Monday, 1 September 2014

Open question to those who believe that Poomsae is only kick block punch

This post will act as an open question to those who believes and or states as fact that the Korean Taekwondo Association forms (Taegeuk and Black Belt forms) were based purely on a "Kick Block Punch" Paradigm. There are an awfull lot of People out there casually stating "cold hard facts" when discussing applications in Korean derived forms stating things like: "Koreans only knew kick block punch applications so there are no intentional applications within the KMA (Korean Martial Arts) forms beyond kick block punch." The Kick Block Punch Paradigm is the view that all techniques within the forms MUST be either a kick, a Block or a punch/ strike. I have written at length here about the old Kwan`s and their roots so I will not go into them here yet again. I will only say that I personally think the originators of the Korean Taekwondo Association forms knew more about their martial art than what people today give them credit for. My question for those who subscribe to the belief that the KMA forms only consists of kick block punch is this:


If the (KMA) forms only consists of kick block punch because this is what the originator of those forms knew: Why dont the forms they made work under the Kick Block Punch paradigm? Why are there so many sequences that make no sense in that paradigm but works just fine if you consider what many label "alternative" applications?

I will give you all an example on a sequence that makes no sense at all in a Kick Block Punch paradigm and that is Taegeuk I (2) Jang. This is one of the most basic forms in Kukki Taekwondo and it should make perfect sense in a Kick Block Punch paradigm because according to so many "experts" saying that the originators knew only Kick Block Punch and because the form is so basic that it can only contain such simple applications. Look at the clip so you know what form I am talking about:

  If you look about 18 Seconds into the clip you will see the performer doing a "High Block" in short front walking stance followed by another "High Block" against the same opponent (I guess this opponent punches to the face twice while stepping backwards for some reason?). The performer then turns 270 degrees to the left to face a brand new opponent while he has done absolutely zero to the first opponent in the Kick Block Punch Paradigm (whereas a good deal of other more "deep" applications would explain this logically and fully the Kick Block Punch paradigm does not explain this at all). This new opponent you block an attack toward you midsection. You block this attack with an inward block and then yet again turn away from this opponent to face a new third opponent who you also block a mid section attack from with an inward middle block. Again you turn away from this third opponent to face a fourth opponent who you block using a low block but this fourth opponent you "finish" with a series of front kicks and punches. Note that there are no less than 3 opponents still free to do whatever they please since you only "blocked" their attacks and did nothing further. The Kick Block Punch Paradigm simply does not fit into the series of actions in this form at all. How can you seriously explain in a logical fashion how the performer of this form managed to dispacth all 3 opponents using only "blocks" I am really curious about this. Can it be explained in different paradigms? Yes it can. It is not even difficult if you know how to analyse your forms. Is it possible to explain this with Kick Block Punch? I do not think so, but I really really want the people throwing out the "Koreans did not know anything beyond Kick Block Punch" to explain this sequence and why it is in a form made by people only knowing Kick Block Punch.

You want more examples? You do not even have to go to another form to get more examples. Look at the clip again and focus on move 5 and 6. Here the performer blocks middle section attacks against one opponent (I guess this one also moves backwards while attacking something I have never seen in real life before). AGAIN the performer abrubtly turns away without having done anything offensive against this opponent (except two blocks) and face a 2nd opponent to his left. This one he finishes with a kick/ punch combo before turning 180 degrees and facing a third opponent which he blocks and finishes yet again with a kick punch combo. All this time the original opponent is free to do as he pleases.... Can this be explained in another point of view/ interpretation than kick block punch? Yes and it is not even that difficult if you can analyse your forms. Does it make sense in a Kick Block Punch paradigm? No it doesnt, but please feel free to explain to me how it does.

