Sunday, 10 August 2014

Common uncorrected mistakes in Poomsae

Its been a long while since I last wrote about Poomsae performance or a strictly Poomsae only post. To remedate this I have collected a few musings I had a long while back on a forum regarding common uncorrected mistakes in Poomsae. The post will only focus on the KTA/Kukki/WTF Taekwondo forms. People Reading this will probably Wonder about my rank and training
experiences so I will make this short before starting: I have trained Traditional Kukki Taekwondo With two masters since January 2000. My Teachers are 9th and 6th Dan and I spendt the first 13 years With the same amount of training With both Tea
chers (unlike all of those who spend a week a year at best With a 9th dan and then proclaim him as their teacher instead of the guy doing the day to day training). I myself have 2nd Dan (I have not bothered With testing and I am in no hurry either). I have travelled to Korea about 10 times to Train intesivly and stayed there 3 weeks each trip. I also did one Whole year of study at Choson University in Gwangju Korea in 2007-2008 where I learned all Poomsae in Kukkiwon from GM Yoon 9th Dan. Prior to 2007 I had learned Taegeuk Il (1) Jang to Poomsae Taebaek by my two primary Teachers. So With that out of the way let us start:

Universal movement principles in Poomsae that will show up again and again if not corrected:

Some mistakes that are barely noticeable in Taegeuk Il (1) Jang will really be showcased in the later forms. For instance: Just before kicking front kick most beginners take a small extra step forward with their non kicking foot. There is only one kick to each side in Taegeuk Il (1) Jang but in the next form Taegeuk I (2) Jang there are toward the end of the form three kick and punch sequences. If you look at the practisioners doing this form you will see that most will take an extra step in between. Once you start looking at this you will notice the same mistake being done at all poomsae. I have even noticed that some high ranking masters are doing it without thinking.. There should of course be no extra step taken as one of the points of basic and poomsae practise is to remove uneccesary movement and telegraphing. Taking an extra step takes longer and it really gives away your intention to do "something".

Also there is a tendency for many when moving from one ap koobi (long front walking stance) to another one where they first turn their front foot 30 degrees, then move. This is also telegraphing and should be removed. The correct is to move without telegraphing and then the back foot will turn about 30 degrees out anyway at the end of the movement.

I think those are the two most common mistakes being done, and as they are universal they show up in just about all the poomsae if it is not corrected early in their training.

Taegeuk Sam (3) Jang: Dwit Koobi (Back stance) hansonnal bakkat makki (single knife hand block), changing into ap koobi (long front walking stance) and momtong jireugi (midle section punch).

Many green belts move their back foot instead of the front foot when transitioning from back stance to front stance. This makes the punch almost redundant in that all the power moving forward in their arm is moved backwards with their stance. Moving the front foot however insures the body weight and range is good for getting the power of the technique into the target.

Another common mistake is when turning 180 degrees to repeat the combination that many move their front leg (the left) into back stance when it is suposed to be the right leg moving into back stance. This is a detail I think few instructors bothers with, and I guess there are about a 50/50 chance of the performer you are watching are doing this correct as a result.:p It might seem trivial, but the body weight transfer is very different when transitioning with either the right leg (body weight backwards) or left leg (body weight forwards).

Taegeuk Sa (4) Jang:
  • Chambering of knife hand guard done in "weird" ways
    • Hands start out straight back (no bending of the elbows)
    • The arms start high or low
    • The arms are "hidden" on the back
    • Changing the chamber into a "Karate chamber" instead
  • The timing of the downward openhanded block and spearthrust is off according to the standards of Kukkiwon
    • Blocking first, step and then thrust
    • thrust then block
    • all possible combinations except the kukkiwon standard (both together in one movement)
  • Chambering and trajectory of Jebipoom Mok Chige (swallow form throat strike).
    • Throat strike part is done straight or almost straight forward as a thrust
    • End positioning of openhanded face block is wrong according to kukkiwon standards
  • Inserting a stance often dwit koobi between the two side kicks
  • Kicking the two side kicks straight up
  • The outer block-frontkick-put foot back into back stance while doing a middle block is done without timimg the middle block with the foot fall
  • The chamber or target for back fist strike is wrong (chamber done on the outside of the Dangki son or pulling hand completly destroys the practical application of having a pulling hand with the technique)

Taegeuk Yuk (6) Jang: Just after the first Dollyo Chagi (roundhouse kick or turning kick) there is an outward block that is supposed to be done in high section (according to Kukkiwon Textbook) but 99% of the teachers I have seen teaches the block as a normal "Momtong bakkat makki" (middle section outward block) and not the "correct" Eulgul Bakkat Makki (face section outward block). That is a shame in my opinion as this is the only time in the Kukkiwon Poomsae that that kind of bakkat makki is done at face level... Yok Jang is a special form in many regards, as it contains several features not shared in other Kukkiwon forms or features that are very rare in the Kukkiwon system (only form that contain the roundhouse kick, only form that has the aforementioned face level block, one of very few forms containing backward movement, one of very few forms that contain the twisting outward block (just before the roundhouse kick) etc etc ). Most people are in a rush to get to the black belt forms at this point so yok Jang does not get study in the level of detail that it deserves
leaving many students with a faulty Yok Jang for years and years..

