Friday, 30 September 2011

"Teacher I know all the Poomsae in our system! What now??"

(This is not the student in the story)

"Teacher I know all the Poomsae in our system! What now??" I was asked this by one of my students once. He had on his own studied all the Kukkiwon sanctioned Poomsae by training with senior students and with the great grand master You Tu be. I asked him if he could perform all the poomsae, and he proudly answered yes. Great I said. Now you are a chef who have memorised all the recipies in a coock book, but you are still starving because you have no idea as to how to actually make the food, or what the ingridients in the recipie are for.

Poomsae are more than just for demonstrations and gradings. They are a bunch of basic tecniques strung together yes, but the techniques and sequnces show combative principles when you know what the movements actually means. In other words the Poomsae are a collected set of tactics to show and transmit a combative strategy. Once the strategy and principles are understood and you can apply them freely in a combative context you can say that you "know" a poomsae.

That is why in the old days the masters would only know one to four poomsae. Today people seem to be more interested in preserving the recipies of the coock book instead of learning how to make good food, or in martial arts terms, people collect a bunch of techniques and dances instead of learning what the techniques or dances are trying to teach you (combat).

I then told him to forget the poomsae that he did not need to know yet (those that are outside the reach of his rank) and rather focus on the poomsae that he should be doing.

The student failed to comprehend my answer and ended up quitting Taekwondo and starting in a new forms based style, this time Karate. He now proudly knows around 50 Kata (in addition to our 17 Poomsae) and teaches them to anyone who wants to learn them. He has drifted from style to style in the last few years and currently he does not have any affiliation to any dojang/dojo as he feels he knows more than what normal instructors does. He equates memorising and collection of forms with knowledge.

The moral of the post? Try to focus on what you have and what it can teach you instead of blindly racing to collect all the poomsae you can get. The content of the forms are much more important than merely collecting dance rutines:)

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