This was originally a response to a posting
on one of the TKD newsgroups on the internet. I think it covers quite
a few interesting points regarding TKD training. The original post
questioned the real value of set sparring, linework & patterns
(“Traditional training”) in their relation to use in self defence
I can understand why many
people find the so-called traditional drills as being as a waste of
time in regard to practical self-defence training. I personally felt
that way myself, but over the years I have come to understand that
they do serve a purpose.
Directly, they may not have a great deal of value for practical self
defence training...who is ever going to attack you with, for example,
3 lunge punches in a row? Who is ever going to attack you with just
ONE lunge punch?
Never going to happen.
However, what it does teach you is various elements that do come into
play & are factors in SD. What we need to do as teachers & students of
TKD is to learn to really see behind the surface & not just the
superficial layer. i.e: we need to adapt what we are taught to
something of practical value. I used to view the stances of
traditional martial arts (as I have trained in more than a few styles)
as being redundant...I really could not see the point of some of them,
when a "fighting" stance would suffice. But, with experience &
observing others as well as using them in practice (working in a very
confrontational & physical job) I came to the conclusion that you
really do use these stances, although it may be for a split second.
For example: if you ever have to apply an armbar you need a good,
strong, stable & well balanced stance...sitting stance. If you try &
apply the lock in an unbalanced & weak stance (ie: no defined stance
at all) you will have your centre of gravity displaced & will not be
able to maintain that lock.
Just watch a boxer...if he / she needs to deliver power in a lead mid
section jab, what stance does he use? He will drop into a version of a
fixed stance. He won’t stay there for long, but he will use it just
Other benefits from set sparring practice (if done correctly &
approached in the way it should be) you will gain confidence facing an
aggressive opponent, you will certainly develop timing & a strong
spirit. All these contribute dealing with an aggressor in a SD
confrontation if it turns physical.
The benefits of performing linework are varied. I used to hate it &
find it a bit boring, I preferred partner work. But I changed my
approach to it & when I perform it now, I can really get into it. I
feel that it is great for perfecting your technique, developing
stamina (which is drained in seconds in a real fight), good for
visualisation (which is very under-used in my opinion) etc.
OK, so directly this has no relevance to SD, but it does contain
factors that are...it is all down to the individual & their approach.
Finally, regarding the patterns. I always loved the patterns & have
enjoyed practicing them ever since I started Wado-Ryu Karate & since
progressed to Ch'ang Hon TKD. Most students will never ever get it.
They will always see the patterns as pretty shapes with their arms &
legs & observers of the MA's will always question the practical value
of the forms. As I mentioned before, you need to look beyond the
The original Masters of the patterns (& I am talking about the one's
who created the ORIGINAL forms...not the modern forms that they are
based on) devised these forms to serve as a mental reminder of the
techniques that they honed to perfection & WHAT ACTUALLY WORKED as SD
techniques. Because in many cases they just could not afford for the
martial techniques that they invested time & effort in to have no real
value...they would end up dead. How practical & of real value is that?
Some of the reasons for the various movements in the patterns given by
some modern instructors will either;
1) Leave you bruised, battered...or worse.
2) Leave you confused & disillusioned by the martial arts.
What you have to remember is; these techniques contained within the
forms are not designed to defend against multiple opponents who attack
in a sequence. They are INDIVIDUAL techniques or combinations of
techniques to be used against various different type of attacks/grabs
etc. It is just that they are joined together as a mnemonic to make it
easier to remember them all. Also all of the techniques contained will
need to be adapted to make them work. Most, if not all, the techniques
were stylised to hide the techniques & to make it easier to perform &
throughout the years they have become watered down & some of the vital
movements have been left out or forgotten.
So what you are left with today are the greater majority of MA
students training in an ignorant bliss & will never know or have the
desire to know what they are performing & I am sure most of them will
be quite happy with that. As they will be deriving pleasure from what
they are doing & gaining many benefits from it (muscle toning, power,
balance etc) who can argue with that. But if you want more out of your
patterns (for practical purposes), perhaps you need to do a little bit
more research yourself.
As a final point; I always asked questions of why do you do this,
what's the reason for that etc. (I was more than likely an instructors
right royal pain in the proverbial...I was always very respectful, but
curious) & some of the answers I was given, I just didn't believe them
or how it could work in the
manner that they stated. Many years later & a lot of bumps, bruises &
broken bones & experience, I came to the conclusion that I WAS right.
I feel that maybe they just didn't know, maybe they didn't want to
know (certainly easier to teach)...maybe it is just that these
valuable defensive skills
contained within the patterns have just been consigned to history's
SD really does have to be approached in a different way to "normal"
training. I guess the way we train now is different because we are
softer...we don't toil as hard physically (& I don't mean training) &
generally, our lives aren't in constant threat from battlefield
marauders or invaders & we just don't need to devote ourselves to
developing combat skills like we would have done in the past.
There are 24 patterns in
Taekwondo, ranging from 19 move patterns to 72 move patterns.
The initial patterns are very symmetrical & most combinations
or movements are repeated with both sides of the body, in
opposite directions. These first few patterns are reasonably
basic & introduce the novice student to the most common
stances, blocking techniques, strikes & kicks....(more)