Wednesday, 20 September 2017

You are most likely using "boonhae" wrong...

(This is a short rant, and not exactly a serious article)

In Taekwondo we use Korean terminology eventhough the art is practised world wide. Some terminology is very well known, other terminology is rather obscure. Poomsae, Chagi, Jireugi, Makki etc are very well known, as well as Mudo, Do, Ho Sin Sul, Taegeuk etc. The above examples ranges from technical to theoretical terminology. When it comes to forms interpretation and especially application of forms many default to the use of Boonhae, or sometimes Hae Sul. I have even seen Boonhae Hae Sul as a term used for application. This usage which is often wrongly used can be traced back to one single person and that person is none other than my friend Stuart Anslow.

Some years ago he wrote a brilliant book called Chang Hon Tul Boonhae Hae Sul. Chang Hon refers to Choi Hong Hi`s pseudonym, Tul refers to pattern, Boonhae means to break apart or dissect and Hae Sul means the explanation of, or commentary on something. As a title on that particular book (and its sequel) it works brilliantly as it describes what his book is all about. The problem is when people take one or two words from this title and apply it to everything that has to do with  pattern/forms applications. We see the same in the Karate world where everything in application of Kata is Bunkai, when in fact the term they should use would be Oyo (based on my understanding after reading a few books).

I have written about these terms befor on this blog but after looking through a few youtube videos I`ve noticed that many label their applications Boonhae, Boonhae Hae Sul or Hae Sul. This usage makes little sense in this context. Boonhae, as I have written before means to take apart, break apart, or dissect soemething to see how it works. So on its own it can be used to describe the first stage of what you do to understand Poomsae, you take it apart. It is not a word for what you find however, it simply means to take apart. If you want to know what this and that move in Taegeuk il Jang is for, you need to take the form apart before you can start to look at it.

Hae Sul can be used as a term for application, but I do not find it to be a good term for application. What I expect to get when I see Hae Sul being used is a commentary, a theoretical explanation. In Kukki TKD litterature there is in fact a book called Poomsae Hae Sul with an English title The explanation of Poomsae. There is not a single application in the whole book. What that book explains and is a commentary about is the performance of the forms, coupled with a little philosophy before each form. It goes to great length to explain the performance of the forms and it is very techniqal and theoretical. Boonhae Hae Sul together can be used when you are explaining how to break something apart to understand how it works. This is why Stuart Anslow`s title is so good, as the title clearly explains what his book is about. It is not only applications, it is also about the process that he himself used to get to where he is today.

Before giving my preferred term for application I think there is another term to be explained and that is Boonseok. Boonseok means analysis. You break the form apart (boonhae), you then analyse (boonseok) the pieces to find out what they do. You can do this any noumber of ways, but breaking them (the forms) apart, and then do some sort of analysis is what you do. What you find then is one or more applications to the individual pieces of the forms. The practial application of something in Korean is Eunyoung, and this term is in use by the Kukkiwon Textbook as the practical applications of Poomsae. So after breaking the form apart and the following analysis of the individual parts you find eunyoung (applications) which you then (hopefully) train and drill. If you are demonstrating the practical applications you find in articles, video clips, DVD`s etc you are demonstrating eunyoung. If you are talking about the very first step in the process of how to find these eunyoung you are talking about Boonhae. If you are writing or speaking alot about this stage you are delivering or making Boonhae Hae Sul. Same for the next stage, if you are focusing on the analysis part you are making, holding or delivering Boonseok Hae Sul.

So to make it clear: If I am making a video today demonstrating applications to Taegeuk Il Jang I am not going to label it Boonhae. Its going to be called something Eunyoung. Allthough seeing as to how people are missusing the terms I might call the clip Boonhae so that people can find it :-P

I hope to provide much more video content to this blog in the future. I have therefore set up a GoFundMe page on which I hope I can crowdfund a video editing software so I can make good quality videos for the blogs readers. If you want to contribute please visit the link to my GoFundMe page. Every donation helps :-)


  1. There does exist a book from the KTA dedicated to pumsae application. It's title is "Taegwondo Pumsae Puli" (태권도 품새 풀이).

    puli (풀이): explanation, extraction, removing (via goggle translate)

    1. That`s very interesting :-) Thanks for commenting:-)

  2. I just discovered this blog and I have been reading all the articles. So much information! Thanks for sharing.

    As a second Dan myself, I have been meaning to go into some in-depth research on the (philosophical) background and application of certain techniques. What are some books/articles you recommend starting at?

    1. Thanks for your kind words on the blog:-) As for your question it would make for an exhaustive list of books. It would help if you could narrow it down a little:-) Do you want to see how Kwan-era Taekwondo thought about things and how they applied Taekwondo in their textbooks? Do you want to see how the Kwan founders teachers applied their system? Do you want to look at how the roots of Karate viewed their system? A little bit of everything? Do you want more focus on philosophy? I have been wondering about making a blog post exclusively on study material for Taekwondo nerds :-P But if you narrow it down a little I can certainly post a list for you:-)

    2. Thanks for getting back to me. I am mostly interested in the philosophy behind techniques (and WTF TKD in general) and techniques and forms that have been lost over time. am grossly unaware of the deeper history of my martial art (its roots and inspirations; you speak of Kwan-era and I don't know what you mean) and I would like to correct that. Do you know anything?

    3. No problem:-) the Kwan era refers to roughly 1944-1970. Kwan can be translated loosely as school and there were several schools of taekwondo before the ITF, the kukkiwon and the WTF was founded.

      When you ask about philosophy behind the techniques do you really mean the applications? How they are to be used? If say the techniques in Taekwondo are pragmatic and practical in nature. The poomsae on the other hand has philosophy attached to them.