(Still Taegeuk Yuk (6) Jang) The "Arae hecho makki" or low section spreading block done in Narahni Seogi (feet one foot distance appart, paralell stance). Here the arms start at shoulder height and the left arm is forward. Many people start with their arms much higher sometimes blocking their sight, and there seems to be a 50/50 chance wich arm is forward at the start of the movement. Again this is a rare technique in the Kukkiwon forms and it is first encountered in Taegeuk Yuk (6) Jang. A faulty technique here will manifest itself later in the more "advanced" forms.

Taegeuk Chil (7) Jang: Chamber and excecution of the Gawi Makki (scissors Block; double low/middle Block). Here the Chamber is often wrong or the wrong hand ends up instead of Down and vice versa.

Momtong Hecheo Makki (Outward Block middle section just before knee strike) which hand is outward in Chamber is often done wrong.

Deungjomeok Bakkat Chigi (Back fist outward strike just before the cresent kicks) is often Chambered wrong. In Kukki Taekwondo Poomsae the striking hand is always chambered on the inside of the Dangki Son (pulling hand that goes back to the hip) but in Chil Jang you need to change position a little awkwardly to get this right on the first back fist strike if you did the lower x Block correctly. if you look closely on the newest Kukkiwon videos you will see that this is the way it should be done but for the 1000s of practisioners unaware of the practical usage of the Dangki son this is not done and so the Dangki son looses all its meaning.

Taegeuk Pal (8) Jang. An insane number of students and instructors alike fail to recognise that there are 2 DIFFERENT jumping front kicks in the form. There is one type early in the form and another type near the end of the form. Done fast they look simular and in English they are often only described as jumping front kicks.

So next time you are practising Poomsae try to keep the above Points in mind and see just how many you are doing (ideally it should be zero if you want to follow the Kukkiwon standard).

I hope you enjoyed the post. The information on this blog is provided free of charge but I would like to ask you a "favour" or "donation". If you read this post and found it informative, please share it with others on facebook, twitter, or mention the blog to a friend that you think will like it. If you are on facebook consider looking up the blog there and give it a "Like" :-) Thank you for your support :-)

The Facebook page can be found on


  1. I'm only a second Dan (of my own choice) too. There are too many changes to the standards over the years to keep proper track of, so you can take what I say with a grain of salt. ;D

    A few points:

    Chil Jang

    [Deungjomeok Bakkat Chigi]
    As far as I remember and have seen, The lower X block when done correctly has the the right hand on top of the left when the left leg is in the front and the right is in the back (Front Stance). In the case of the back fist, I have added 2 videos showing both attacks from the outside and the inside of the Dangki Son. I also think this might be a change in the standard because I have read in couple of different books that in Kukkiwon when we chamber, the front hand on the outside is a block and when in the inside is an attack. I really find this type of information confusing and this last point I would consider a discussion point and not a fact (as I can't remember what book I read this in right now).

    Pal Jang:

    [First Jumping Front Kick]
    - Taught as a double front kick with the first at mid section which sets up the forward impetus that leads to the second high level kick (I still practice this version personally).

    - I've also seen a version where there is a single high level kick with the first leg just shooting out to create the forward impetus (Ørjan, maybe you can further clarify this? I've watched some videos and compared books I have and I think this is wrong as only one book I have has the single kick version).

    [Second Jumping Front Kick]
    - There are 2 kicks here as well. The movement is performed with a vertical-only impetus. The first kick is made mid level, retracted to keep a knee out and the second is shot straight upwards at face level.

  2. The last videoclip is correct as for the current standard. It is also the newest one. The "rule" you mention that if it is a makki technique the blocking hand goes on the outside of the dangki son and it goes on the inside of the dangki son if it is a chigi technique is a general rule that I believe you will find in the Kukkiwon textbook and in what is poomsae? By GM Lee (I can be mistaken though but I learned the same rule in my own studdies). It fitts really well too as a Chigi technique has to be chambered on the inside of the pulling hand for the pulling hand to do its work, while the makki techniques can incorporate the chamber part of the movement better in most cases if it is chambered with the pulling hand on the outside.

    As for the different jumping ap chagi in pal jang here is the first one the way I learned it: You kick first with your right leg in mid section and use the momentum to power the second kick wich is to the high section. When doing the first and second kick both feet are in the air.

    On the second one I learned it as a regular left foot ap chagi to the midsection and rechamber the leg. From there you jump on the leg you are standing on and kick with the right foot high section. You do not use the momentum from the first kick to power the second kick.

    This is inline with the Poomsae books I have (Kukkiwon textbook, Textbook of Taekwondo Poomsae, Poomsae Hae Sul (I can not believe that they did not include applications in a book with that title) and What is Taekwondo Poomsae?.

    Does this make sense?:-)

    1. Thanks for clarifying these points. It makes sense. It sounds like we are performing the Poomsae similarly. I spoke to my Sa Bum Nim this week as well and he shares similar frustrations as presented in your article. The problem I notice in my Do Jang is that everything is so rushed with 45 minute cardio-centric classes that basics aren't covered enough where students can't Joombi correctly let alone learn a Poomsae properly.

      [Not sure this is true on a world scale]
      It was brought up in my latest class that a new stylistic thing in forms competition is dragging the toe (similarly to the link below) whilst moving the foot forward from stance to stance. This scares me and I hope it is some local thing here and not a real new standard as it promotes injury to me.

    2. I have not seen people doing gthat here in norway so I really hope that is a local trend where you train. I think if there is any kind of "dragging" you will slow yourself down and thereby weaken poomsae's combative value. I guess it would be easy to get the toes caught if you are practising on puzzle mats too.