Friday, 13 April 2012

I dare you to define Poomsae

Yesterday I was helping out on a project where I was asked to write some information on Poomsae. When I was first aproached and asked if I coul participate I jumped on board at once as Poomsae is something that has always facinated me and this was a chance to see if I truly had absorbed some knowledge over the years. I made a short list over what I wanted to write and the first thing on a list was this: "What is Poomsae?". I wrote a few pages to answer the question, read through it and deleted it all. Not good enough. I started from scratch but the headline was still the same: "What is Poomsae?". After repeating the cycle 5 or 6 times I gave it up. What I had been trying to do was to describe Poomsae and make a definition that would work better than the mainstream one (a combination of basic techniques strung together in a predermined fashion or something along those lines).

In the end I could not do it. I wrote that honestly trying to define Poomsae in a few short sentences is not possible because it has such a broad role to play in our beloved martial art. That is the honest truth, and that is why you always see the simplified definition when you search for a definition on Poomsae. To define it as a predermined order of linked basic techniques is what it is at the most basic level of understanding. But the more you study and practise the more you begin to realise that this is just one fraction of what it could be. Instead of trying to define it in a few short sentences I instead opted to let Poomsae define itself by showing some of the roles Poomsae has in Taekwondo training

Some of the roles of Poomsae in Taekwondo includes:
  • Basic techniques training
  • A form of competition
  • A way to practise basic techniques in combinations instead of as single units.
  • A form of active meditation
  • A form of "Kigung" (a method to develop inner energy or inner strength; "Ki")
  • A way of practising how to be a master of your own body
  • A way to precerve knowledge from one generation to the next
  • Examples of combative techniques that could be used in different situations.
  • A method to convey and conserve combative strategy.
  • A way to practise combative techniques without a partner
  • A way to practise combative techniques and followthroughs that are to dangerous to practice "live"
  • Etc, etc, etc
Poomsae is all the above and more. No wonder then that so many different martial arts use Poomsae in one form or another, or why the masters of old would stress the importance of Poomsae when they made their martial knowledge into "systems". Many ridicule Poomsae as a method of training because many do not know realistic applications to the movements or they teach unrealistic applications to the movements. But look again at the list above. If you remove applications good or bad alltogether you still have a fair number of usages for this form of training. Maybe there are more effective ways to foster the different benifits when we look at each in isolation, but Poomsae sure does a lot of things at once, and this is in my view a very effective training method as a result.

Now that you have read through this post I have a challenge for you: "Can you make this list longer?" If you can please list the aditional roles Poomsae has in Taekwondo training in a comment below. Do not worry you do not need to subscribe or make a profile, you can just chose "anonominous profile" (please I want a dictionary for my birthday:p ) and make your comment below:-)


  1. * Physical training - Practicing poomsae with a high degree of intensity always makes me break sweat. :)

    1. Yeah:-) But that is the most basic definition is it not?:-)