Sunday, 1 January 2012

The evolution of Koryo Poomsae; the double side kicks 1986-2010

Not long ago (I wrote this in october 2011) I was teaching Poomsae as part of my class and one of the students told me I did Koryo Poomsae wrong. The double side kicks in the beginning was according to him meant to be targeted to the oponents knee and face, while I have always targeted the knee and midsection. I remember discussing this frequently on martial arts internet forums, as well as with my fellow students at the time I learned the Poomsae. Over the years I have collected many books on how to perform Poomsae and after the training session was finished I went home and looked up Koryo Poomsae in all the books I could find. The conclusion was simple; after just a few minutes of reading it was clear that an evolution had occured since the form was released in the 70s until now.

The first and oldest book I have is "Taekwondo Text Book (1-3)" by Kim Jeong Rok published in 1986. The current Poomsae named Koryo was released in 1972 so it was about 14 years old at the time of publication. In the book it is stated that the first kick is to the knee and the second is to the midsection. The pictures on the other hand shows a kick at knee height and the other at face level. The application shown in the book gives a third version kicking at the oponents knee and then the throat... A killing blow in other words.. Assuming the text is correct the "official" and "correct" was knee to midsection. This book was official Kukkiwon sanctioned.

The second book I checked is not an official sanctioned book, but it is well researched. "Taekwondo; Traditions, Philosophy, Technique" by Marc Tedeschi published in 2003. Here the text and the pictures say the same thing: 1st kick is to the knee, the second is to the oponents midsection. The application presented for the moves confirmes this in both text and pictures.

The performance line of Koryo is based on
this Hanja. It implies "learned man".
The next thing I did was to look up Koryo Poomsae in the "Kukkiwon Textbook 2006 edition". This is as the title implies an official sanctioned book. It was revised and published so that the Poomsae standard could be distributed since the first Poomsae world championship was held in 2006. Here the text and illustration clearly shows that the knee is the target for the fist kick and the midsection is the target for the second kick. The application provided shows the same as the application from 1986 with the knee being targeted first, then the throat. The text explaining the application says the first is to the knee and the second kick is to be delivered "A little higher on the oponent" (page 456).

Another publication from the same year (2006) titled "Complete Taekwondo Poomsae" by Lee Kyu Hyung & Sang H. Kim shows it quite clearly to be knee and midsection in both text and illustration (No application provided). So from 1986 to 2006 it is clear that the official targets for the kicks were knee and midsection (allthough applications provided show that any vital target is Ok), but that was to change in 2007.

In the book entitled: "The book of Taekwondo" published in 2007 by the WTF (and therefore officially sanctioned by them) says that both the midsection and the face are regarded as correct. It is therefore up to the student if he/she wants to kick to the middle or if he/she wants to kick high. This was also my conclusion after checking "The explanation of official Taekwondo Poomsae" by Ikpil Kang & Namjung Song also published in 2007 and sanctioned by Kukkiwon. Here on page 124 they say in the text that the targets are knee and mid section, but they change their minds on page 125 by saying that the target for the second kick is the face. Although in the Korean text (it is both in English and Korean) it says Momtong/Eolgol (Midsection/High section) so here you can also choose what to aim that second kick at. There is no application provided.

In 2009 the Kukkiwon published "Poomsae Textbook" and here there is no doubt that the kicks are to be targeted to the oponents knee and face. This marks the first "official" publication that changes the height for the second kick from the midsection (wich was the "correct" target since the patterns inception) to the face. Both text and photographs show the same thing. There is also no application given in this book.

Kicking far above your own head
is seen more and more in present
day competitions. Is this the future?
The last book I checked was published in 2010 (one year old at the time of writing 2011) and it is entitled: "What is Taekwondo Poomsae?" By Lee Kyu Hyung (co author of "Complete Taekwondo Poomsae" 2006). This is not an official sanctioned book as it is written by one master but master Lee is one of the highest ranking masters in the world, and he is seen in most official publications published as a result. He writes and shows in illustration that the second kick is delivered to the face of the oponent. The face height that is since there is no applications provided in this book also. Below is a short list as a summary to show the evolution of the kicking height:

  • 1986: Knee and Midsection
  • 2003: Knee and Midsection
  • 2006: Knee and Midsection
  • 2007: Both targets are Ok.
  • 2009: Knee and Face level.
  • 2010: Knee and Face level.
  • 2011,12,13,14 etc: ? Who knows:-)
That the Poomsae changes over time comes as no suprise to me after spending so many years studying the art. It is also no suprise that the kicks are being delivered to greater heights after 2006 as WTF and Kukkiwon started stressing Poomsae competition and holding Poomsae world championships. Personally I keep to my targets as I see them as more combat worthy than the new targets as they are most likely a result of competition. It is obviously up to each student what he/she wants to do, but if you want to compete you have to kick to the heigt of the face now. For all other students who does not want to compete in the Poomsae world championship it is Ok to choose. I like to keep it real but I can also appreciate that kicking high is better practise for the performer than kicking to the midsection. I guess that it all depends on the performers personal training goals:-)

Lee Kyu Hyung author
of several books.
It is interesting to compare Taekwondo`s evolotion from hard core combat art to flashy competition art by comparing the publications like this. One thing to note is that eventhough the evolution points to a flashier and more unrealistic art, the applications provided by the Kukkiwon Textbook 1986 and 2006 both gives possible lethal intrepretations(!). Kicking someone in the throat is really dangerous no matter how you look at it.

All the best

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