TaeKwonDo Patterns


TaeKwonDo patterns consist of stances, blocks, strikes, punches and kicks arranged in a meaningful order in response to attacks from multiple imaginary assailants attacking from several directions. The patterns were formerly the only means available to transmit the essence of the art to students; this was because until the twentieth century, free sparring as we know it today (with rules and protective equipment), did not exist. Balance, focus, co-ordination, correct breath control and self-discipline emerge as benefits of continued pattern practice. Patterns are also known as Hyung, Tul, Kata, Poomse, etc. in the continuing evolution of TaeKwonDo.

Each pattern has its own distinct essence and character. Each is understood in terms of an organic whole rather than as an assortment of separate techniques. There is an inherent unity to each poomse, which is ultimately perceived and understood by each student automatically as he gains fluency and mastery of each poomse. It is impossible for the student to understand the art of TaeKwonDo without thorough knowledge of patterns.

Pattern practice is considered highly crucial by most traditional TKD Masters. It comprises at least 30% to up to 40% of testing requirement for promotion to higher rank. Forms are introduced in ascending order of complexity as the student's ability prepares him to understand and absorb them. A beginner or junior who rushes to attempt and learn advanced forms without proper procedure cannot hope to comprehend them as he would not have correctly understood the ones appropriate to his level.

Constant training in patterns will do more than just improve the students' fitness levels and understanding of the technical aspects of TKD. Training also improves the mind and spirit. It helps the student overcome human tendencies to be complacent, lazy and to be unfocused. Patterns enable us to fuse the mind, body and spirit into one integrated entity.

There is NO TKD without Patterns.


The predecessor of TKD as we know it today was TangSooDo (TSD). Their sets of patterns are given the family name of "Pyung Ahn" or "Peace and Happiness". The Pyung Ahn Hyung (PAH) is a prime example of a group of forms having great diversity, being adopted and in use with hundreds of styles of recognized martial arts.

Pyung Ahn is the common Korean pronunciation for the Chinese characters for this series, which in Okinawan translates to "Pin Yi". These hyung were first created around 1901 by GM Itsou Yatsutsune, an Okinawan ShorinRyu Karate master. Itsou, a schoolteacher, wanted to create a safe method to introduce and promote martial arts for children at the elementary school level. He thus combined 2 older existing sets of forms, KuShanKu (KongSangKoon) and ChiangNam (JaeNam) into 5 distinct forms. This new system he named "Pinan Kata".

The Pinan forms were initially introduced into Japan by Itsou's senior students, notably GM Mabuni Kenwa (founder of ShitoRyu) and GM Ginchin Funakoshi, (founder of Shotokan). Funakoshi would also change the forms slightly, and rename them "Heian". These Masters would then teach these forms to resident Koreans who would later return to Korea with this knowledge. Some of the more notable Koreans were LEE, Won Kuk (ChungDoKwan™), YOON, Byung In (ChangMooKwan) and CHOI, Hong Hi (OhDoKwan).

Detailed data on their descriptions have been difficult for me to source accurately and re-confirm from alternative sources, but what I have is as follows:

For the Geup grades, they have 2 series of patterns, the "Kicho" and the "Pyung Ahn". The lower black belt or Dan series are sometimes referred to as the Naihanchi and Passai (or Bassai) series.

Geup levels:

KeeCho Il Bo,
KeeCho Ee Bo,
KeeCho Sam Bo.

Pyung Ahn Cho Dan,
Pyung Ahn Ee Dan,
Pyung Ahn Sam Dan,
Pyung Ahn Sa Dan,
Pyung Ahn Oh Dan.

Dan Levels:
1st Dan: Naihanchi Cho Dan, Naihanchi Ee Dan, JinDo.
2nd Dan: Naihanchi Sam Dan, LoHi.
3rd Dan: KongSangKun, JitDeh.
4th Dan: WangSoo, SeiShan.
5th Dan: Jion, O Ship SaBoDai.
6th Dan: WoonShu.
7th Dan: SoRim JangKwon
8th Dan: TaeKyukKwan


In the ITF family, the current terminology for patterns is "Tul", although they were originally called "Hyung". The original name for the ITF family of patterns is called "Chong Hon", although they are commonly referred to as the "Chon Ji" series, named after the first pattern. There were originally 9 basic (Geup) patterns and 11 advanced (Dan) patterns, although through the years, the sequencing and content of various patterns have been changed.

