short time. So what are you going to do after that?

    That's why early TKD focuses on escape / strike or bloke / evade / strike Hoshinsool and basic movement and coordination skills. I speak from real life experience when I say that supported with the right strategies, that's enough to effectively defend yourself in the meantime while you work on the more advanced skills to apply later after years of practice. Those advanced skills do not come easy. You may get them looking good and working in a sparring context but locking someone or throwing them in reality is very different and requires solid basic foundation and applied training. If you train only the technique without the underlying basic principle, you're just learning a list of moves that will desert you in times of need.

    How long did it take you to get full power and good form into a straight with your good hand? That's a typical amount of time to reach decent striking SD abilities which will cover you while other skills are in production.
  4. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I think its more of a continual journey. There are situations I can deal with now, there are situations I cant. You can always get better. My straight cross is pretty good, but I can always be better. I can always improve and thats what I plan to do. My plan is to cross-train as much as possible, and learn what works for my body type. I envisage that taking a long long time.
  5. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    So how will you defend yourself and your loved ones in the meantime?

    MA is a lifetime pursuit due to it's nature, it doesn't make much difference whether we want to be good immediately or not. Certain approaches to repetitive drilling can help, but largely it's down to experience and time. Our imperfect straight crosses and other similar basics will protect us while we learn more advanced stuff. That's why TKD has a structured approach for teaching. There's method in what may seem to some like madness.

    I have to say Bowlie, though it might not seem like it, I have enjoyed discussing this with you. As you may sometimes read from my tone, I find it frustrating and a shame that you've moved on from TKD before you hit the goldmine that's there. Your enquiring approach would have been a real asset to you if you could have tempered it with patience. I think that will still be the case wherever you go. I am sure you will become a great martial artist with time and experience, but it will need just that: time and experience.

    I hope you can squash your impatience and stick it out. I get the feeling you are still young, so time is on your side. Use that advantage well.
  6. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I too have found these discussions equally frustrating and informative :p I have learnt alot, mostly that everything im looking for is already there, just not in the taekwondo I have been doing. For now, I plan to train hard and hope that it is enough, but in the knowledge that there is always room for improvement. I would not say I have moved on from Taekwondo really. The things I have learnt will stay with me, and I have learnt alot in the short space of time, and its something I may well come back to at some point.

    These discussions have changed my mind on some things too. Last year, I would have said patterns are completely useless because I couldn't see the way they linked together. Now I think they are overrated and unnecessary, but not a waste of time. Just a different method of training. Maybe there is no right and wrong, just different. What frustrates me is the idea they are a magic tool that will on its own transform you, and when people attribute to them things they don't have.
  7. Sabomnim Dan

    Sabomnim Dan Member

    I don't refute the validity of your opinion but have you examined the reasons those fighters and masters hold that opinion?
    I imagine by now you are heartily sick of people telling you that you are young or haven't been training long enough, especially when you feel you have reached the same conclusion as some who have. My question for you though is did these fighters and masters reach their conclusions in the first few years if their training or after a lifetime of self discovery?
    I'm not suggesting you are wrong to share the opinions of others but I worry that you accept them as fact without understanding the reasons behind them because the way I read your posts leads me to believe you are hasty and forget or don't realise that all these elite fighters and masters you look up to once learned to crawl before they learned to run.
    Gnarlie likes this.
  8. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Maybe for other martial arts (I doubt it) but not for TKD. Let me ask you: without patterns, how are the finer, deeper physical and philosophical principles and motions of the art communicated? With words? Words are easily forgotten. With drilling of the individual techniques? Techniques are easily forgotten and drilling them individually does not lend itself to grouping and linking techniques by related strategy and principle, which is what the patterns do. Without patterns, you're relying on each individual instructor teaching every individual technique in the art in a list, then filling in the strategic and philosophical knowledge gap verbally with how to link and apply principles. Patterns perform this function automatically with the information hard-wired into their motions. They are like a book that is not written in your native language. The information is good, but you will need many repeated attempts before you can read and understand it. By saying that patterns are unnecessary, you are burning the book that contains the essence and character of the martial art.

    That's not what I'm saying. They can transform you, but what transforms you is not the pattern itself, but the process of practice of the motion accompanied by mental concentration. The self discovery and development of analytical thought processes that you will go through during your time practicing and discovering the practical and philosophical meaning of the forms. You're already on that road just by having this conversation - you've discovered things about yourself and patterns that you weren't aware of before.

