Are TKD patterns useless?

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

  1. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    When you fought those guys you used fighting techniques. You used kicks and eye pokes. But it was a type of fighting not confined by rules, and not embedded with the weaknesses that come with rules, not expecting certain attacks, leaving yourself open to them, muscle memory taking over and making you do something silly. You fought your way out of those situations, not by using taekwondo sparring and footwork, or with the goal of scoring points, but it was fighting never the less.

    The point that patterns help fighting is defiantly one that has been made in this thread.
  2. Chris J

    Chris J Active Member

    Whatever, so that means I'm an effective fighter and I teach patterns.
  3. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Can you elaborate on why you think patterns are good for people wanting to learn self defense but not those wanting to fight? If its because the techniques of the patterns arent legal in competition sparring I think that is an issue that needs to be resolved. If so, a rule-set like that of sambo would fix the problem, as the vast majority of techniques (excluding anything interpreted as a groin shot or eye gouge) is legal. In that case, would you say that patterns are effective for developing fighters but only if they are competing in sambo tournaments?

    High kicks, spinning kicks, knees, headbuts, throws and locks. Think there was some hand grabbing and limb clearing too. Not an awful lot that you would not see in a pattern, which makes sense seeing as it was influenced by karate and ju-jitsu to name just a few of the arts it was developed from.
  4. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Of course he used footwork. And the fighting principles used...linear striking and angled stepping....guess where they come from?

    As a second point, can you not see this: someone who has ultimate control over the way their body moves, who can make the same movement the exact same way, which is exactly the way that they want it to be, every single time, also has ultimate control over their mind and therefore their world outside of martial arts? This is a person who lives healthy, doesn't put themselves in dangerous situations, is motivated, has ultimate determination and indomitable spirit. I mean this guy has got his house in order in every sense.

    If danger does arise, this person is totally aware of and in total control of their mind, emotions, body and environment. This person acts and reacts in less time than it takes to form a thought because their body and mind are the same thing. This person realises that fighting is futile, and that the keys to happiness lie elsewhere: in cooperating and helping your fellow human being; working in harmony with the world, rather than against it.

    That is the benefit of pattern practice: complete control of your body and environment, through complete control of your mind.

    You won't ever gain that total body control without repeated very challenging motions. Single techniques won't get you there, neither will combinations alone. Every aspect of the martial art Taekwondo is in those forms. The more you practice, the more you understand, and the closer to the ideal human being you become.

    Seriously, the patterns deliver their messages through repeated practice for a reason; the messages are cheapened when one attempts to communicate them through the weaker medium of words. You either need to train them for a few years and see if you start to get the message, or stop harping on about them and go and box or whatever. Sounds to me like you think you might be missing something, otherwise you wouldn't have bothered discussing the forms for so long anyway.
  5. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    We use footwork for everything, but did he use the same footwork in patterns? maybe, maybe not. Its not a type of movement I see used often and from what I have been told is more of a style thing to tell us things like positioning and angle. Second, he said he accepted challenges from boxers and muay thai fighters. Not exactly healthy living and not putting yourself in dangerous situations.

    Thirdly, you can master your body many ways. A ballerina or gymnast has impeccable body control. Better than the majority of martial artists. Doesnt mean they can fight. Doesnt mean its the most effective way to train. You can have control over the way you move, and be able to replicate techniques perfectly every time by using other training methods.

    Just because you do patterns doesnt mean you are automatically always aware or in control of your mind at all. Fighting is futile? All that is needed for evil so succeed is for good men to do nothing. I feel like I have a duty to be able to fight, to keep those people that I love and are more vulnerable than me safe from harm. Learning how to do that is not futile.