Chon Ji means "Heaven and Earth". It symbolized the oriental new as to the creation of the world or beginning of human history. It is thus the initial form of the series. The pattern has 19 movements, consisting of 2 mirror parts, one to represent Heaven, the other Earth.

Dan Gun is named to honor the legendary founder of ancient Korea, circa 2333 BC. It has 21 movements.

Do San represents the pseudonym of the Korea patriot Ahn Chang-Ho (1876 – 1938). Its 24 movements represent his life, to which he devoted to advancing the education of the peoples of Korea and the then independence movement.

Won Hyo is the recorded name of the venerated monk who introduced the teaching and virtues of Buddhism to Korea during the Silla Dynasty, circa 686 AD. It comprises of 28 movements.

Yul Gok is again a pseudonym. It represents a legendary philosopher and scholar, Yil (1536 – 1584), who is also known as the Confucius of Korea. The 38 movements of the form refer to his birth place on the 38th latitude, while the form diagram represents the word "Scholar".

Joong Gun is named after the Korean patriot Ahn Joong-Gun. Ahn assassinated ITO Hiro-Zumi, the first Japanese Governor General of Korea. The 32 movements represents Ahn's age at the time of his execution in Lui-Shung prison (1910).

Toi Gay is the pen name of the 16th century scholar Yi Hwang who was an authority on neo Confucianism. The form's 37 movements refer to his birth place on the 37th latitude, while the form outline describes the word "scholar".

Hwa Rang is named after the Silla Dynasty Hwa Rang youth movement of the 7th century. The 29 movements however refer to the ROK 29th Infantry Division, where TaeKwonDo as it was originally called was conceived and developed.

Choong Moo was the common name of Admiral Yi Soon-Sin of the Lee Dynasty. He was reputed to have invented the first armored sea craft (KoBukSon) in 1592. The form ends with a left hand attack to symbolize his inappropriate death and its circumstances.

Kwang Gae is the 1st Dan Black Belt pattern, and is named after Kwang Gae Toh Wang, a famous 19th century ruler of the Koguryo Dynasty. He regained lost territories including a large part of Manchuria. The 39 movements refer to the first two figures of the year he ascended to the throne, i.e. 391 AD.

Po-Eun was the first original 2nd Dan pattern. It represents Chong Mong-Chu (1400 AD), a famous poet, whose most well known poem is "I would not serve a second master though I might be crucified a hundred times". It has 36 movements.

Gae Back is thought to be the second 2nd Dan pattern. It has 44 movements, and is named after a famous General, Gae-Back, of the Back Je Dynasty.

Choong Jang is thought to be the one of the original 3rd Dan pattern. It has 52 movements, and refers to General Kim Duk Ryang who lived during the Lee Dynasty. The pattern ends with a left hand attack to symbolize his untimely death at age 27 while in prison.

Ul Ji is thought to be the second 3rd Dan pattern, and is named after General Ul-Ji Moon Duk, who defended Korea against a 1 million strong army in 612 AD by employing guerrilla hit and run tactics. The 42 movements denote the author's age when he designed the pattern.

Se Jong is believed to be an original 4th Dan pattern, and denotes a legendary King, Se-Jong, who invented the Korea alphabet in 1443. The 24 movements refer to the 24 letters of the alphabet.

Choi Yong is thought to be the second 4th Dan pattern; and is named after General Choi Yong, the 14th century CinC of the Koryo Dynasty. His subordinate officers executed him.

Yoo Sin is thought to be one of the 5th Dan patterns. The pattern has 68 movements, and is named after General Kim Yoo Sin of the Silla Dynasty.

Ko Dang is thought to be the second 5th Dan pattern.

Sam IL is thought to be one of the 6th Dan patterns. It represents the beginning of the Korean Independence Movement that started on March 1, 1919. The 33 movements symbolize the 33 original patriots of the Movement.

