Periodization is the process of dividing time into smaller time periods, where each period has a specific objective or objectives that have to be achieved within that time period. The achievement of objectives of the smaller time periods all add up to the major achievement of a larger time period.
For example, to study history, periodization is used to divide historical time into periods of historial eras with the objectives of understanding and analysing them. Addition of the smaller historical eras leads to the understanding and analysis of the overall history spanning several centuries. Similarly, in business, periodization may be used to divide a year into quarters having specific targets of production, sales, profitability, etc., and then analysing the quarterly results to arrive at future projections. In government, five-year plans are drafted to achieve specific objectives related to the country’s economy, infrastructure, employment, etc. Thus, it is evident that periodization is widely used to undertake specific activities, in order to achieve specific objectives/targets within specific time periods, which all add up towards the realisation of a larger objective.
Macro, Meso, Micro Cycles
Essentially, in the process of periodization, a large chunk of time is divided into smaller chunks, which are further subdived into still smaller chunks. The large chunk of time is known as ‘Macro’, the smaller chunks are known as ‘Meso’, and the still smaller chunks are known as ‘Micro’. For example, a year (macro) may be divided into 12 smaller chunks of individual months (meso), where each month may again be sub-divided into 30/31 days (micro). Similarly, a day (macro) may be divided into 24 hours (meso), where each hour is further subdivided into minutes (micro). Likewise, a minute (macro) may be divided into seconds (meso), which may be further subdivided into milliseconds (micro). This process of dividing and subdividing can go on until further division is either not practical or not possible.
Within micro time periods, certain smaller activities are performed that all add up to achieve the objective of the meso time period, and in turn, all meso time periods are added up to achieve the objective of the macro time period. For example, let us assume that a martial artist, within nine months, wants to break six boards with a single punch (objective of macro time period). The martial artist practices daily (micro time period) and achieves some success in that month (meso time period). Over nine months (addition of meso time periods), the martial artist is finally able to break six boards (achievement of the objective of the macro time period).
In training, periodization is done to achieve super-compensation by avoiding over-training. The following videos explain the concept of macro, meso, and micro time periods. Since, they are usually recursive in nature, the time periods are also known as cycles.
Personal Trainer Collective video “Macro, Meso and Micro Cycles | Training Periodisation With Mike Zourdos | The SBS Academy”:
Dr. Jacob Goodin video “Periodization: Macrocycles, Mesocycles, and Microcycles | CSCS Chapter 21”:
Periodization in sports
In sports, periodization is extensively used, especially in competitive sports where time may be divided into pre-season, in-season, and off-season, with many variables like skill, volume, intensity, etc. The following videos explain how periodization may be applied in sports.
Flow High Performance video “What is Periodization? | How to Plan and Manage Training”:
Personal Trainer Collective video “What Is Periodisation? Volume, Intensity and Skill Training, Periodisation For Beginners”:
Periodization in the Olympic sport of Taekwondo
For the Olympic sport Taekwondo, periodization is often used to achieve performance goals in a fixed time period. The following video shows periodization may be applied to the sport of Taekwondo.
wasinee liwchavaroj video “Periodization of Taekwondo Poomsae”:
Periodization in traditional Taekwon-Do
In traditional Taekwon-Do, as well as in all other traditional marital arts, the application of periodization is difficult, if not impossible. Because firstly, one learns Taekwon-Do to lead a way of life and not to participate in a competition, and secondly, the concept of a time period is not some days, months or years, but it is rather a never-ending process spanning an entire lifetime. Thus, periodization in traditional martial arts is either not possible or has very little effect.
Nonetheless, an attempt to apply periodization in traditional Taekwon-Do may be as experimented from different perspectives, as follows:
In traditional Taekwon-Do, testing can be done in two ways:
—Grade (also known as kup/gup/geop, and generally having coloured belts)
—Degree (also known as dan and generally having a black belt with stripes/roman numerals/name of the holder).
Grades start from 8th grade and end in 1st grade. Degree starts from 1st degree and ends in 9th degree. Generally, grade may be tested every three months and degree may be tested every two years. However, these time periods and their corresponding objectives are just an approximation and may be altered by the instructor, according to the skill level attained by the practitioner.
Periodization of Grade testing
—Macro cycle (time period: 24 months)
—Meso cycles (time periods: 3 months each)
——starting from 8th kup and ending in 1st kup
—Micro cycles (time period: generally 3 months, but varies with skill attained)
——(for Grade 8th kup) (objectives: pattern chon-ji, 3-step sparring)
——(for Grade 7th kup) (objectives: pattern dan-gun, 3-step sparring)
——(for Grade 6th kup) (objectives: pattern do-san, 3-step and 2-step sparring)
——(for Grade 5th kup) (objectives: pattern won-hyo, 2-step and 1-step sparring)
——(for Grade 4th kup) (objectives: pattern yul-gok, 1-step and free sparring)
——(for Grade 3rd kup) (objectives: pattern joong-gun, free and 1-step free sparring)
——(for Grade 2nd kup) (objectives: pattern toi-gye, foot technique and free sparring)
——(for Grade 1st kup) (objectives: pattern hwa-rang, free sparring and self-defence technique)
Periodization of Degree testing
—Macro cycle (time period: theoretically 18 years, but practically a lifetime)
—Meso cycles (time period: theoretically each of 2 years, but may vary with skill attained)
——1st to 9th degree
—Micro cycles (time period: each of 2 years, but may vary with skill attained)
——Generally, from 1st to 3rd degree, the objectives of free sparring, demonstration of advanced patterns, and destructive power are tested; while for 4th and above degrees, demonstration of advanced patterns, studies of techniques or new theory are tested. Again, the time periods and objectives are mere approximations and subject to alterations by the instructor, depending upon the skill attained by the practitioner.