    It is finding out the practicability of the motion principles learned through the patterns that makes a strong practical martial artist. Without the patterns, you learn techniques against an opponent, but it's very easy to overlook the principles that bind the techniques together. You don't really have a 'do' based martial art anymore.
  9. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Double post
  10. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    If, like you said earlier the patterns are taekwondo, then that explains why you think they are necessary for taekwondo and not other arts. Taekwondo is not fundamentally different from most other arts, and they manage fine, so maybe the emphasis on patterns as a tool is artificial. Its something constructed as a way to teach the methods.

    You say the finer physical and philosophical principals are transmitted in the patterns. Other arts are just as complicated as taekwondo, and yet can explain their finer points without patterns. What you need is a good teacher and practice. You even still need a good teacher and practice even with patterns, because without looking at patterns in a very specific way, you arent going to see those finer points. If your teacher never shows you the proper way or what to look out for, its unlikely you will work it out yourself.

    The patterns as a syllabus is an interesting argument to me. It initially convinced me. I mean if patterns are a way to record different moves, then great. We have all the moves written out for us and all we have to do is practice them. Only now that I think about it im not so sure it works like that. The reason being, they are so open to interpretation. We have talked about how outer fore arm blocks represent different things to different people. To Iain its a throw, to others its a block, to others its a joint lock. If the patterns are a list of moves, but we can never know for certain what those moves are, then the teacher is left to fill in the blanks. That means that the teacher has to teach each technique individually, explain it visually and verbally anyway, and piece them together himself. In short, its like a language we can never fully translate. We can make guesses, but, if we can never ever know for sure, then its open to out interpretation. That way, the pattern becomes a manifestation of a teachers own training philosophy, and it becomes their pattern. It follows the order of the normal pattern, but holds their favorite or most effective techniques. With or without the patterns, the teacher still has to work out what techniques work and how to teach them.

    If its not the pattern itsself that transforms you, its the motion and concentration, then I can do the same on the heavy bag, no? If I concentrate and use the right mindset. Focusing on the right breathing, technique, foot work. And then I can work on my power too. As for the philosophy for training, I have my own philosophy and my own approach to life. When I go to the dojo, its to learn to fight. With that comes the self exploration and self improvement you get when you push yourself beyond what you could do, and with it you overcome the ego, the self, and you find humbleness by being around people that are better than you, and people that are worse than you, and by working together to achieve a common goal. This is my experience with boxing and bjj more so than with taekwondo in all honesty. For me, the do is in the jitsu. Its that process of learning to fight, and the things that come with it that make you a better, stronger person. You dont need to do any specific form of training, and frankly if I turned up to lessons and half of it was about philosophy I would walk out of the door. Im not there to learn philosophy, im there to fight.

    I understand your point, and to use your book analogy you translate the book, see if it works, if it doesnt you try another word. By doing this you see which techniques fit together and how, and which dont. but i would ask you why was the book written in a foreign language to begin with? Its a long winded and archaic way of doing things, and im not saying it wont work, but its one way to tackle the same problem. In boxing, we are taught the different moves, and then we are taught how they fit together in combos.

    You get the same net result, someone that can use techniques together, but you miss out the long winded and archaic method of putting the techniques into a pattern and translating them back out. This might well mean you miss out on some things. You learn more on the journey than you do on the arrival, so maybe by boxing and things like that missing out that step and reaching the destination quicker, they also miss out some bits of exploration along the way. Maybe its true that by doing it your way you get a delayed but greater payday. In my view though, and this is only opinion, the knowledge you gain from translating techniques into and out of patterns to see if and how they fit together is the same process as you will go through in your sparring anyway.

    The idea that patterns are taekwondo could be true, but only if you make it so. To me, you can spend all the time you want learning about the techniques, and about what makes them work, and about the finer technical points, and if you want you can do this through patterns. But you also need to drill them with a resisting partner, and implement them in sparring if you want any hope of being able to actually hit anyone with that kick you know the theory of so well. The more time you spend understanding the intricacies of the techniques, the less time you spend using it and practicing it against a person. Kicking the air and kicking a moving person who is blocking, dodging and hitting back are very different, im sure you agree. So although there is value in dissecting every little bit of the moves, I think you should only do so after you are capable of using the basic technique for real. For beginners at least, that should be the focus.
  11. Master Fahy