Do you want more examples of stuff not making sense in a kick block punch paradigm? Lets look at Taegeuk Sam Jang:
Look closely at 19-22 Seconds into the clip. Again there is a sequence where the performer is blocking one opponent and then turning away never to face him again... He does "finish" all the rest of his opponents but what about the first one? He is free to do as he pleases all the remainder of the form. Also how come the performer chooses to turn 270 degrees to face his new opponent? The Kick Block Punch Paradigm tells us that the performer senses or sees an attack and then turn to defend against it. Why does he not do this the most efficient way and only turn 90 degrees? He literally takes the longest route possible to defend himself. He can not possibly make this route longer without adding a 360 degree twist to his 270 degree turn. The same problem happens when he has finished his opponent and is attacked from behind. He "senses" this attack (he can not see it since he has his back turned) and when he "senses" the attack he chooses to turn his whole body the least efficient way possible. If he needed to do it this way to get to the correct distance to his opponent it means that if he had turned "in place" (which would be the most natural thing to do in a kick block punch paradigm) he would have turned faster but he would also be far out of range of the attack not neading to block at all:-D

These inconsitancies just keeps going and going and going. Look at the opening of Taegeuk Sa (4) Jang for instance:
Think about the most common application taught here. This is a defense against a two punch combo against the mid section in a Kick Block Punch Paradigm (I will short this down into KBP from now on). You block the first punch with the knife hand guarding block. You then block the second on while moving forward and OUCH... You just stepped into the punch while blocking it down. Because you where moving forward the whole range became completely wrong for it to function as a block. You are moving it downwards but since you are moving forwards you are walking into the punch. The only way to avoid it is to do the movement of the downwards openhanded block all the way down so the punching arm is led outside of your body insted of into it.

Later in the form you face an opponent that you excecute two sidekicks toward. You obviously did not finish him as you end this combination with a knife hand block. You then turn to face a new opponent eventhough you did not finish your first..... This new opponent you block, kick and then block again (demonstrating that the kick did not finish him). If the front kick did not finish him I will bet that the "block" did not finish him either. Yet you still turn your back on him to face a third opponent and do the exact same thing (end with a block).

The most unefficient use possible for an inward middle section block and a prime example of how "not to use it correctly as a block" is demonstrated at 27 seconds into the clip. You do a middle section inward block and punch (Ok this works) you then "sense" somehow that you are being attacked from behind. You turn in the most unefficient way possible, and block in the most unefficient way possible. Instead of a quick turn in Place you turn by stepping. Instead of a quick middle section block with your left arm you do it with the right arm. Now if you used the Chamber for this block as the block it would be OK but then again that is "advanced" or whatever you want to call it usage of the technique so you end up with a block that is as unefficient as possible.

I can do this all day long, picking the Kukki-Taekwondo forms apart demonstrating that they make no sense in a purely KBP paradigm. They simply do not do that at all and I want to know how come the Korean masters who knew nothing about "advanced" applications could possibly make forms that are simply so bad at demonstrating KBP applications? Why did they fill their forms with sequences that makes no sense whatsoever in this paradigm? And why do people insist that they lack any application beyond KBP applications when so many sequences can ONLY be explained using the "alternative advanced" applications?

To those who insist and throw around the "fact" that the KMA forms were based only on KBP applications please make a comment below explaining all the inconsistancies using KBP applications. If it is true that the Korean masters knew only KBP applications this should not be difficult to explain? If you can not explain it you should really reconsider next time you feel the urge to throw in "facts" about how the Korean master knew only basic KBP applications etc.    

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18 comments:

  1. Such an interesting discussion, and this is something that is always on my mind. One of the things that makes Taekwondo never get old to me. However, I must disagree with you, even though I wish what you say could actually be supported by fact.. I honestly believe that the Kukki forms is a "what you see is what you get" set of forms. The reason I say this is because of those who worked to create these forms simply would not have had this mindset when putting them together. Some of the sequences in the poomsae work together really well, and others are quite ridiculous. If you look at the Pinan set of kata, and look at them from the block, kick, punch, mindset, they are quite ridiculous as well. However, it is my opinion that the TKD pioneers would have taught forms in this way, leaving no medium for those who created the current KKW poomsae to delve deeper into forms training and create a set of forms with purposefully hidden or "alternate" applications.

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    1. That is the fastest comment I have ever gotten:-)

      I hear you and the mainstream approach to Taekwondo has always been kick Block punch and this is also how the mainstream has been taught. What I am wondering is if the People who made these forms who were the highest ranking students of each School would have been taught more indepth than the normal students were. This seems to have been common in the Asian Martial arts.

      Funakoshi, Mabuni and Kanken all explained Applications in their books and these are the ones who taught the 1st generation pioneers who again taught the 2nd generation who developed the Taegeuk set. Funakoshi is often portrayed as having no idea about Application but his writings reveal a completly different Picture. His Applications are more and more downplayed after ww2 but the pioneers studdied With him before ww2. Also Shotokan is far from the only root and two Schools had Chinese roots where forms Applications were the norm and not the exception..