    Yes I feel like im missing something, im missing whatever it is that makes you guys think that patterns can do all these things. I want to learn, so I want to understand why and how you think those benefits come about from patterns. You may think im close minded, but im the one here asking you why you think what you do in an attempt to learn something, you are the one telling me that my ideas are outright wrong.
  6. Mario Ray Mahardhika

    Mario Ray Mahardhika Active Member

    Unless you don't know what you're doing, nothing is useless in Tae Kwon Do including patterns. It does help you to form instinctive movements when you face certain attacks. The long patterns, such as Tae Geuk, are not meant to be used as is. They are actually grouped and chained together, but the individual group combo is what you should use, not the entire chain.
  7. Master Fahy

    Master Fahy Active Member

    Many practitioners of other martial arts seem to question the usefulness of learning patterns (forms). Particularly those training in MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) and other purely combat based systems. The argument runs that learning patterns does not in any way aid fighting ability. There are two problems with this.

    First, Taekwondo is not just about fighting & self defense. It is a complete martial art in that the student is learning a wide range of skills that apply to situations in life other than combat situations. Mental discipline and physical fitness aid the Taekwondo student in most aspects of their lives. Learning patterns helps with mental discipline, gives the student a means to practice when alone and is of course the backbone of the grading syllabus. If Taekwondo were merely about combat ability a grading/belts system would not be needed. The senior students would be simply measured by their success in defeating other opponents.

    Second, patterns, when executed correctly give the student the chance to practice techniques which are simply too dangerous to try out on a real opponent. The patterns teach us how to combine techniques effectively (block/counter attack). For techniques to become second nature and applicable in real situations, you need to have practiced them repetitively hundreds/thousands of times so that your brain can react instantly with the appropriate technique in a given situation. Taekwondo Poomse's are designed to simulate complex situations in which the student has to deal with multiple assailants coming at him from all directions - something that without doubt can be carried over into real defensive situations. So, we practice our forms to improve our Taekwondo, develop sparring techniques and improve flexibility while learning to master body shifting, develop muscle memory and to learn balance, control in fighting and life in general. That's something that MMA doesn't teach. Master Fahy
  8. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Angled stepping is a major principle that can be learned from practice of patterns. A style thing? The style is the pattern, the pattern is the style. As for not seeing angled stepping used often, it's pretty much a staple of martial arts in general, so I'm not sure why you wouldn't have seen it unless you were a beginner...oh wait.
    I was describing the Korean concept of hongik ingan, the humanitarian ideal, not a poster in this thread.
    No, it means they can dance and do gymnastics. But they can do them very very well.
    There you go again with your techniques. I am not talking techniques. I am talking principles. If you learn a technique, you only have that technique. If you learn principles, technique is irrelevant. It becomes only a tool that you use to exert a principle. Principles are very difficult to learn via focus on individual techniques. This is why techniques are grouped together into patterns. To illustrate the principles that link them. You have to see past the individual technique.
    No, it doesn't, and at beginner level the required focus is not present. But that is the aim of pattern practice. Practised with proper focus, that is the result that we are all working towards: mind and body as one working in harmony with the world.
    I never said learning or knowing how to fight was futile. I said fighting is futile. You know, actual, real fighting, where nobody wins, everybody loses. The fighting which from the perspective of the whole of humanity on earth, where we are all one and the same thing, is a cost, not a benefit. Adversity can be dealt with in ways other than fighting.

    These are the things that the martial art of Taekwondo teaches: haneul, tang, and saram; heaven, earth, and man as one entity. Samjae. The aim is to help individuals to realise their full potential as a human being; that they may live for the benefit of humanity. Fighting is clearly not part of that. Facing the challenges of learning to fight is a very effective tool to transmit those messages, however. It is the patterns that contain the message if you understand where and how to look.

    By the way, I'm not trying to evangelise here, I'm just trying to communicate the reasons why patterns are part of the art.
    To understand, you need to see principle instead of technique; at the stage in your training you are at, I am not sure that you are ready or able to do that. Which is normal, and I mean no offence, nor do I intend to patronise or condescend. I'm just trying to show you why you might not see what we see. But that does mean that this will continue to be a frustrating discussion for us both for some time to come.
    When you are wrong, in terms of Taekwondo and what it teaches, then I have told you and will continue to do so. Honesty is best.

    Where you ask questions out of the desire to learn, you are quick to dismiss answers that do not fit your criteria for what martial arts should be (fighting). Martial arts will teach you how to fight effectively. Much more than that, it will show you exactly why you shouldn't.

