10 Oct 2023
Taekwon-Do patterns can be daunting to beginners and long term practitioners alike.
As a beginner, the fundamentals are all brand new to you. You have to really think about making that new stance, whilst moving your hands and body in a way you aren’t used to, trying to land in the right spot, whilst feeling self conscious in this funny new outfit we call a dobok.
As a more experienced practitioner, you feel you’ve learnt your fundamentals, and are now looking at really small, often fussy changes to moves you thought you knew, your patterns are longer and more complicated, and you also need to improve on your lower grade patterns to bring them up to the standard of your current grade. All this whilst feeling the pressure of your grade, in front of new members, or other classmates, who you may feel look to you as you’re a higher grade.
It’s a humbling and rewarding process, but not everyone perseveres with it. If you’re reading this then I’m assuming you want to persevere with it! I’m hoping you’ll be able to take away a simple set of tools and methods to help improve your patterns, and take a more active part in learning and improving your patterns both in the dojang and at home.
To be clear, this is meant to support your training in class with your instructor, not replace it! I’ve split this into two sections but this isn’t rigid, and often methods overlap and can be useful at many different stages in your journey.
There are links at the end to a couple of resources that I reference through the post.
Let’s get started.
LEARNING YOUR PATTERNS
Attend class regularly.
This one is obvious but has to be said. Students who train consistently in class progress quicker than those who miss classes here or there. Life gets in the way sometimes, and getting to class can feel like a challenge. Try to remove any little roadblocks. Get your uniform and bag packed the night before and put it in the car. Pack an after school/ work snack. Etc.
Watch the pattern being performed.
This may seem obvious, but often we start learning the pattern one step at a time and may not get to see the whole pattern for a little while. You can often watch senior grades perform your pattern in class, and our website has videos of all colour belt patterns and a number of black belt patterns. Bookmark the page and refer to it often.
Check the step by step moves of the pattern.
Each pattern has a set of instructions. A word of warning, they are very dry, and can be a bit confusing if you haven’t had much experience with them. As a beginner I recommend using them as a back up to the videos and to supplement what you’ve learnt in class. It will also help you get the names of the moves solidified in your head. You can find the step-by-step instructions in The Encyclopaedia, or in a link at the bottom of this page.
Sketch the pattern out.
Walk through sections of your pattern with our videos or a training partner, and repeat them. Stick to sections of patterns for now and build up to the whole pattern. Many patterns have good places to stop, and it will also depend on your ability to retain the moves. Do a section, and repeat, and repeat, and repeat, then add the next few moves, then repeat… If you follow this then you’ll get through the whole pattern as a rough sketch in no time.
This is a great method for learning and improving especially when you get stuck. It’s very difficult to see what you are actually doing, especially if your focus is on learning and retaining new moves. Watching a video of you doing your pattern can be eye opening! Are you moving in the right direction, are you relaxing, is your timing off, etc.
Celebrate your progress.
You’re a new yellow stripe and you can walk through the first half of Chon-Gi. Boom, that’s fantastic. You’re a black stripe and got through Yul Gok for the first time in ages. That’s also a win. Progress is progress and you should always be proud of it.
IMPROVING YOUR PATTERNS
Ok, so now we have the sketch of the pattern. It’s a bit messy and wobbly. Maybe it’s a new pattern, maybe it’s one of your second degree patterns that you need to refresh. Either way, when you do it, it looks like a pattern and you can get all the way through. It’s time to get fussy.
Check the step by step moves for your pattern.
As with learning your pattern, this can be very useful but also very, very dry. I prefer to use them as a reference to support other methods, rather than the sole method for improving or learning. This will help you make sure you are performing the right move, height, stance etc. The following checklists will come back to this step. It’s often my first stop when I am unsure of a move, stance, height, stepping, motion etc. You can find the step-by-step instructions in The Encyclopaedia, or in a link at the bottom of this page.
If you only take one thing away from this post then please take these two checklists. They won’t make your patterns perfect, but they will address the vast majority of your challenges.
The static checklist.
Once you know the sketch of your pattern, walk through every move and check you know the following 3 things AND that you are performing the following 3 things correctly for each move. These tend to be in the finished position of a move so I’ve referred to them as static.
More experienced students will run through these 3 points as they learn a pattern or new technique. If you aren’t sure what any of the above should be then you can check with your instructor or check the step by step moves. Make a note to check it and move onto the next move.
The dynamic checklist.
How you get to the finished position of a move is as important as the finish position itself. These steps tend to be performed in motion when transitioning from one move to another, or to link moves together so I have referred to them as dynamic.
That’s it! Now set some time aside and go and practice!
Repetition is important when you learn a new skill. So set some time aside and go and practice. Choose a time and date and stick it in your calendar. Maybe it’s only 15 minutes on your lunch break, or 20 minutes before work. Those minutes add up and help you build momentum. With enough momentum, you’re unstoppable.
Check out this STEP BY STEP guide from Master Symonds (8th degree) – the coloured belt patterns are explained with directions indicated from your point of view as you read the instructions: http://www.totaltkd.org/patterns.php
And our own PATTERN VIDEOS are here: https://cardiffmartialarts.com/taekwon-do-patterns/