      I would just believe that when the formators of the Taegeuk set designed the New forms from scratch they had the chance to make forms which did make Perfect sense in kick Block punch setting but they did not do this. I therefore think that we have two options:

      1 They randomly strung basic techniques together With no plan whatsover just making forms for the sake of having forms

      2 They New a little more than what People today give them credit for.

      I believe in option two. They would not need a deep understanding of forms to make them With what People today think is "deep". Small Things like the use of the pulling hand, offense and defense together, Blocks as strikes etc would be all that is needed. These concepts are explained in detail in Funakoshi, Toyama and Mabuni`s writings and if you have seen Sihak Henry Cho`s book from 1968 you will see that he makes use of the pulling hand on nearly all of the techniques when he is demonstrating.

      I am not saying that the Taegeuk forms are exceptional "deep" as they have not matured nearly as much as the Karate forms have, but at the same time I can not but feel that if the originators were so heavily into modern mainstream kick Block punch Applications they would have based their forms on this approach and therefore their forms would make Perfect sense of that kind of Applications. Since they do not make sense from that viewpoint but they do from the little more "deeper" viewpoint I feel that option 2 as I described above is the more likely (looking at the forms themselves). The kick Block punch viewpiont fail to explain the forms.

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  2. Definitely a valid thought. However, I don't believe things such as the pulling hand to be deep at all, and any instructor with even a basic understanding of his art will know what the pulling hand is doing. What I consider "deep" are things like Simon John O'neill's views on the Taegeuk forms. Although he wrote an outstanding book with great ideas, they were simply that; his ideas. I strongly disbelieve his portrayal of the Taegeuk forms were what the founders were trying to teach when they constructed them. I think that the Taegeuk forms were quite simply put together based on a progression from simplicity in basic techniques to more complex techniques.

    Like I said in my last comment, some of the sequences make sense, and some don't. However, not everything we see as a sequence is meant to be a sequence. When techniques are done one after the other that don't make sense, it is probably because they are just meant to be a way of practicing that technique, not practicing a sequence of techniques. When you look as a perceived sequence as not making sense, it makes you think "Aha! There must be a much deeper application here in order to make these movements work together," rather than just understanding that your "sequence" was not really intended on being a sequence in the first place, but rather two separate technique to be practiced one after the other.

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    1. You would be very surprised to find that a lot of people don't understand the concept of the pulling hand. It isn't often taught in mainstream martial arts: TKD or Karate or whatever. A lot of demonstrated "bunkai" or self defense scenarios don't even take this into account.

      One part of the KBP argument that bothers me is why create elaborate grading forms with apparent difficulties? Muay Thai and BJJ classes do just fine teaching strings of techniques to people and grading them as they see fit. You could easily create a whole list of simple and effective drills going forward and back and charge copious amounts of cash to pay the rent instead of locking people in a room and coming up with a whole slew of Taoist belief patterns based on solid and broken lines to enforce the DO aspect. Especially if you want to distance yourself from Karate, why give deep meanings into patterns and steal their techniques if they didn't mean anything?

      O'Neill's book is brilliant and I don't agree with all the sequences in his book, either. To me it is more about opening one's mind to finding the information rather than his information being the intended lesson from the Kukkiwon. He is providing his take based on the progressive difficulty of the forms as you state. To your point, some sequences are composed of just one technique leading one to reason that not everything strings together, but some things are better practiced alone but stored in a form. That still doesn't mean its application is KBP only though. People argue that there are no deep applications intended, but if O'Neill can find some, it stands to reason that the mnemonics in the forms serve a purpose other than what meets the eye.

      At the risk of coming off as a conspiracy theorist, over the last 27 years I have noticed that TKD has moved from being very Self-Protection to Sporting and there is a clear industry secret/understanding that you don't teach the little kids that support your rent how to damage their bullies too severely, so why teach the applications outside of the forms creation committee? The apparent focus of TKD is to survive as a sporting art and to disavow all heritage to Okinawan/JMA and CMA. Surely everyone here has noticed that Olympic sparring almost mirrors Taekkyon in all aspects except the throwing. You used to be able to punch and win points, now that is being greatly deemphasized and I won't be surprised if points from punching is all but phased out.