    Master Fahy Active Member

    Forms/patterns are a time tested way of many martial art styles through out history. I have found that most individuals who say that they are useless just want the fruits of the tree, as they care nothing about growing them. Bruce Lee train in forms while he practiced Wing Chun, then he discarded them because he thought he no longer needed them. I'm not saying that forms are the great get all that everyone needs....but to say that they are useless....shows a lack of knowledge about the arts. You can learn to fight by just going out on the street and fighting over and over again without paying someone to teach you. If you want to practice Taekwondo then practice the art of Taekwondo not just what you like about it. Master Fahy
  12. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    As far as I can see, there are few Martial artists that will believe that patterns are useless. Instructors teach an artform, but you don't want to learn patterns. As you've said, you go to the dojo to learn to fight, so you're wasting your time learning a martial art
  13. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    There are so many conflicting views in this thread. Im not so sure that patterns are useless exactly, but that their significance is manufactured by the art. The patterns arent needed (just look at the majority of arts that dont use them, yet still produce fighters, and look at the Taekwondo practicioners who dont do patterns and still dominate competitions) to produce fighters, and if the art does require them, thats because it has been constructed that way. There are many paths to the same destination, and to only teach one way seems silly (although im guilty of championing my favorite techniques too). People learn in different ways, and you should be flexible in your approaches. They say that there are no bad students, only bad teachers. By only teaching one way of learning as superior, you are benefiting those that learn that way, but are doing a disservice to those that learn differently.

    I also believe that there are alot of good arts out there, and that no one stands head and shoulders above the others (Some fall short) so to ardently stick to one art is silly. Right now, the art of Taekwondo is not my priority. My priority is to learn what Taekwondo can teach me about fighting. I dont think anyone here has the right to say that learning one or the other is better or superior in any way, they are just different.

    Also, on the point you raised about Bruce Lee, he hated patterns. I dont believe his brilliance was due to him training them at a young age, and in part his brilliance was because of his critical mind that allowed him to see what was useful, and what was not, instead of following the established order. Not everyone of high rank automatically knows what they are doing. Just look at how many idiots there are high up in international businesses. Some people get those jobs by being good at their jobs, and others by doing what their superiors tell them and not asking awkward questions.
  14. Master Fahy

    Master Fahy Active Member

    Bruce Lee did the forms because that was what was required by his instructor. I guess that by doing the 108 movements on the Mook Jong wooden dummy was useless...Bruce Lee did not! The 108 movements is a form as well. It's clear to me that you have closed your mind to any reasonable answer or possible explanation. Master Fahy
    Sabomnim Dan likes this.
  15. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    I have not closed my mind but so far noone has given me an explanation of what forms do and how that holds up. Noone needs to do patterns unless they want to be a competition pattern winner. You can become a great fighter or artist without them, as shown by the thousands of amazing fighters and artists that dont use them. So my position is, if I dont need it, and am not sure what it does, im going to wait until someone can explain it to me in a way that makes sense.
  16. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    No one will be able to provide you with any explanation. As you may have noticed, no-one is going to agree with you no matter how much thought you've put toward your theory. So I have this idea. Approach your MARTIAL ARTS instructor and convey to him/her your feelings on patterns. Then after you're dissatisfied with that response, find another and approach them, then another, until you realise that WHAT YOU'RE LOOKING FOR DOES NOT EXIST IN A MARTIAL ART, or any SELF DEFENSE system for that matter. As you and the rest of us, that have bothered thus far can understand, you wish to be a fighter. You need to find a fighting system not a Self defense system, so after realising that patterns are useless to become a fighter, find an instructor that can teach you to fight in an arena of some sort. Because that's where all the fighters go to prove themselves. Then we can put to bed this boring notion of yours. The rest of us can go on to teach the many THOUSANDS of people across the world how to defend themselves, through MARTIAL ART.
    By your tenacious posts, I can only deduce that you will pursue a fighting career with utmost enthusiasm. I wish you well, and look forward to your first title fight.

    TKD will teach you how to kick hard, fast and often. That's what you'll get to add to your arsenal of fighting weapons. Now jog on.
    Master Fahy likes this.
  17. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    If noone can provide me with a watertight explanation of why patterns are worthwhile then why do you continue to teach them? My teacher teaches them, but he doesn't stress the patterns, he stresses drilling the techniques in them. Patterns are something to be done outside of class, because when you are there you should be doing more effective training like drilling and sparring. I keep stressing this point because I want to learn. I want someone to explain to me why you all think patterns are such an effective way of training, because I cant see it.

