What’s the Point of Taekwondo Patterns?By Jennifer Shipp
When I first started practicing martial arts in Lincoln, Nebraska at the University, I did not understand the purpose of the forms. In fact, I really didn’t understand any of it. I had taken taekwondo during a semester off while I was trying to get my poop in a group and it was more of a novelty than a serious pursuit. I was very wide-eyed and sheep-like as I worked through the white belt material. What was I supposed to do? And why? Nevermind, I thought, just do what the guy tells you so you can get an ‘A’ and be done with it.
I was also taking scuba diving certification classes during that semester. And I went skydiving. Martial arts fell into the “adventure sports” category for me at the time. Now I know the difference between adventure sports and martial arts, but I suppose at that time in my life, doing anything new and strange was considered “adventurous”. I had initially tried to sign up for Okinawan karate, but the class was full. I ended up taking taekwondo quite by accident. That same semester, I met my future husband, a black belt in taekwondo. He encouraged me to continue my studies at a different non-University facility in Lincoln.
John taught me a lot of what I now know about taekwondo forms. I’m not sure if I just wasn’t listening when they were explained during those early white belt classes at the University or if the quality of the classes had just deteriorated that much by the time I made my way through for a black belt. John explained to me that I should practice the forms while visualizing an opponent attacking me. And I should perform each move with as much technical precision as I could muster. The combined effort of using visualizations along with practicing technique in the forms was meant to help the student become better at sparring and self-defense. It may seem hokey, but believe me, it works.
The taekwondo patterns give the student the opportunity to practice their movements with slow precision while building the strength, endurance, and flexibility to be successful at sparring. Just practicing the basic taekwondo moves isn’t really enough for students to develop competitive sparring skills or usable self-defense techniques because stringing it all together in the moment takes too much brain power. By practicing the basic moves in sequence over and over again, students begin to work out fluid movements from one technique to the next. Visualizing an attacker is psychological preparation for either competition or sparring.
The forms are a great workout. I do one right after the other, white to black belt when I can’t go out for a jog in foreign countries. They’re an important part of conditioning for sparring, but they can be used just for weight loss or maintenance too. If you’re bored with your current workout regime, taekwondo has a lot to offer. Memorizing the forms is valuable when you’re stuck in a hotel room, or another small space and you need some exercise.
When you’re first getting started with taekwondo, the forms may seem a bit like a drag, or perhaps like a mystery, but as you rank up, their purpose will become clearer. Whether you’re doing online martial arts classes in order to compete at taekwondo tournaments, for weight loss, or to develop better self-defense skills, the forms and patterns contribute a lot of useful stuff. Don’t buck it ‘til you try it. After you’ve made it through the first three to four belts, you’ll start to understand how forms fit into the overall picture. Until that happens… practice, practice, practice…whether you fully understand why you’re doing it or not.Tags: adventure sports, attacker, black belt, forms, hotel, karate, lincoln, nebraska, okinawan, patterns, poomse, practice, self-defense, sparring, taekwondo, visualizations, weight loss, white belt, workout