      I'm obviously a believer that the Masters know and knew more than what is conveyed, but I am not going to begrudge anyone that says that TKD is taught in the mainstream as KBP because with the exception of a few, it is.

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    2. Many intuitivly understand the practical meaning of the pulling hand without conciously making the Connection between form and focus. Even more People fail to even understand this intuitivly. Also I have almost never seen the pulling hand being taught openly in texts, videos or in the Dojang I have visited. Simon O`Neill does not claim that his Applications are the correct ones they are simply his way of using the forms in a productive way in his syllabus. He does believe that the forms originator left us forms With more sophisticated applicaitions than kick Block punch (as you can read in the interview With him on this very blog).

      I look to the history and the culture and check the original writings of the Karate pioneers that the Kwan founders studied under and look at the seemingly odd sequences in Our forms today and can not help but to think that the originators of the forms knew more than we give them credit for. I have no concrete evidence for this and it is only my belief, but I am not going to be difficult and state my beliefs as "facts". What bugs me is that those who believe firmly about the kick Block punch mentality and basic knowledge if any the originators had do not have concrete evidence against more sophisticated knowledge in the forms either. Instead of admitting this lack of evidence they state stuff as fact everywhere. MAist25 is one of the few who starts his post With the honest Words "I think":-) I also "think":-)

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    3. And there is where you hit the nail on the head: "Facts" vs "I think".

      Most "Facts"people apply Occam's razor too liberally and don't understand that this is a very open ended discussion due to the nature of how the facts about forms are not shared, lost, obfuscated, don't exist, etc. No one really knows the truth. So running around and stating opinion as "fact" is irresponsible.

      Then you will find those of us who "Think" or opine logical assertions whilst trying to respect the other view on the subject matter who understand the nature of the discussion. MAist25 definitely falling into that category. :- D

      This isn't like someone trying to tell you the sky is magenta. That is wrong. One discussion is not like the other. Don't treat them that way.

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  3. "I think that the Taegeuk forms were quite simply put together based on a progression from simplicity in basic techniques to more complex techniques."

    I like how you start With "I think" in that sentence. That is truly the only thing we can do:-) It just bothers me that People state Things as facts when we can not truly know if they are indeed facts. Your statement can be true and in the Taegeuk to Koryo progression is logical but it does not exclude more "Advanced/ deeper/ hidden/ alternative" Applications in them. Iain Abernethy finds the Pinan Kata to be very practical and he has found very good uses for Pinan Nidan /Heian Shodan which by all acounts is a very basic form technique wise. The Pinan seems to progress logically in difficulty of performance from the 1st to the 5th like the Taegeuk does (Funakoshi switched the order to make it even more logical progression of difficulty perfomance wise). A progression of difficulty does in no way exclude the possibility of more Advanced than kick Block punch Applications within a form set.

    "Like I said in my last comment, some of the sequences make sense, and some don't. However, not everything we see as a sequence is meant to be a sequence. When techniques are done one after the other that don't make sense, it is probably because they are just meant to be a way of practicing that technique, not practicing a sequence of techniques. When you look as a perceived sequence as not making sense, it makes you think "Aha! There must be a much deeper application here in order to make these movements work together," rather than just understanding that your "sequence" was not really intended on being a sequence in the first place, but rather two separate technique to be practiced one after the other."

    If I follow this part correctly you state that some techniques are stand alone techniques while others are sequences? If we go back to the Taegeuk I (2) Jang example where you first Block two high Blocks, then turn middle Block and then turn again middle Block and then turn again low Block and finish the opponent With front kick middle punch combo. Are the Block suposed to be single techniques here instead of a sequence? If so they still make no sense from a kick Block punch Application. The Kukkiwon texbook urges us to find out the practicality of the forms in Our training hinting that the forms are meant to be used in a very practical way (in terms of Applications). Lee Kyu-Hyong (9th Dan) in his latest book entitled “What is Taekwondo Poomsae?” makes numerous claims that all of the Taekwondo forms (and therefore also the Taegeuk set) were indeed designed purely for fighting. Quotes like: “Poomsae training primarily aims to learn the face to face fighting in the actual field to protect oneself in an emergency”, and “Poomsae does not intend to look beautiful to others, or show off, but it is thoroughly for a fight” puts a view of practical Application and not just technique training into consideration.

