How to Decode a Taekwondo Pattern

There's been a positive trend over the last two decades to seek a better understanding of Taekwondo and Karate patterns. 


We are lucky to have a few martial arts personalities who are creating an online renaissance for the matial arts world. Their ability to identify applications from their patterns is providing clarity for the rest of us. On the other hand, there are others for whom enthusiasm has clearly exceeded their experience.    

The challenge is that the lens which you use to study the pattern is only as good as practitioner, rules for decoding the pattern are fixed and simplistic, and many many practitioners often try to justify the pattern, preserving a stylistic approach of their lineage. 

Kata Bunkai - How Do You Read a Kata? lists out rules for decoding a pattern. This is a more extensive list that I usually see in other places. And I would say this is a decent place to start if you are trying to analyse your Taekwondo or Karate pattern. However, depending on this as a key to decipher your legacy system will more than likely lead you into the trap of justifying the pattern as opposed to creating utility from it.

The main goal of any pattern is not to confuse you whilst you analyse it. It is not to teach you fundamental skills. It is not an accounting of all the techniques in a pattern. It is not a tool to grade you. And it is certainly not specific ways to fight an opponent.

The essence of any understanding of any form is to first address the needs of the tactition. The second is to prepare for the counters and threat posed by the opponent.

Approaching training of the form or hyung or kata with this in mind is how an instructor prepares you. It is not to learn or replicate a pattern but to acquire the skills required for a dynamic situation: movement, angles, distancing, space or the void, and timing. Just depending on the pattern itself will not deliver you.  

Keep studying!


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