From a training perspective, generally, traditional Taekwon-Do training begins with fundamental exercises and subsequently proceeds to patterns, sparring and self-defence techniques.
Taekwon-Do may have periodization with the following macro, meso, and micro cycles, which may have variable time periods according to the level of skill attained by the practitioner.
—Macro cycle (time period: variable)
——Self-Defence techniques (hosinsul)
—Meso cycles (time periods: variable)
—Micro cycles (time period: variable)
——Fundamental exercises (gibon yonsup)
From an overall perspective, traditional Taekwon-Do may have periodization with the following macro, meso, and micro cycles, which may have different time periods according to the level of skill attained by the practitioner.
—Macro cycle (time period: variable)
——Taekwon-Do as a way of peaceful and harmonious life, both within and without
—Meso cycles (time periods: variable)
——Philosophy of Taekwon-Do (Taekwon-Do chul hak)
——Moral culture in Taekwon-Do (jungshin sooyang)
——Tenets of Taekwon-Do (Taekwon-Do jungshin)
——Theory of Power (him ui wolli)
—Micro cycles (time periods: variable)
——Fundamental Exercises (gibon yonsup)
The macro cycle may be the final goal, which stresses that the ultimate objective of Taekwon-Do is to promote peace and harmony, both within and without.
“The utmost purpose of Taekwon-Do is to eliminate fighting by discouraging the stronger’s oppression of the weaker with a power that must be based on humanity, justice, morality, wisdom and faith, thus helping to build a better and more peaceful world.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.1, p.88)
“The philosophy of Taekwon-Do is based on the ethical, moral, and spiritual standards by which men can live together in harmony […]” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.1, p.89)
“In Taekwon-Do a heavy emphasis is placed on moral culture, for it not only promotes a healthy body and keen mind but good sportsmanship and the perfection of moral behavior. […] the more disciplined and cultivated the mind is, the more disciplined and cultivated will be the student’s use of Taekwon-Do.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.1, p.47)
The tenets of Taekwon-Do are Courtesy (Ye Ui), Integrity (Yom Chi), Perseverance (In Nae), Self-Control (Guk Gi), and Indomitable Spirit (Baekjul Boolgool).
“Needless to say, the success or failure of Taekwon-Do training depends largely on how one observes and implements the tenets of Taekwon-Do which should serve as a guide for all serious students of the art.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.1, p.15)
Power in Taekwon-Do comes from a combination of Reaction force (Bandong Ryok), Concentration (Jip Joong), Equilibrium (Kyun Hyung), Breath control (Hohup Jojul), Mass (Zilyang), Speed (Sokdo), and Speed and Reflex (Sokdo wa Banung).
“Reaction force, breath control, equilibrium, concentration and relaxation of the muscles cannot be ignored. However, these are the factors that contribute to the speed and all these factors, together with flexible and rhythmic movements, must be well coordinated to produce the maximum power in Taekwon-Do.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.2, p.38)
Fundamental exercises are kicks, punches, blocks, stances, and several other movements used for attacking or defending. They are the basic attacking and defending techniques on which the art of Taekwon-Do is built. Mastery of fundamental exercises leads to mastery in patterns, sparring and self-defence.
“Fundamental exercises are considered the back bone of Taekwon-Do, for the students can learn a great number of additional movements which are found neither in patterns nor sparrings. […] The student is therefore advised to exercise each fundamental movement correctly and thoroughly one by one before attempting to practise his pattern or sparring.”- Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.6, p.17)
“Patterns are various fundamental movements, most of which represent either attack or defense techniques, set to a fixed and logical sequence.” – Gen. Choi Hong Hi (Vol.9, p.13)
“Sparring is the physical application of attack and defence techniques gained from the patterns and fundamental exercise against the actual moving opponent or opponents under various situations […]” – Choi Hong Hi (Taekwon-Do: The Art of Self-Defence, p.240)
Periodization is extremely effective in several fields of human endeavour like business, sports, government, and more. It is also effective if a martial art is taken as a competitive sporting activity like Olympic Taekwondo. But, if martial arts are practiced as traditional arts, then periodization has little effect, if any, primarily because traditional martial arts require a lifetime of dedicated practice, which ultimately becomes a way of life for the practitioners.
Nonetheless, attempts at periodization of traditional Taekwon-Do are experimented around the world, so that practitioners may know an approximation of the time required, to systematically progress and earn higher coloured belts. It should be noted that the ultimate purpose of practising traditional Taekwon-Do is not to attain the highest 9th degree black belt, but rather to attain peace and harmony, within oneself and with the society at large. The ultimate aim of the practitioner is to become a responsible, peace-loving, and a respectable citizen of the country; thereby, helping to build a better and a more peaceful world. This aim can be easily achieved by undergoing the process of attaining the various belts, hence the importance of attaining higher belts is stressed.
Normally, a person undertakes a journey to reach some destination. However, in martial arts, the journey is more important than the destination. The journey may have several painful/pleasurable bends and turns, but if a martial artist does not stop and continues to travel on the way, then finally, the end will definitely be reached. Traditional Taekwon-Do shows this way to the dedicated practitioner and helps in the journey, to ultimately reach the end of achieving peace and harmony, for oneself and for everybody else.
The following instructional video demonstrates how the way of traditional Taekwon-Do can be travelled by undertaking stretching, fundamental exercises, patterns and sparring.
Stephen Doyle video “Historic Taekwon-Do Instructional Film (Full video)”:
1. Gen. Choi, H. H. (1985). Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (Vols. 1–15). Vienna: International Taekwon-Do Federation.
2. Choi, H. H. (1965). Taekwon-Do: The Art of Self-Defence. Daeha Publication Company: Seoul, Korea.
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