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  4. I just simply do not see why forms would be created with purposefully hidden techniques. The founders of the poomsae created and taught the forms as they were meant to be performed. If they had created forms that were supposed to contain joint locks and throws, etc. they would have taught them as such. Also, even in finding alternative applications to movements in the forms, they are usually extremely awkward and would either be very ineffective or require alteration to the entire movement to make the technique work, therefore leaving the movement to not even resemble the "textbook" way of performing the technique.

    Do I believe Karate kata to have alternative applications than the KBP? Hell yea. But Kukki Taekwondo patterns? No. At least, they were not intended to. If you find them on your own, and create your own alternate applications through the Kukkiwon forms, then that's great. But the way they are described in the KKW textbook is the way they are supposed to be. Nothing is hidden, there are no grandmasters in the KKW who know the "true" applications to the taegeuk series yet publish KBP applications in the textbooks. What you see is what you get, plain and simple.

    Taekwondo has forms to keep alive the "essence" of a deeply traditional art. If TKD did not have forms, it would not fit that perception of being a traditional Asian art. Even though TKD wanted to look different from Karate, it did not want to look too too different. Why? because Karate is considered a "traditional" art that has forms dating back hundreds of years. Chinese martial arts have forms dating back hundreds of years. How would Koreans be able to connect their art back hundreds or even thousands of years if we do not practice ancient forms? Why do you think Keumgang makki is in our forms? Because it is a very effective technique? No, its because someone found a figure in an old cave of some ancient Korean dude performing that "movement." It was used as a way to root Taekwondo to ancient Korea.

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  5. I absolutely never state any of my opinions or thoughts as fact, because I don't have any proof of any of this lol. Its just the way I think and unless anybody can prove someone else wrong, we are all simply guessing. But it makes for very interesting conversation for sure!

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  6. "I just simply do not see why forms would be created with purposefully hidden techniques. The founders of the poomsae created and taught the forms as they were meant to be performed. If they had created forms that were supposed to contain joint locks and throws, etc. they would have taught them as such."

    No one is saying they hid stuff. As you say if you only add the pulling hand theory into the mix suddenly many bad official applicaitons are not so bad after all yet People who do not know about the pulling hand would find these "New" Applications "hidden". It is not hidden as it is for all to see. "Hidden" would be to make the forms without the hand on the hips but only those With the knowledge that the forms should be Applied With a pulling hand would understand the Application. And who says that joint Locks are not included in the Poomsae? Even Kukkiwon Textbooks official Applications teaches at least two joint Locks as Applications for movements of Poomsaae. One even being labelled Makki!

    The teaching of the forms has focused not on Application but on standardisation as the New forms were made in part for the unification of the different Schools. The fact that the focus on teaching them was on standardisation of movement does not in itself exclude better Applications than kick Block punch. Your thoughts on these alternative Applications being awkward and not effective is individual. What Works for one does not work for the NeXT. Another possibility is that the ineffective Applications might just be wrong. Other more practical and fitting can still be out there but not found yet.

    "Do I believe Karate kata to have alternative applications than the KBP? Hell yea. But Kukki Taekwondo patterns? No. At least, they were not intended to."

    Says who? Now you are stating it as fact. Who says it does not? Kukkiwons Application for the spreading mountain Block of pyungwon poomsae is not a double Block against two opponents but a joint Lock against the elbows of one opponent grasping you. Is that not something different to kick Block punch? This is the official Application of the Kukkiwon to that movement.

    "Why do you think Keumgang makki is in our forms? Because it is a very effective technique? No, its because someone found a figure in an old cave of some ancient Korean dude performing that "movement." It was used as a way to root Taekwondo to ancient Korea."

    Actually if I remember correctly the Keumgang Arae Makki is included in the "Itosu Rohai Kata series". I do not remember which one. It is the same stance and everything:-) They also found the technique displayed in old statutues etc and used it but it was allready a viable martial art technique (it does not work as a double Block against two different opponents though).



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    1. MAist25, whilst I think you are reaching with regards to thinking that the Kukki patterns don't have applications, that does sound like fact vs opinion. I think that the Kukki patterns are too well structured not to contain some sort of cohesive plan to ingrain a solid foundation into a student.

