Yes, they are very useful. In order to understand the usefulness of Taekwon-Do patterns (tuls) in a real fight, let us consider a hypothetical situation.
A hypothetical situation
Let us imagine that you are walking on a lonely street. There is another man waiting in a dark corner of the street, who intends to steal the belongings of whoever passes by. This man sees you. He suddenly emerges from the shadows and starts walking towards you. Due to your peripheral vision, you have noticed that a man is walking towards you from your left side. You do not know the man’s intentions and you wonder why would a man suddenly come towards you? You walk a little bit faster and you notice that the man has also increased his speed. Now you know that the man is only coming towards you. Your mind is racing and you think that the man probably wants to hurt you or wants to snatch your purse. You think of running away but the distance between you and him is closing fast. So you stop and are ready to tackle the situation. You turn left and face the coming man. The man throws a kick at you. It is a low kick that will probably land on the thigh of your left leg. Immediately you move your left leg forward and with your left hand you block his kick. Due to the force of your low block with your left hand, the man shouts in pain, is disbalanced and staggers forward towards you. You move your right leg forward and with your right hand you give a powerful punch to his chest. The man falls backwards and hits the ground in a semi-unconscious state. You see some more men coming. You run away.
Analysing the situation
Later, in the safety of your home, when you analyse what had happened, you realise that by your peripheral vision you were able to see the man coming towards you. So, peripheral vision is important. Initially, you had thought of running away. So, avoiding a fight is important. The distance between you and the man was closing fast and you had no option but to courageously handle the situation. So, handling a situation with courage is important. You stopped and were ready to tackle the man. So, being ready is important. Because you turned and faced the man, you were able to see that the man was about to throw a kick. So, facing the opponent is important. The man gave a low kick at your left leg and you moved your left leg forward. So, moving the target away is important. Then with your left hand you defended yourself by executing a low block. So, blocking is important. Your block had such force that it hurt his leg and he shouted in pain. So, having a force in a block is important. Due to this force, the man was disbalanced. So, disbalancing the opponent is important. Being disbalanced, the man was staggering towards you. Therefore, you moved your right leg forward and attacked him with a powerful right punch to his chest. So, punching is important. Your punch made the man semi-unconscious and he fell on the street. So, having a force in a punch is important. You noticed that some more people were coming and you ran away. So, avoiding unnecessary further fight is important. The man had come from your left side, but supposing if he had come from the right side, then you would have used your opposite limbs. So, practice of using both left and right limbs is important. Supposing the man had come from behind you or in front of you? So, practice in all the directions is important.
Learning from the situation
Thus, by reflecting on what had happened to you, you have learnt that:
– peripheral vision is important
– avoiding a fight is important
– handling a situation with courage is important
– being ready is important
– facing the opponent is important
– moving the target away is important
– blocking is important
– having a force in a block is important
– disbalancing the opponent is important
– punching is important
– having a force in a punch is important
– avoiding unnecessary further fight is important
– practice of using both left and right limbs is important
– practice in all the directions is important
How to transmit your learning to others?
Now, these lessons that you have learnt in a fight, albeit an imaginary fight, nonetheless, you want to teach it to others for their benefit. How do you do it? You may write them in words or you may draw them in drawings. But both writing and drawing have limitations, since fighting is a practical art. So, the only way that you can teach them without any limitations, is by showing the actual physical movements that you did. You can show your actual movements only by repeating the movements that you did. By repeating the movements, you have created a small pattern consisting of few steps only.
For example, the above imaginary situation is based on the first few steps of the pattern known as “Chon-Ji”. The first few steps in Chon-Ji are:
1. Begin in the ready stance
2. Turn 90 degrees left
3. Move the left leg forward and take a walking stance
4. Use the left hand to give a low block with your outer forearm
5. Move the right leg forward and take a walking stance
6. Deliver a punch to the middle section with the right hand
Note that there is no stopping between the steps and it has to be done in one single motion, as if it were one single action. These same steps are repeated with the opposite limbs in an opposite direction, since practice of using both left and right limbs is important.
In this manner, small patterns of few steps were created by real warriors based on their real fighting experiences. Thus, patterns are not choreographed dances or useless in real fights, since they comprise of smaller patterns, which are the real movements of real fighters, who performed them while fighting real fights. These real movements of real fighters are transmitted to others by way of patterns.
One pattern is a collection of two or more smaller patterns
In real fights, small patterns are critical. But there were many warriors and there were many fights, which led to many small patterns being created. Every warrior created several small patterns and likewise, over time, millions of small patterns were created by several thousands of warriors. It was not possible to teach such a large amount of small patterns. Therefore, related smaller patterns were collected together to form a single big pattern, which could be taught to the students. Nowadays, one pattern may contain from two to thirty or even fifty smaller patterns. For example, the pattern Chon-Ji may be considered as a collection of three related smaller patterns. Let us see how it may be so considered.
