Saturday, 15 December 2012

A holliday tip to all "form-collectors" out there

This time of year many people are going to grade up to a new rank in Taekwondo as many Dojang (at least the ones I know of) usually have two gradings each year, one before summer holliday and one before Christmas. In Kukki Taekwondo this means that now that you just ranked up a notch you now need to learn a new Poomsae (form). I strongly reccomend that you do not use your holliday trying to learn it yourself but to wait untill you once again are training under the watchfull eyes of your instructor.

Most importantly though: STAY CLEAR OF YOUTUBE! I once had a very clever student who learned his forms on his own in the hollidays. He would grade before summer and learn himself the new form in the hollidays, and he would grade before christmas and learn a new form in the christmas hollidays. As long as he used the time up to a grading to perfect the form and to listen to me I was completly OK with that. But then Youtube came...

After a holliday the student had "learned" Taegeuk Chil Jang. It was awfull.. Usually he would study the books of my teacher to learn his forms and my teachers books show the Poomsae the way Kukkiwon teaches its Poomsae. However this time he had used Youtube as it was easier to follow along with a high ranking Master. You would believe that a high ranking master knew Taegeuk Chil Jang? No not really. I had to watch my self as the student first did not want to take my "version" of Taegeuk Chil Jang as I was only a mere 1st Dan and the "Youtube" Master was a whopping 7th Dan.

Well this "Master" had done heavy modifications to all the Taegeuk forms. He had erased "Ap Seogi" (Short front walking stance) in the first three Taegeuk Poomsae (Depriving his students the lessons Ap Seogi can give) and he had likewise changed techniques here and there, added some, and removed others, added quite a few kicks too.

I directed him to some official videos from the Kukkiwon (9th Dan trumps 7th Dan every time:-p ) and then he understood how the form was supposed to be performed (according to our Dojang that follow Kukkiwon standard). Youtube is a great resource if people allready almost know the form they are looking for. Parents not knowing what they are looking for and searching youtube for Taekwondo 1st form can find any number of things... First of all some schools use different form sets alltoghether. Searching for Taekwondo 1st form you might get Taegeuk Il (1) Jang but you are just as likely to get something completly else.

The above video shows what another of my younger students proudly presented as Taegeuk Il Jang. Her parents had gone on youtube searched for Taekwondo first form and got this. In his school this is the first form, but we do not practise this form in our school. How are the parents to see the difference?? After all the instructor on this video wears the excact same outfit with the V-neck and everything.. I spendt weeks trying to "unlearn" this masters way of walking in long stance (The half moon steps as I call them are not the way Kukkiwon teaches it today, nor is the distance between the legs or many other things he teaches. Do not get me wrong I am not critizising this man, as I am sure he is quite good in his schools way of moving, it is just different to what we are teaching. For the reccord this is an old form that often goes by the name Gibon Hyung or Kicho Hyung. It is pretty much the form series Gichin Funakoshi invented in the 1920s-30s in Japan under a different name.

There are however great videos of the "correct" form that we do teach on youtube. It is just that I do not reccomend people using youtube because there are also a lot of people who uploads heavily modified forms, or what in our school would be considered "bad" forms. If you first teach your body to move the "wrong" way (for us) then it will be more difficult and hard work than just waiting a little longer and getting it right the first time.


  1. Certainly it's not the greatest idea for the beginner student.
    What I think is not a bad idea, in the other hand, is the instructor point out which videos should be looked for -- in our case, the Kukkiwon official ones. They're easy to find, and a propper video refference seems to me something useful for who is learning a new form. Off course the video can never teach it completely, but the details can be shown/corrected by the instructor in the following. Well, it's a thing that has pros and cons, because some students can really aquire bad habits from inadequate learning.
    All in all, I believe there's no need at all to rush through learning of forms. Usually one is more than enough to workout for half a year (and the time's not enough depending on the depth of study -- imagine when we also talk about appllications). Learning various forms at the same period or at very short periods can lead the student to confusion and probably won't help to internalize the form and root it in the student's mind and muscle memory.