      With regards to KGM or any other type of paintings on walls, I do agree that the Koreans are trying very hard to make TKD older than it really is (as I stated above in my "conspiracy" paragraph) and if not specifically in the case for KGM then one can argue the crazy amount of kicking found in TKD vs other MA's to tie is back to Taekkyon or Subak.

      I think the truth of this is found somewhere in between all of this speculation. I for one, can't believe how many comments there are on this post already.

      Part of me believes that the forms all contain fundamental mechanics that allow us to figure out practical applications with some guidance from competent people. I think the problem is that the competency is lacking in mainstream TKD and that there are people that don't want the competency shared. Obviously I have no proof one way or the other, but I fail to see how so many stupid people could run an organization like the Kukkiwon or WTF (or ITF for that matter) effectively and grow the art to such a degree.

      I think the originators had some basics they thought worked with the movements but that they wanted most of us to do what O'Neill has done and think of some things ourselves. We all think differently and our "style" of TKD probably will reflect how we fight with our personality, not with Iain's, Simon's or Stuart's.

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  7. I absolutely believe the Kukki forms have applications, but I think the applications are exactly what you see. It doesnt have to be that way, because you can create other applications to the movements that make more sense to you or work well in various self defense situations. However, what I am most interested in is what were the intentions of those who created the forms? What was going through their heads, and what did they want the taegeuk poomsae to teach us? Seeing how these forms are so young, it is frustrating to me to think that we already have come to the point where we do not understand what we are supposed to get from these forms. On the other hand, it makes things quite interesting. Life is boring if everything is spoon fed to you. But no matter what, the founders of the Taegeuk poomsae did have a very good idea of what they wanted to pass along through their forms and they did have reasons for putting techniques where they did. I just dont understand that after this short amount of time, how have we already lost the answer to this question? I understand why it is difficult to understand what the creator of Bassai was trying to pass along simply because of how old the form is. But a form created in the 1970's should still be fairly well understood.

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    1. "I absolutely believe the Kukki forms have applications, but I think the applications are exactly what you see."

      But what do you see?:-) Take the sequence from Taegeuk 2 Jang that I am going on and on about (sorry about that). What do you see? Mainstream today would say two Blocks against face punches, turn and Block a middle punch, turn and Block a middle punch, turn and Block a front kick and kick and punch the opponent 3 times. Is this what you see?

      " However, what I am most interested in is what were the intentions of those who created the forms? What was going through their heads, and what did they want the taegeuk poomsae to teach us? Seeing how these forms are so young, it is frustrating to me to think that we already have come to the point where we do not understand what we are supposed to get from these forms"

      Agree:-) Only thing that the Kukkiwon has been good at is to teach the philosphical Foundation of the forms (Taegeuk) while they stress that the hunt for practical Applications is a vital part of poomsae training and that it is a personal hunt.

      "But no matter what, the founders of the Taegeuk poomsae did have a very good idea of what they wanted to pass along through their forms and they did have reasons for putting techniques where they did"

      I think so too, but my view is that they put the techniques the way they did because of the Applications they had in mind (but we do not know which ones).

      " I just dont understand that after this short amount of time, how have we already lost the answer to this question? I understand why it is difficult to understand what the creator of Bassai was trying to pass along simply because of how old the form is. But a form created in the 1970's should still be fairly well understood. "

      It should be, but it isnt. The older forms are a piece of art. They have been matured 100s of years. The forms we practise from the 1970s should be Clear as day to us, but unfortunatly the emphasis of teaching them was to get "everyone" to Train them as fast as possible in the most standarised way possible With almost no emphasis on Application. The emphasis in teaching and training them does not take away from the possibility of what can be found in them and indeed what went into making them. As you are in the facebook Group you are aware of the "rumor" of a set of notes from the creations of the taegeuk forms set. I would so much love to get my hands on those:-) They might answer all Our questions on what the originators had in mind. Maybe I am right? Maybe I am wrong? As for the time being there is no concrete evidence either way.

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  8. Man what I would do to get my hands on those notes...

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  9. MAist25, I wanted to highlight your questions as well, because they are universal regardless of what your beliefs are and it's their answers are what I believe we are chasing.

    I really want to see those notes too. Can't we all show up at this guy's door and threaten to KBP him if he doesn't give us our "Applications" back? Ha ha.

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