Why Do You Practice Forms in Taekwondo?


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Learning Taekwondo is fun. But not everyone likes forms (called kata in Japanese, but called Poomsae, hyeong, or teul in Taekwondo). So, why do you practice forms in Taekwondo?

Practicing forms in Taekwondo helps practitioners become more effective and more disciplined. The forms are a sequence of techniques that, when combined, are designed to showcase the practitioner’s skill by showing how effortlessly they can transition from one to the other in quick succession.

But there’s a lot more to know.

In this article, we’ll find out if Taekwondo forms are useful in a fight and whether they are different from Japanese Kata. But we’ll also explore why forms are important in martial arts.

Let the fun begin.

Are Taekwondo forms useful in a fight?

Yes. Taekwondo forms are useful in a fight. Though practiced alone, fighters often imagine competing with invisible opponents when practicing the forms. There is also the increased stamina and endurance it offers. A fighter who practices regularly has an advantage in a fight.

But don’t just start going through forms if you find yourself in a real fight.

The choreographed nature won’t lend itself well towards a full-fledged street fight. But one of the benefits of practicing these forms confer on a Taekwondo practitioner is that they’ve practiced several moves over and over again. So, over time they’ve refined and mastered these moves.

They’ve also learned to be fluid as they transition from move to move. They’re employing muscle memory and are likely to be faster than their opponent, who may not have had any training.

Forms also teach Taekwondo fighters how to perform under pressure.

It’s a remarkable demonstration of skill to execute an array of movements in sequence. A TKD fighter can remain calm in a fight while unleashing a flurry of hits. That said, I’d be remiss if I fail to mention that real fights can be incredibly unpredictable and chaotic.

I believe that forms can translate to and be helpful in real fights.

A TKD fighter who has a deep mastery of the techniques and has had several opportunities to spar with other competent fighters is the one that’s most likely to come out tops in a fight.

And, by comparison, that is not necessarily true of someone who only knows forms and has not had a lot of sparring practice.

The environment is also a key factor. Most TKD fighters are partial to delivering devastating kicks. The tricky thing with kicks is distance — it’s hard to leverage kicks effectively if your opponent is too close to you or the space is too small.

Interested in learning more about what Taekwondo is all about? 

That’s what I got into in a recent article I published. I explained semi-contact martial arts and whether you’re allowed to punch in Taekwondo. But I also shared what is not allowed in Taekwondo.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Are Taekwondo forms different from Japanese kata?

Taekwondo forms are similar to Japanese kata. Forms are known as Poomsae (or hyeong or teul ) in Taekwondo and Kata in Japanese martial arts. As Taekwondo is based on Shotokan Karate, a Japanese martial art, there are a lot of similarities. 

However, there are also differences.

Many Taekwondo poomsae are based on Karate Kata. The following Shotokan Karate Kata are similar to what’s done in Taekwondo: Jion, Jitte, Naihanchi, Paissai, Pinan, Seisan, Rohan, Taikyoku, Ten No Kata, Unsu, Wankan, and Wanshu. Proof that there are commonalities. But a substantial number are different. Poomsae and Kata have the same purpose in both traditions despite the differences.

Say you’re considering a Japanese martial art such as Judo, in addition to Taekwondo, but you’re torn. 

Check out a recent article I published to know the differences. In it, I shared the biggest similarities and whether Taekwondo is effective in a real fight. But I also revealed if both are in the Olympics.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

Why are forms important in martial arts?

Forms are important in martial arts because they are a great way to practice techniques. But they also instill a sense of discipline as a lot of repetition is involved, and mastery can take years.

Consequently, they increase the odds that the practitioner would triumph while sparring or in real fights.

Forms are involved and intense because practitioners have to look in a particular direction, prepare the stance, focus their eyes, decide if you’ll be offensive or defensive, set their upper body, and a lot more.

Essentially, forms are an array of preset movements martial arts practitioners practice over and over again. They exist in most martial arts.

Fighters practice them alone, without any partner, and can be likened to shadowboxing, where a boxer practices some moves over and over again, in different stances, and from different angles.

To the uninitiated, they seem boring and useless.

But as we’ve seen they are important because they help ensure that you’re fit for fights. And they help you maintain flow as you move from one technique to another at a rapid pace.

Lastly, they help you become more athletic because some moves are quite challenging.

You also get to develop intent. While sparring or in real fights, one trait that sets winners apart is intent. They’re not overthinking. They know where they have to hit. As such, they’re fast.

This is one of the gifts that come from being good at practicing forms.

Do all Taekwondo schools teach forms?

Virtually all Taekwondo schools teach forms. Apart from the fact that forms are an integral part of Taekwondo, they are also prerequisites for those competing in tournaments organized by the two main bodies in charge of Taekwondo. 

But while few schools do not teach them, this is rare.

The organizations have sections devoted to testing practitioners’ mastery of Poomsae in their tournaments. One of the bodies (kukki-won) even requires that forms must be mastered before a fighter’s black belt is recognized. But other bodies do not require them. On the whole, it’s uncommon to find schools that do not teach Poomsae.

Say you’re torn between Taekwondo or Jiu-Jitsu. Which one is better?

That’s what I explored in some depth in a recent article I published.

I explained if Jiu-Jitsu is the same as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and showed which one is better for self-defense if we’re looking at Taekwondo vs. Jiu-Jitsu. I spoke to whether Taekwondo is just kicking. And I revealed if a Taekwondo black belt can beat a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

How many Taekwondo forms are there?

In total, it is estimated that there are about 71 forms in Taekwondo. However, different Taekwondo organizations recognize different Poomsae (forms), so not every school teaches every form.

In a nutshell, most practitioners of changheon-yu  (ITF Taekwondo) have to learn 26 forms, while there are 38 forms in kukki-won  (WTTaekwondo). But let’s look at this closely.

In changheon-yu Taekwondo, most students would learn 24 forms, while some in other parts of the world would learn 25 forms because a form called Juche replaced another known as Kodang. There’s also a lost form known as Unam.

In kukki-won Taekwondo, most students learn 8 Taeguk forms while having color belts and 9 when they become black belts, a total of 17 forms. But in addition to this, there are 10 new competition forms and a series of  8 older Palgwae forms.

Taekwondo | SHORT LESSON: The Importance of Forms

Conclusion 

In the article, we found out if Taekwondo forms are useful in a fight and whether they are different from Japanese Kata. But we also explored why forms are important in martial arts. Then, we considered if all Taekwondo schools teach forms.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by finding out how many forms there are in Taekwondo.


Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell was Academy Director for a large martial arts school for over 7 years, and has trained extensively in a variety of martial arts including Brazilian Jiujitsu, different styles of Karate, the Russian Martial Art of Systema, Aikido, and much more.

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