    Perhaps it will help you to understand if you answer this question: what overriding principles exist in fighting that transcend technique? In fact, I will start a new thread.

    One of the reasons I get so frustrated replying here is because you remind me so much of me about 15 years ago. If I could go back and have this conversation with myself, I'd be just as exasperated.
    Sabomnim Dan likes this.
  9. John McNally

    John McNally Active Member

    Exactly what I wanted to say, BRAVO Mr Fahy.

    Bowlie says.

    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, (****** my reply is : then how do you learn them to practice what you said above to be effective****) 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.

    Dear Bowlie in your above statement I feel I must point out that you answered your own question.... The first set of stars mark your own reply and the second set show a reply to the comment of me (iPad makes formal replies difficult).

    Tuls are drills, so beware the human that practices the tuls as this will provide an all round impressive devastating defender of life. So take note please, we learn to defend ourselves, with mind, with body, with a complete understanding of use of arsenal available to us to destroy the attacker or attackers.
    Master Fahy likes this.
  10. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Im not saying patterns are useless. In fact I did some patterns when I got home from training last night. We did drills in class, and when I got home I practiced the pattern for a bit to get used to doing the movements. What I gained from that was repetition of technique to instill it in muscle memory. Im not saying they are useless, im saying they are given wayyyyy too much importance. They dont develop mental toughness of physical fitness as well as other forms of training I have done, they are not the only way to learn principals, it doesnt keep you in control of your emotions e.c.t.
  11. John McNally

    John McNally Active Member

    They are only seemed to be given to much importance at this point in your training for your goal set ( no offence meant ) to be honest and from my few years as an instructor I must point out that I know they do give mental toughness if practiced when taught correctly, as for physical fitness again they do unless you practice gently and slowly and once or twice only, try going through 22 Tuls with full power and commitment then tell me it's no work out :) emotional control comes from many different aspects in teaching and thus learning.
  12. Mike Nickson

    Mike Nickson New Member

    As someone pretty new to Taekwondo I think patterns are a very useful tool to learn transitions and movement. When it comes to sparring you of course don't think of the best way to use a pattern step in the sparring arena but the muscle memory and balance you practice making these moves help you no end I am sure. Especially with the difference in muscle groups used in martial arts against other sports and exercises.
    John McNally, Collier1313 and Gnarlie like this.
  13. Todd Pomeroy

    Todd Pomeroy New Member

    Patterns in TKD (or any martial art for that matter) are not useless. As stated before in this thread, performing patterns is beneficial for many reasons. Learning techniques and learning how to do them properly, learning how to perform strikes and blocks with strength and snap without hitting anything. Training your body how to transition between unfamiliar techniques is extremely beneficial and will make you a better sparring player. True some techniques in patterns are not very practical (e.g. the mountain block in Toi Gye) but they are still difficult to perform the first time, so by practicing them you are training your body to adapt to new things.

    But to sum it all up;
    Q: Are patterns useful in a practical application?
    A: Karate Kid III (nuff said) ;)
  14. michael mckenna

    michael mckenna Active Member

    I think patterns are good for many reasons which doesn't have to be agree'd with but I believe in them they teach balance,timing,breathing control, power, coordination, good technique and reflexes/muscle memory I use my patterns when im training for competitons in sparring as it helps I do each pattern 10 times a day focusing more on chon ji as its the roots im upto joong gun right now. my instructor says question everything if it doesn't make sence question it but never say its wrong just because you don't understand it (anyone that knows me on this knows that was not directed at anyone its just how I felt before I understood why patterns work) and also that if you feel negative about it and do it its not gonna work but if you full heartedly believe it works (I do) then it will. obviously as we all know sport tkd, karate, muay thai ect.. focuses on sport rules but the actual martial art of it which is not the rule set focuses on the things I have listed about the patterns ancient style muay thai (muay boran) has 5 animal patterns but muay thai today in my opinion and anyone is welcome to disagree with me as its purely my opinion is the fighting rule set and not the actual martial art of it which is muay boran. anyone please correct me if im wrong but chances are my friends I will not see it for awhile as I rarely have internet access . taekwon. and bowlie if you do not agree with me it doesn't change my opinion of you as we use to talk a lot on here and I consider you a friend on this.
  15. michael mckenna