    1. I agree that if the instructor points to one specific video clip with a performance that he is trying to teach then yes it is helpfull for the student. This post was a result of me listening to the instructor of a different group that was rounding of his class before we started training telling his students merry christmas, and if someone wants to start practising their new forms it is just to go on youtube as they are all there.

      It made me think of the "youtubemisses" in my own experience and I am still wondering how much work the instructor has to do to properly teach those who find the "wrong" video?

      A video clip can teach the students the sequence of the form and in the beginning of the learning of the form video is a great asset for those who wants to train themselves outside the Dojang, BUT it only teaches the sequence of movements, all the power generation, rythm, small details are often left out or hard to see. And if you find a mislabeled video clip there is no telling what you will train:p I used to watch a video of Poomsae Koryo to see just how much change people can do to a form and still call it by its original name. In this case the form was more than twice its original length and there was an insane amount of kicks in it. For someone who has never seen Poomsae Koryo or only had a passing familiarity with it to find this video it would be difficult for them to say this was wrong.

    2. I agree with you, and you gave me some interesting insight. My own instructor usually tell us how it is useful to have the internet to search for references, and that he didn't have it in his old times.
      The point is that even if the internet is a great source of info, the students have to be well oriented. In 2013 I'll be having a class schedule under my full responsibility, and I'll remember to warn my students about this and, if possible, provide the best sources for reference material, so there will be less danger of having someone making those mistakes.

    3. The internet and the ability to ask questions to our teachers are two great assets that the pioneers of Taekwondo did not have (asking questions might give you a severe beating in certain Dojang in Taekwondo`s early times ((50s-70s)). We have a huge advantage that none of our teachers had before us and we should use it the best we can:-)

      Congratulations on having your own group Samir:-) One idea for references might be to start a facebook group, mailing list or simply print out some papers with links on them. Making your Dojang homepage to include good links are also a great way to ensure that the students are getting good information.

      The other day I read that "Chon Ji Tul" is a form that originally was made by Anko Itosu in the 1870s but it had almost dissapeared from Karate practise only to be found in Chang Hon derived Taekwondo Dojang these days. Chon Ji is the only form in General Choi Hong Hi`s system that is from a purely Okinawan origin....

      Now this is obviously not good correct information and I found it very funny untill I realised that maybe there are white belts in ITF Taekwondo who are reading this now and believing it. The internet is full of great resources but it is also full of ...... not so great resources :-) After all everyone can make a blog and post just about anything they want right? Just look at me:p

    4. Hahaha. You are right, everyone can make a blog. And you know what? It's been months since I thought of starting my own. Because you see, I'm Brazillian and I just never found good references in Portuguese on the subjects you and other great instructors we know talk about in the internet and in books (not that there aren't people with such a knowledge here, but I don't think they have written a lot on their knowledge). So I'd like to give a contribution to this in my country's native language.
      I love your idea of having a Facebook group for my students, and I noticed I would have to start my blog very soon, as it would also be used as a tool to give the students some further reference to the classes (but the FB group would be a great support, too).
      Unfortunately I wasn't planning about writing in English, but my brother always suggests me to write a bilingual (Portuguese/English) one, so I could discuss with other great instructors over the internet. Anyway, the issue is I'm not planning to post things I've brought from nowhere or have thoought totally on my own. Instead, most of what I've learned comes from other great sources, and I wish to tell who my sources are. So everyone can make a blog, but once I make mine, I can blame other people if I say something wrong! :P

    5. A billingual blog sounds like a great idea. Maybe I should start to publish each post in norwegian too?:-) You do get the best of two worlds if you do that.