Let us extend our hypothetical fight and let us further imagine that the next day another person named “Y” is walking on the same street. That same man who attacked you, now moves towards Y. Y turns left and faces the man. Instead of throwing a kick, this time the man throws a punch with his right hand. Y moves his left leg forward and blocks the punch with his left forearm. Then Y moves his right leg forward and with his right hand delivers a punch to the chest of the man. The man falls on the ground. Y runs away.
This experience may be shown in a small pattern as follows:
1. Turn 90 degrees left.
2. Move your left leg forward in an L-stance
3. Execute a middle block with left inner forearm
4. Move your right leg forward in a walking stance
5. Deliver a punch to the middle section with the right hand
Note that there is no stopping between the steps. These same steps are repeated with the opposite limbs in an opposite direction. These steps make the intermediate steps of the pattern Chon-Ji.
Let us further imagine that few days later, another person named “Z” is walking on the same street and that same man now attacks Z. Instead of coming from the left side, now the man comes straight in front of Z. Z moves his right leg forward and with his right hand gives a punch to the man’s chest. The man is able to take the punch and lunges forward to grab Z. Z quickly moves his right leg back and with his left hand gives a second punch to the man’s chest. Again, Z quickly moves his left leg back and with his right hand gives a third punch to the man’s chest. The man is unable to take three punches coming one after the next in rapid succession and he collapses on the ground. Z runs away.
This experience may be shown in a small pattern as follows:
1. Step forward by moving right leg forward in a walking stance.
2. Deliver a punch with the right hand to the middle section.
3. Step backward by moving right leg backward in a walking stance.
4. Deliver a punch with the left hand to the middle section.
5. Step backward by moving left leg backward in a walking stance.
6. Deliver a punch with the right hand to the middle section and yell “Kihap”!
7. When the command is given, move left leg forward and assume the ready stance.
Note that there is no stopping between the steps. These steps make the concluding steps of the pattern Chon-Ji.
Thus, the one big pattern Chon-Ji, may be considered as a related collection of three different real experiences of three different real fighters in three different real fights. Each experience is a small pattern and small patterns are vital in real fights.
If small patterns are important then why practice a large pattern?
Every fighter knew in the past, they know in the present, and they will know in the future, that a real fight is totally unpredictable and in any fight, survival is paramount. But if the fight is unpredictable then survival is also unpredictable. An effective way of minimising the unpredictability and maximising the chances of survival, is to master the real moves, performed by real fighters, in real fights, which are as detailed in small patterns. Therefore, small patterns are most effective in real fights.
If this be so, they why practice a large pattern? A large pattern is merely a compilation of related smaller patterns. Hence, practising a large pattern is actually practising smaller patterns. A large pattern executes smaller patterns in all directions and using both right and left limbs, because the opponent may strike from any direction and from any side. By practising in all directions and using both left and right limbs, the chances of survival are increased. Patterns in Taekwon-Do are practised in four directions as shown below:
Surviving a fight is most important and practice of a large pattern increases the chances of survival. Therefore, one must practice a large pattern. But the practice should be such that each large pattern is thoroughly understood in terms of the collected smaller patterns. Each pattern has to be disassembled, dissected and analysed into smaller patterns. This understanding of the smaller patterns is vital in real fights. By practising a large pattern, one is able to practice several related smaller patterns in all directions. This practice can make a huge difference in winning or losing a fight, in staying alive or dying in a fight. Hence, large patterns should be practised with the correct technique, power, and in absolute seriousness.
How to recognise a small pattern?
A big pattern is a record, a collection, a compilation of many smaller patterns, which individually must be understood. But to understand a small pattern, one must first recognise a small pattern. How can one know which steps make a small pattern? Generally, the minimum steps taken for defending and/or attacking, which results in disabling or disarming the opponent, may be considered as one small pattern. However, what constitutes a small pattern is totally dependent on the student’s understanding. Unfortunately, there is no official documentation on how a pattern may be segmented into smaller patterns. Therefore, the analysis, the dissection, the disassembly of a big pattern into smaller patterns depends entirely on the student’s understanding. The more dedicated a student is, the greater will be the student’s understanding of the smaller patterns.
Every martial art of the world imparts training in a common sequence. This sequence starts from fundamentals and proceeds to patterns, which leads to sparring and ends in real combat. The survivors of real combat show the moves due to which they survived, and these moves become new small patterns. Thereafter, out of these small patterns, few are selected which can be related together, and these selected smaller patterns are compiled to form one big pattern. The big patterns are then taught to the next generation of fighters.
At first, the student learns fundamental exercises like stances, punches, kicks, blocks, throws, grappling, gymnastics and other related basic moves. Thereafter, patterns are learnt, where a thorough understanding of all the smaller patterns collected in all the larger patterns is gained. The learning obtained from fundamental exercises and patterns is subsequently applied in sparring. The expertise gained from sparring is applied in real combat. The experience obtained from real combat is thereafter taught as new smaller patterns and the unending cycle of learning and teaching goes on. In this manner, knowledge increases, different types of martial arts emerge and one is able to stand on the shoulders of giants.
Without any doubt, fundamental exercises, patterns, and sparring are all immensely useful in real fights.
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