    michael mckenna Active Member

    oh and bowlie good luck on your fighting career (I think that's what your doing anyway) I hope you do very well and if you have any videos you can add me on facebook and send them to me as id really like to see you in action all the best my friend
  16. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Good to hear from you again, did you ever go to Dubai in the end? Im nowhere near even thinking about going pro, but I might have a few local comps coming up in various things. I will keep you posted :) I like them for building muscle memory, so I agree with you there, but the problem in my eyes is that sport TKD is divorced too far from the martial art of Taekwondo for them to mach. The patterns of Muay Boran include things like outerfore arm blocks, but these have been discarded as it has become sportified, because they were no longer relevant. If we want to get the most out of patterns we have to make them relevant to the sparring we do, and that means changing either the sparring or the patterns.

    I think maybe what you say about your attitude is right. If you think something will work and try hard at it, it probably will. When I do patterns I just get a gut feeling that its not working for me. I dont get the same sort of.... feedback I do from other things. Contrary to my points earlier (I can learn and change my view as I grow) I think patterns have value if you assign them value. They just arent a way of learning that works for me. I see martial arts through a technique based view, because thats the way I started training, and in a technique based system patterns only have value as a support for the techniques, and if there is a divorce between technique and pattern they loose value. Approaching martial arts through a pattern based system works equally as well, and assigns patterns move value (Like Gnarlie said, to him patterns ARE Taekwondo because he approaches them through a pattern based system) and neither is right or wrong, they are just different ways to learn.

    Part of the reason I dislike patterns so much though, and tend to get vocal about this topic is that they should not (in my eyes) be part of the grading criteria in a technique based system because they penalize people that arent good at them or dont enjoy them. In a technique based system they are only one tool for achieving a goal that can be reached many ways. If you are cooking, it doesnt matter if you use boil or bake the potatoes, all that matters is that they taste good. Failing people for not doing patterns is like failing a cook for not using a microwave. Its just one of many tools you can use, and its not even the best or most efficient tool, let alone vital.

    Mirko Cro Cop for example comes from a Karate base. He turned up to his first lesson, spent it all doing patterns and line work and hated it, but noticed there were a bunch of guys at the back room with pads on beating each other up and joined in with them. He learnt that way, and hes now a much better fighter than anyone here. If he had been confined by the Karate system and spent his time doing patterns he would not be where he is today. There are other people that are successful that do do patterns, but for him it would be a waste of time and a detriment to him. I know he is a sport fighter, not a self defense fighter, but do you really think he is incapable of defending himself?
    michael mckenna likes this.
  17. Gnarlie

    Gnarlie Well-Known Member

    Bowlie, I thought you might appreciate reading this extract, from the Kukkiwon website at under 'Generalities of Poomsae'

    It's not that I approach TKD as a pattern-based system. It's that poomsae is the foundation upon which all forms of Kyorugi (sparring) are built. If you want to learn to fight effectively using Taekwondo, then Poomsae is certainly a good starting point. Of course you can learn sparring without poomsae, but the deeper understanding of principles of motion, offence and defence that comes via the poomsae path will be missing. Here are some salient points quoted from the link above, I've added bold for points that may be of interest to you:

    "From the technical viewpoint, the poomsae itself is Taekwondo, and the basic movements are no more than the preliminary actions to reach the poomsae. The Kyorugi is the practical application of the poomsae and the Taekwondo spirit is manifested not in an abstract mental philosophy expressed in the documents but in the actions of poomsae. Then, what is the Taekwondo poomsae? The poomsae is the style of conduct which expresses directly or indirectly mental and physical refinements as well as the principles of offense and defense resulting form cultivation of Taekwondo spirit and techniques."

    and as a practically-minded person, the following might be of interest, particularly point 3.

