Monday, 30 January 2012

Poomsae Performance (Competition style)

The year 2006 was a special year for Taekwondo competition. Up untill then the only way to compete in a world championship in WTF/Kukki style Taekwondo was through sparring. But in 2006 the very first Poomsae World Championships was held in Seoul, and now you could compete not only in sparring in a global scale but also in Poomsae.

Up until that point in history most masters were totally free in how to teach Poomsae around the world, and there was as many variations in Poomsae performance as there were people. One thing that was decided for the world championship was that there needed to be one and only one standard or "true form" to be followed so everyone could be judged on the same basis. This lead to a reprint of Kukkiwond textbook as well as a whole host of other books on Poomsae so this new "standard" could be taught.

I studied at a Korean University in 2007-08 and one of my subject there was Poomsae. I was taught all the Poomsae according to this standard by a 9th dan master as well as training with several high ranking competitors (my fellow students). It was a great year and I owe a lot to my fellow students and my teachers (both in Korea and in Norway:-) ). I picked up a lot of pointers from them and I wanted to share a few with you today.

Opening move of
Taebaek Poomsae
The regular readers of this blog will know that I apreciate Poomsae not because they "look good", because they give me better endurance, balance (or insert your favorite Poomsae attribute here) but because of their combative content (not form but function). There is however an overlap between the two. In my previous post I tried to use an analogy comparing Poomsae to a math book or text book. To be able to read a book or any written message you need it to have dots over every "i" and a cross over every "t". Also you need all or most of the words to be written with correct grammar and spelling or else it will be difficult or even impossible to read. Poomsae work the same way here.

If you are going to extract combative function from the form you need to have form to such a degree that it is possible to extract the combative function. If Poomsae is done in a low performance level then it is the same as a porly written text. The message of the text/Poomsae will be difficult if not impossible to read. So without further adu here are some of todays pointers:

  • Divide each technique into two parts. One "prepetory motion" and one "actual motion".
  • On the Prepetory part of the technique relax your body as much as possible and inhale. On the second part of the motion exhale and use some muscles (just the ones needed to do the technique do not tense all your body).
  • Complete each technique before starting the next.
  • Move into each stance so it is clear wich stance you are in.
  • Move fast, but soft between the stances.
  • Do not go up/down between the techniques or when you move from one stance to the next. Keep the head at the same level if not something else is dictated by the pattern.
  • Each move in Poomsae is described clearly in the Kukkiwon Textbook 2006 or in What is Taekwondo Poomsae 2010. Aquire one of these books and study it indepth.
  • Do not trust youtube. There is a lot of good videos out there but there is also a lot of shit. Pardon my french but thats the truth. If you are going to use youtube in your training be sure that it is from a good source or you might practise something very wrong.
  • Endevour to have a BASIC knowledge of application. I say basic because advanced/realistic application sometimes makes your performance level lower than the basic application who follow the patterns exactly.
  • Be in somewhat good shape. An athlete who competes in Poomsae who almost faints because he does not have the energy to complete one Poomsae will not win. Looking like you are going to faint when finished is not a good idea either. Do some intervall running when you can.
  • Do not bend forwards or backwards in Poomsae (unless it is dictated by form and it never is). This means both your back and your neck:-)
  • When punching keep your elbows in and your wrist straight.
  • Do a loud but short Kihap on the Kihap points. Do not forget Kihap, you get almost as much deduction for missing a Kihap as missing a technique(!).
  • Do not overdo Kihap. I see some people on youtube who stops and screams for several seconds before continuing their form. In Taekwondo the Kihap should be short and loud not a horror movie scream.
  • Stay true to the form while competing (in normal competition that is). Do not invent your own rythm or change the techniques to look cool. After 2006 each move in each Poomsae is clearly defined and anyhting outside their standard will not give you points but making you loose them instead.
I guess that is it for today:-) Feel free to comment if you want me to elaborate on any of the points above, if you have questions or if you have some aditional tips:-)

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