      Great comment on the end:-) I wish I could blame other people for the mistakes if I am wrong:-p On the other side I trust Richard to set me straight if I have glarring mistakes though;)

      (Richard I hereby blame you for any misinformation contained in this blog both past and future posts:p )

  2. no, no! we all know that anything on the internet is true, otherwise it wouldn't be there! Next you will be telling me there is no such thing as a unicorn.if this keeps up i will have to take my stuff offline and you tube.

    other than outright mislabeling, i generally don't have a problem with videos. in many ways i prefer them, as they convey much that is difficult in static photos, or written descriptions. i have even prodded online mags to include them--not with much success.
    my biggest problem with them (&Kukki.. included) is very few bother to explain why you are doing what you are doing. of course some do, and the apps run from the ridiculous to the wonderful. here is where the competent instructor has to step in and sort out not only the why's but the details of how.
    i actually started with that form as a white belt.(well no..i guess i started with Pinan I, but i am an old man), and many schools use it today.
    the video description is OK as far as it goes, but again why is there a crescent step (which i still practice), why was it dropped, advantages of either over the other? same with "sine wave" in another context. a didactic methodology where the teaching method became the technique , as opposed to illustrating the principle involved.

    Anyway, as the old joke goes "Ready when you are CB"

    1. The video description to the video I embedded is quite allright:-) But the point was that if you do not really know what you are looking for and only search for "Taekwondo first form" you get all kinds of stuff. And with the practisioner wearing the same outfit as us also makes it difficult. Think of a parent searching for the first form to help their kid and you see how easy it is to get confused:-)

      I had a discussion with a fellow practisioner a few weeks back about the cresent steps as she had been taught to use them by a high ranking master (many many years ago). I told her that it was changed to linear stepping because of faster delivery and more percussive impact power (you might disagree with that one Richard). She accepted this and made an effort to change to linear stepping. A little later she asked why on earth someone would train cresent stepping instead and I showed her how to use it as a takedown etc. I try to make the point that while we do have "one correct way" to do things there is also reasons for other "ways" to do things as well.

      My guess why the cresent step was dropped? Probably because of a focus on long range percussive techniques over grappling and close range striking. The straight stepping is the most logical for long range striking (in my head), while I see the advantages the cresent stepping has in a closer distance.

    2. PS: There is a facebook campaign out there these days with quite a following in Norway that is proclaiming that there is no such thing as horses as horses really are fruits. It started in Sweden a few months back. This does not help the unicorn very much, allthough maybe it does exist today as a form of fruit?:p

  3. well, it's good to know that my faith in unicorns piloting ufo's is safe. i appreciate horses because "cowboy" president Bush was afraid of them.

    1. i only mentioned the stepping to make the point that many videos don't explain they just show. i am delighted that you understand and can demonstrate the difference in application. i should delve in discussing stepping more sometime. if you think of the difference of stepping in Baqua or Xinyi as one id designed for straight on attack, the other for twisting around multiple opponents.

    2. as a side note: i watched a not very good but mildly entertaining Netflix series called Lillyhammer ((sic) that took place in Lillehammer. anyway, whenever they discussed a "shady" character, or youth gangs etc, they always said something like "i think they are from", or "they must be from Oslo". Is this some sort of small town-big city in joke i am missing, or is there more to it?

    1. 1: Stepping might be a very good idea for an article for a certain web based Taekwondo magazine;) I know I would love to read an article on the subject:-)

      2: I think it is a small town big city joke. Oslo is the biggest city in Norway (and our capital) and where many people mingle so do crime thrive. That being said the crime rate in Norway is extremly low when compared to other contries. Some of the most famous gangs in Norway reside in Oslo. I found Lilyhammer very funny (at least the few episodes I saw):-)

  4. Dear Ørjan,
    Stepping would be completely a great idea for an article to be featured anywhere I could read it! This is a deep subject when we look closely, and the fact that there are various ways of stepping, turning and so on make a vast material to work on.
    If you do publish it, please let me know. If you are thinking of publishing it in TotallyTKD, I confess I'm not a subscriber of it (I used to follow it in the old times), because I honestly just don't think I have time to read it as I'd like to, so I didn't get motivated to make a subscription. But if you submit an article (or anywhere else) there, then let us know -- I'll look forward to read it. :)

    1. Actually I was thinking that maybe you could write one:-D (Did you know that you get the issue for free if you get an article published in it?)

      If I do write one I will definatly publish it here too:-)