Tong IL is believed to be the second 6th Dan pattern, and the last of the original series. It has 56 movements, and denotes the re-unification of Korea.


The following were added by General Choi from the 1970's, and are not original: Moon-Moo


TaeGuek 1 to 8 are required for promotion to 1st Dan under the WTF system of TaeKwonDo. "Tae' means 'bigness' while 'Guek' means 'eternity'. Thus, TaeGuek has no form, no beginning, and no ending. Nevertheless, everything is believed to come from TaeGuek (oriental philosophy); i.e. it is something that contains the essence of everything. Out of TaeGuek are derived eight major branches of philosophical theories. TaeGuek Poomse 1 to 8 is based on these theories. Movement lines of these theories are represented by special symbols, or PalGae, and students must move along these lines.

TaeGuek 1 applies action of Keon of Palgae. Keon represents Heaven and Light; heaven giving us rain, and the sun giving us light, making life. Therefore, Keon is the beginning of everything on earth and the source of creation. In analogy, TaeGeuk begins with Keon, namely the Heaven. There are 18 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 2 is a series of actions applying the principle of Tae of Palgae, which can be called Joyfulness. This is the state in which one's mind is kept firm and ostensive app

TaeGuek 3 concerns actions applying the principle of Ri of Palgae. The representing symbol means Fire and Sun. What distinguishes man from animal is that man knows how to use fire. Fire gives man light, warmth, enthusiasm, security and hope. Accordingly, all actions should be performed with variety and with passion. There are 20 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 4 has a series of actions applying the principle of Jin of Palgae. Jin symbolizes Thunder. Thunder and Lighting are objects of fear and trembling. This principle suggests that we should act calmly and bravely even in the face of danger and great fear. For, at the end of the fiercest storm, blue skies and bright sunlight will emerge again. There are 20 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 5 applies actions applying the Seon principle of Palgae. Seon symbolizes Wind. While there are such terrible winds like typhoon, tornadoes and hurricanes, by nature, wind is gentle. A spring breeze softly caresses a slowly swaying weeping willow. Wind symbolizes the humble state of mind. It expresses repetitive good-natured actions. Actions proceed sometimes gently, as in a breeze, but sometimes forcefully as in a storm. There are 20 sequences to this poomse. ears gentle so that happiness and good virtue prevail. Accordingly, all actions should be performed gently but forcefully. There are 18 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 6 actions apply the principle of Gam of Palgae, symbolizing Water. Water is both liquid and formless. It never loses its nature, and will always flow downward. This principle teaches us the lesson that we can overcome difficulties and hardship if we go forward with self-confidence. Water is all encompassing, equalizing both within and without. There are 23 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 7 actions apply the Gan principle of Palgae. Gan means "top stop" and symbolizes a Mountain. We should stop when we should, and go forward when we must; movement and stopping should match with time and order to achieve things. A mountain never moves. Man must learn the stability of the mountain. We should not act hastily; although rapid actions seem fine, we must know when and where to stop. There are 25 sequences to this poomse.

TaeGuek 8 actions apply the Gon principle of Palgae. Gon symbolizes the Earth, which is the source of life. Things take life from it and grow on it, drawing limitless energy from it. The earth is where the creative force of heaven is embodied. There are 24 sequences to this poomse.

KORYO is the name of an ancient dynasty (918 AD – 1392 AD) in Korea. The English word 'Korea' is originated from the name of "koryo" dynasty. Koryo's legacy to the Korean people is very significant. Koryo men invented metal type for the first time in the world (1234 AD), more than 2 centuries before Johannes Guttenberg (1398 AD -–1468 AD), and also created the famous Koryo ceramics. Moreover, they showed great fortitude by persistently defeating the aggression of Mongolians who were sweeping the known world at the time.

The application of the spirit of Koryo men into the movement of TaeKwonDo is poomse "Koryo". Consequently, every motion is the presentation of the strong conviction and with which Koryo men held in check the Mongolians. Koryo is the first of 9 official black belt patterns of the WTF; there are 30 sequences to this poomse.