    "Training of Poomsae

    A completion of poomsae can be achieved through hard training following the 5 steps:

    1. Pattern – The first step of training poomsae is to learn the pattern. Concentration of spirit, eyes, angles of movements must be emphasised along with accuracy of actions.
    2. Significance – In the next step, the emphasis must be laid on the balance, strength and weakness, low or high speed, respiration and poomsae (order/path?) of movements, connection of pooms and the complete poomsae must be learned correctly.
    3. Practical Use – One must adapt what he has learned to his practical use, finding out the practicability.
    4. Self Style – One must evaluate his findings about the effectiveness of what he has learned, comparing with his bodily structure, speed, strength, impulsive power, points of emphasis in training etc., and moderate the techniques into his own style."
    You'll notice that practical use and self style come last, which is why you might not have had contact with those aspects of training after a relatively short time in Taekwondo. Just though this might help you to understand where I am coming from.
  18. Sabomnim Dan

    Sabomnim Dan Member

    Maybe, depending on where the training takes place, but the martial art of taekwondo is not divorced from sport taekwondo. Sport taekwondo is simply one expression of a subset of the whole of taekwondo.

    They are relevant (see Gnarlie's post) the trouble is wanting to go from A to D without the B and C.

    All true.

    Fair enough, horses for courses and all that but have you considered that you might be trying to learn the wrong lesson from them? Instead of focussing on forms not teaching you how to fight, try focussing on learning what the teach and then figure out how to adapt and apply that to your fighting.

    This sounds like not being able to see the forest for the trees. In taekwondo the techniques are the patterns and the patterns are the techniques.
    I liken the way you describe your preferred method of training to learning how to walk. If you focus only on the technique you drill taking steps with only your right leg and remain stationary turning anti clockwise, then drill only stepping with your left leg and turn clockwise. Learning and drilling patterns is what brings the techniques together to provide the understanding of how to walk and move forward.

    By this reasoning I should have been penalised as a colour belt because I neither understoon nor enjoyed sparring. Instead of resisting sparring I simply learned it as part of the whole and focussed on forms, which incidentally improved my sparring far more than practising isolated drills did because I learned the application of techniques rather than simply committing them to 'muscle memory'.

    Here you seem to fail to distinguish between grading and ranking. A fighter may be ranked without ever performing a pattern based on which and how many opponents they defeat; taekwondo is a complete martial art and as such all aspects of that art are assessed at gradings, including forms.

    Unfounded claims such as this add no value to the discussion. Unless he has competed against 'anyone here' how are you to know who is better? Regardless, if that's what worked in that instance, great, but your own example indicates there was no further study of karate just pounding guys with pads. If you want to be good at pounding guys wiyh pads go practise that, if you want to be good at taekwondo (including fighting and self defence) then practise taekwondo (including forms); it really is that simple.

    As for whether sports fighters are effective or not it depends on the individual primarily. The trouble with sports fighters is it can be hard to forget 'the rules' if that's all you train. Hand strikes to the head/face are banned under WTF rules so many WTF 'sports fighters hold their guard low because of a reduced risk of head strikes. When that becomes too firmly entrenched in their 'muscle memory' it makes for an easy target for a hand strike.

    In a world of infinite possibilities it's not always good to be the best at one thing. Sometimes it's better to be good at everything and simply recognise when you're up against someone better (then exploit their weaknesses).
  19. bowlie

    bowlie Well-Known Member

    Thats one way to do things, but its not a way that I think would work for me. The link wont work so im just going off your post, but for me at least my sparring is not based on patterns. It seems like there is a progression from patterns to step sparring to free sparring.

    For one, I hate step sparring, and I know im not alone there. And as I keep pointing out sparring and patterns have become dislocated from one another. I also dont think that principals of motion, offense and defense are lost without patterns, they are just one way to learn them. Boxing has just as complex motion principals and they are taught just as much. Different ways to the same goal but I know what I prefer.

    EDIT: my point about Mirko is that he is a pro fighter, and he got there by doing what worked for him.
  20. Sabomnim Dan

    Sabomnim Dan Member

    The principles you are comparing are apples and oranges. If you prefer boxing and want to be a boxer then go learn boxing, but don't try to convince taekwondo to change because there are elements you don't like or don't understand. If you want to learn taekwondo then learn taekwondo, not just 'the good bits'.

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