    Im also interested in why you think something would be good for self defense but not fighting? Self defense should be comprised of a few things, including how to avoid dangerous situations in the first place, how to deescalate them or escape from them and things like that, but most also include some form of fighting. You can argue that the fighting in a ring or cage and on the street are different, and I would agree, but the difference is imposed by rules, not by activity. What I mean is you still need to fight. How you fight is determined by the rules. In boxing you fight only wit your hands, against one guy with rounds and a ref. In a self defense situation you fight with everything you have, against whoever is trying to harm you so that you can escape or otherwise defend yourself. The rules, and the aims are different, but that doesnt mean they aren't related. At the end of the day you still need to be able to effectively use the techniques you are taught. So if patterns are ineffective at producing fighters, they are ineffective at producing people that can fight in any situation. The difference for self defense training and fighting is the type of fighting you train for. Point in case, Krav magna is a self defense system (widely regarded as one of the best), not a sport, and it uses the same kind of training you would see in an MMA gym. Pad work, drills, sparring, and no patterns. The difference between the training is what you are encouraged to do. In the mma gym, you would be drilling takedowns and armbars. In the krav magna gym you would be drilling strike and escape, or fighting multiple people. Self defense and sport are different, but we should not use that as an excuse to not teach effectively.
  18. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    I can understand why patterns are taught and I have, by the kindness of other QUALIFIED MARTIAL ARTISTS, been taught more reasons as to what the patterns are for. Do some homework son. We have explained in lengthy detail, scour over the six pages of posts and you'll find many reasons explained by instructors and Master Instructors alike.
    My point is no-one can explain it to YOU because you've already closed your mind, face it, you have. We've explained why we teach it we have pointed out the many advantages of foundation work, your close minded inexperience has failed you to see the plethora of points as to why the patterns are taught. Your reasons for training is what is blinding you from understanding why things are taught in an ARTFORM.

    Q: I want someone to explain to me why you all think patterns are such an effective way of training, because I cant see it
    A: We are teaching an art form, not fighting.

    If you believe, while learning this artform I have missed the ability to fight, feel free to meet me at my Dojang for a free lesson. This is not a challenge, it's an invitation for you to learn more about the wonderful world of TKD.
    Master Fahy likes this.
  19. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Then I can take that answer, and thats great. If your teaching patterns because its an art, not fighting, thats great. I have nothing against training for art. (for me, the art is in the fighting, as that is where I feel I grow most as a person. Its the hard training sessions that for me, build mental toughness, confidence and make me better person. Trying to artificially re-create that without the fighting doesnt work for me, but it might for others so thats fine, or your definition of the art side might be different too). My issue is, why do people say that Taekwondo is an effective fighting system, and that patterns are an effective or even essential way to train for fighting when they demonstrably arent and you just said so?
  20. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    I believe anyone that states TKD is an effective fighting system, needs to be more specific.....effective against what? Depends on what type of fight and the circumstances. On the street, I've defeated people that claimed to be effective fighters, mostly ring sport systems. They challenged and lost (not knowing at first who I was, and come to think of it... still don't). For instance the boxer didn't think about blocking a kick, and thus was caught unaware. The purist Muay Thai fighter only thinks about fists, elbows and low round kicks and didn't think about an angled approach that cut off half of his weapons and a poke in the eye wins. As I said depends on the circumstance, I suggest you concentrate on what you wish to achieve, TKD will teach you fast and unimaginable aerial kicks. There is much more to learn.
    In an arena TKD provides one of the best platforms for someone that likes to kick. I know of many ring-fighters that started in TKD. Patterns, by now you would understand are not fighting tools, they are artform and self defense tools, I've never heard anyone say that patterns are essential for fighting. Patterns will help in one aspect..... Cardio. Do any pattern 20 times with full power and measure your heart rate.

    Pay particular attention here in order for you to distinguish your understanding versus the wider acceptance of the artform. Essentially, TKD is not fighting, TKD is self defense. Fighting is fighting, understand there is a difference.
    Q: why you think something would be good for self defense but not fighting?
    A: Because you combine the meaning of self defence and fighting, I don't. To me fighting is to find the best fighter, self defense is surviving a clear aggressor, whereas in a fight there is no's a competition.

    In multiple aggressor situations the answer is simple deal with the closest threat, they can't all 'fight' you at the same time. Aim to break things....fingers are a good start and as I said, poke in the eye wins too. In my version of fighting, this is 'dirty'. On the street who cares, just win. In the ring, the ref cares, you're disqualified! In SD anything goes (within the bounds of the law)

    For those in professional fighting cirlces that say TKD taught them to be a good fighter probably only ever fought against other TKD 'fighters' (for want of a better expression) or found that TKD provided a solid platform for other styles of fighting..... you will probably find even they too learnt the patterns.

    Also remember that patterns were never intended to be a form of shadow boxing (as I once heard years ago).
    I'm 40+ had to defend myself several times in real situations and come out better (mostly), I'm still alive to talk about it, and I still teach patterns........ I think they are a good tool for the learning.
    BTW Krav Maga is taught as unarmed combat in some areas of the Middle east. A watered down version is available for the public to learn, not all that is taught in the military version, is taught at the schools.
    John McNally likes this.

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