KEUMGANG has the original meaning of "being too strong to be broken". Also, in Buddhism, what can break off every agony of mind with the combination of wisdom and virtue is called "Keumgang". The Korean people have named the most beautiful mountain in the Korean peninsula Keumgang-San which is located in the Taebaek range of mountains, and call diamond, the hardest known substance, Keumgang-Seok. Accordingly, Keumgang in TaeKwonDo means movement based on spiritual strength that is as beautiful and majestic as the Diamond Mountains, and as hard and adamant as the diamond.

Keumgang poomse is the official 2nd Dan black belt pattern of the WTF; movement should reflect the majestic spirit of the Diamond mountain range. There are 27 sequences to this poomse.

TAEBAEK (MOUNTAIN) background stems from the mythological story about the founding of Korea that says that about four thousand three hundred years ago, legendary Dangoon founded the nation for the first time in Taebaek, present day Mount Baekdoo, which is regarded as the grandest and loftiest mountain in Korea. It is also regarded as the symbol of Korea. Every motion of this poomse should be displayed not only precisely and nimbly, but also with rigor and a determined will. Poomse Taebaek is the official 3rd Dan black belt pattern of the WTF; it has 26 sequences.

PYONGWON: the living lot of human beings is the plain. Fertile and vast plains give us food. It has also been the place where human life has been lived and carried on for time immemorial. A great open plain stretching out endlessly gives us a feeling of majesty that is different from what we feel on a mountain or the sea. The application of the providence of the plain which is blessed with abundance and grace as well as boundless vastness into the movement of TaeKwonDo is poomse "Pyongwon" (plain).

Pyongwon poomse is the first official WTF pattern for 4th Dan black belt level; its core is to be found in the potential strength and flexibility as well as in the majestic spirit of the vast plain. There are 25 sequences in this pattern, which symbolizes a plain.

SIPJIN (Decimal): The Decimal system is the standard numerical value of ten, hundred, thousand, million, billion and so on. In this sense 10 is the symbolic figure which means endless development and growth. Growth is always affected by systematic and orderly rule. The life of poomse Sipjin lies in the supreme change and orderly discipline of the decimal system. Stability is sought in every change of movement. Sipjin poomse is the second official 4th Dan WTF black belt pattern; it has 31 sequences, and symbolizes the decimal.

JITAE (Earth): According to oriental belief, all living things come from and return to the earth. The earth is indeed the origin and terminal of life. Living things as well as all the natural phenomena of the earth originate mainly from the changes and form of the earth. Poomse "Jitae" is the movement which applies these features and properties of the earth. The key point of this poomse lies in the movements which are derived from the harmony of willing power and strong muscles, just as the universal mind of the earth lies in the implicitness and vigor of life. Poomse Jitae is the first official 5th Dan black belt pattern of the WTF, and has 28 sequences.

CHEONKWON (Sky): From ancient times, Orientals have believed and worshipped the sky as the ruler of the universe and of human beings. Moreover, this belief extends to giving the sky powers of creation and control over all natural things. The infinite sky may be seen as a mysterious and profound world of imagination in the eyes of finite human beings. This poomse is composed of the motions which are full of piety and vitality as a man looks up at the sky. There are 27 sequences in this second official WTF 5th Dan black belt pattern.

HANSOO (Water): Water is universally viewed as a source of life. Trickles form streams, leading to tributaries, to rivers and finally to the sea – all from a single drop. Water may be quiet but also wild; it also adapts perfectly to any container.

The application of such nature of water, i.e. the fluidity and strong quality and adaptability is found in TaeKwonDo movements, especially in this poomse. This is the first official WTF 6th Dan black belt pattern; there are 27 sequences.

ILYO (Oneness): In Buddhism, the state of spiritual cultivation is said to "Ilyo" (oneness), in which the body and the mind, the spirit and the substance are unified into oneness. It means that one derives the state of pure mind from profound faith, namely the state in which one has discarded all worldly desires. The ultimate ideal of TaeKwonDo is in this state of Ilyo. In this state of mentality or "nirvana", one overcomes ego. The final goal TaeKwonDo pursues is indeed a discipline in which we concentrate attention on every movement, shaking off all worldly thoughts and obsession. Ilyo poomse is the second official 6th Dan WTF black belt pattern; it has 24 sequences.