Monday, 31 August 2015

Taegeuk Il Jang - A love letter.

This will be a busy few months for me. I have taken upon myself to start teaching in the Dojang I study in every Friday evening for the grown ups. I will be teaching the syllabus of the organisation I
belong to (Traditional Taekwondo Union) with (hopefully) my own thoughts and spin on things. I hope to be able to use a couple of minutes after the training session is over to either film or take pictures of some of the apps I use for the forms as practical applications for Poomsae beyond the normal kick block punch ones. I am not sure as of which media I will end up with but currently I lean towards pictures as that would allow me to make the posts into articles for this blog as well as Totally Taekwondo Magazine (and others like Moosin).

But before I start diving into Applications of Taegeuk Il Jang I thought it would be fun to write a little about the form and why exactly Taegeuk Il Jang as opposed to any of the other forms.

Short historical background of Taegeuk Il Jang

Taegeuk Il Jang is one of the newest Korean Martial Arts forms that were made after Taekwondo started comming into its own. Prior to the Taegeuk forms set being made the different Kwan (Schools) would practise either directly imported Karate forms, or the Palgwe forms (after 1967). The Karate forms and Palgwe forms were pretty close in terms of body mechanics, technique selection and indeed whole sequences, while the Taegeuk form set started a bias toward more kicks (allthough basic kicks), different favorite techniques (the common Momtong An Makki vs the previously more popular An Palmok Bakkat Makki), more mobile stances (introduction of Ap Seogi) etc. The Taegeuk set also included more people in the comitte who made the forms. My personal opinion is that the Taegeuk forms benifitted from this more wide knowledge base but that is simply my opinion. So who exactly made the Taegeuk forms?
  • Kwak Kun Sik (Chung Do Kwan/ Captain of millitary academy and therefore also Oh Do Kwan)
  • Park Hae Man (Chung Do Kwan)
  • Hyun Jong Myun (Chung Do Kwan/ Oh Do Kwan)
  • Lee Yong Sup (Song Moo Kwan)
  • Lee Kyo Yun (Yoon Moo Kwan/ and founder of Han Moo Kwan)
  • Kim Son Bae (Chang Moo Kwan)
These were the men responsible for the Palgwe, original Koryo and the rest of the current black belt forms of KTA/Kukkiwon recognized by the WTF.

Taegeuk and the "new" Koryo was developed by the same comitte whith the addition of:
  • Bae Yong Ki (Ji Do Kwan)
  • Lee Chong Woo (Ji Do Kwan)
  • Han Young Tae (Moo Duk Kwan) 

Why do I love Taegeuk Il Jang?

I often get this question when discussing forms applications and people learn that one of the most widely hated forms is on my "shortlist" of forms to study deep. I have many reasons for having this form as one of my favorite forms.

  1. It is easy to perform.
  2. It contains only high percentage effective techniques.
  3. It contains enough variation in techniques to cover many different "problems"
  4. It teaches how to generate power from everyday walking stance as well as more traditional grounded stances.
  5. It incorporates many different key methods of self defense
I think the points above deserve a little more "flesh" so the readers of this blog will understand me better (hopefully). Keep in mind though that the reasons above are just a few. There are many more:-)

1: It is easy to perform

This is an often overlooked reason to love a form. Many seem to be drawn to the more advanced ones because they like and are drawn to the challenge of doing the forms. Personally I love the fact that I can do this form no matter how good or bad my current shape is. I can do it whether I am injured, old, warm or cold. I do not need a lot of space and it is so short that I can sneak it in whenever I feel like it. This is also a form that I picture myself being able to do when I am old (like 70 or 80 if I am Lucky enough to be that old). How can you not love a form that will faithfully stand by you no matter how old you get, or inflexible or injured (depending on the injury of course)? There are challenges within the form, and you can most certainly make it harder for yourself if you want to (kick straight up for instance) but all in all this is a lifelong form for me and it contains pretty much all I need to extrapolate usefull applications for use.

2: It contains only high percentage effective techniques.

With this I mean that it contain basic gross body movement that is functional and the typical go to movements for me when the s...t hits the fan. Hammerfist strikes, deflections, punches, kicks, basic locks etc. I once made a poll for a little project about which techniques people believed they would use in a real life situation. All the techniques in Taegeuk Il Jang made it to the top of the list.

3: It contains enough variation in techniques to cover many different "problems"

Just writing this down as fast as I can I can see defenses against:
  • Straight punch
  • push
  • grabs (wrist, lapel, upper arm, throat)
  • round punches
  • etc
In addition to the above the mothods with variations will cover pretty much everyting else you can come up with. The underlying principles will take care of the rest I think :-)

4: It teaches how to generate power from everyday walking stance as well as more traditional grounded stances.

The narrow stances negativity usually comes from Shotokan stylists I think at least. Even so many Taekwondoin and related martial arts practisioners (well Shotokan fits in with the last category) points to the short stances as a weakness of the form. I believe however that the mix between long front walking stance and short front walking stance (ap koobi seogi and ap seogi) is one of the forms greatest strengths. Being forced to learn how to generate power from the stance you are most probably in when attacked is a great thing for me and it even seems like a no brainer as a skill you would love to have if you are practising for self defense. Several Okinawan Karate styles also practise this stance and Nagamine even recommends the stance in his book as one of the most important one in his style. And not only do you get the benefit of learning to generate power from the short walking stance you also get the same traditional power generation techniques from the lower stance in the very same form :-)

5: It incorporates many different key methods of self defense

This is really related to point 3 but some of the methods in the form include but is far from limited to
  • basic parries, blocks and covers
  • parry - pass method is introduced
  • blocks that transfer into strikes in one move
  • strikes to vital points
  • using much of your body to strike (forearms, legs, knees, forefist, hammerfist, etc
  • release and counters for grabs
and so much more.

Many rush through this form to never revisit again in their studies, but perhaps a series of posts on this blog will make people revisit the foundation of the Taegeuk series again?


  1. Excellent article! The point about teaching you to generate power from both deep and narrow, natural stances mirrors my thoughts so closely I almost thought you stole it! ;)

    It's so awesome to hear you're going to be an instructor now. My encouragement to you is not just to be a teacher who helps your school, but be a resource to your school. Read a little but on educational research experiments, and use those methods to test your student's responses so that you can know by evidence what works the best. Then you can help improve your school, benefiting your head instructor, but sharing those insights.

    1. Thanks for the educational advice. I used to have my own "Department" within the Dojang that I ran until my workload at my actual work became too much, and I have been substituting for the other instructors ever since so I have some experience being an instructor. That said its been a few years since I have had regular teachings so I am really looking forward to it. I have made concrete goals for each month and lesson plans for each training from now until December (I will use the Christmas holliday to re evaluate my teaching methods and take what I learn into next "Seasons" lesson plans:-) I am very very psyched about this.

      As for the thoughts about Taegeuk Il Jang teaching to generate Power from short and long stances it is something I have been thinking about since at least as far back as 2004 (I found some old articles on an external harddrive a few months back so I doubt I stole it, but I know we two are thinking a lot a like on many matters of Taekwondo) . What can I say "great minds think alike" ;-)

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