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mattsylvester's picture
How do you teach forms to students?

Just wondering how other people teach forms. 

I was always taught by being taking through the whole thing in one go, and then repeating.

I've taught like that, but I've also taught based on clusters of moves e.g. 2, 3, 4 at a time depending on the flow. 

DavidLewis's picture

The technique for teaching forms/kata that I prefer is introducing basics and some relevant combinations, then put these together for the cluster of moves in the assigned kata.  Sometimes, for the more difficult forms, beginning with some bunkai/applications helps understand the kata.  With improved understanding comes better recall for the student and helps make the kata look better.

What works well for kids, does not always work so well for adults and vice-versa.

Am looking forward to tips to improve my kata learning and teaching.

Andy_R's picture

Hi Matt,

With the forms that I teach, I start by showing them the first 6 (or so) movements, and then gradually increase lesson by lesson by a few more until the know the whole form.  Then I bring in the concept of performing theforms in certain combinations.  Once they understand these then I show them a 'basic' application for each of the techniques.

Hope this helps


benkendrick's picture

The way i like to teach forms is to begin with the basics. First I teach any new stances & techniques, and drill them as single stationary techniques until the students have the mechanics down faily well. Then I begin drilling them as floor drills (up and down the floor, progesively covering all eight angles as the ranks progress) I also have them do the drills both with and without a partner.

Then I begin to drill the techniques in combinations taken out of the form. (Our forms lend themselves well to this since they've already been broken down into segments. Each segment is a series of moves that are meant to naturally flow together, and typically are a response to a single atttack.). Again these are drilled stationary and as floor drills (both with and without a partner).

Once the students have the segments down I teach them to string the them together into the form. As for the applications, these are learned while doing the partner drills. I also expect students to be able develop their own interpretations as they progress in rank.

mattsylvester's picture

I actually tried to teach people the applications before I did the patterns. What I found was the my students actually struggled with putting the pattern together and seeing the applications as part of a whole.

ljhicks's picture

I am not so sure that there can be a single strategy for teaching all hyung/kata. I teach new students hyung/kata by introducing the stances and basic techniques required for the form individually, sometimes drilling them up and down the floor. When the basics are present (at least in understanding and spirit) I connect them through the hyung/kata.

Advanced students are introduced hyung in all the ways described above, with the exception of application. I introduce all hyung as a text book of theory and philosophy in order to keep from restricting the students interpretation and deciphering of the form. It is only after the student has begun to work through the hyung on their own, interpreting it with the basic guidelines I offer them, that I begin refining some of their applications. This is usually accomplished by "testing" the interpretations in during class.

Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

I like to teach them the individual techniques first. I will also show the students how the techniques might be emplyed from a self defence, or sparring situation. Then I will show them a little bit of the pattern maybe only the 4 first steps. When they can do the first four steps in a decent manner I will teach them alternative interpretations if I have any to the adults (while sticking to the simplistic block punch kick applications for kids). Then I will gradually teach the form a few steps at a time until the whole form is learned. This is how I have done it until now, but after I am contatnly trying to evolve to the "better" so threads like theese are great to learn from:) Thanks.

BRITON55's picture

Is anyone in this section going through the belt system rigidly? gi cho hyung etc. has anyone ever considered teaching a total beginner naihanji as a first form with bunkai techniques or are you governed by hierarchy?devil

yours in budo

pyung ahn peace and harmony

Steve cool

Oerjan Nilsen
Oerjan Nilsen's picture

Hi Steve.

Funny you should mention that. I was thinking about this just the other day. We go through the belt system pretty rigidly. I learned Naihanchi (or Chulgi as some Korean systems calls it) and I really like it application wise. 30 minutes after I "learned" it (perfomence wise) I had already thought of many applications. It is a great form and I can easily understand why the likes of Choki Motobu based his style on this form, and why it was stressed as an important form in the past.

Naihanchi/Chulgi does not exist in "modern" Taekwondo but it was one of the forms in the ITF until the 70s, and all the old Kwan taught it as far as my knowledge. Also all the techniques of Naihanchi exists today pretty much scattered around the WTF forms so it would not be so difficult to learn the form to Taekwondo students.

I played around with the form for some time, looking at what all the other styles do and reading the writings of Choki Motobu. It was very liberating to have a form just for yourself. No one can tell me what is the "correct" way to perform it. After gathering as many ways to perform it as I could, experimenting with bunkai and gathering as much information on the form as I could, and synthesised it into how "I" want to perform it myself, I tried to teach the form to some of my students. As it is not part of the syllabus I have just used a limited time on it, and it was not to the beginners but rather the intermidiate students who learned it.

The funny thing is that they "got" it in a way I have never seen before with the other forms. I used the session as a close range fighting session and not the normal leg fencing that we often do. First I taught the "close range fighting techniques" in pairs. I showed them first and then they drilled. After a while we went over to the next drill (set of techniques). Soon we had covered the whole form (so that they had at least one clear application for each technique). I then revisited each "drill" with everyone doing it solo in the air, and then I put it all together as a form for them to remember the lesson. I will see if this way of teaching will help the students retain the information given them by waiting another week before revisit the form and I am very curious if it will.

The typical way of learning forms in main stream Taekwondo in my area is that you learn the basic techniques, maybe with some punch block kick applications, and then you string them together to get the form. Once the form is "learned" you hone the techniques contained within them but you are really doing them like a performance art (thats the main stream aproach) and I do not think this is so far away from the Karate clubs either (if they are following the 3 Ks of training, Kihon, Kata and Kumite = basic techniques, forms and competition fighting). If the experiment is succsessfull I will certainly think of teaching a complete beginner Naihanchi first for applications and maybe Taegeuk il Jang at the same time for learning the way to move the body around.

I do teach applications for the regular poomsae we have (Taegeuk forms and Kukkiwon/WTF black belt forms) but we follow the "main stream approach" described above and then when the form is learned I start to teach the applications (not the kick block punch but the more realistic stuff). In the experiment I turn the approach up side down so they learn first what the moves are for (realisticly) and then teach the form as a way to remember the applications.

I feel I am governed to some degree by hierarchy but then I am in the position that we have one hour every week for "extra curricular training" (it is up to the instructor and thats me:-)  ) and so teaching a form outside our syllabus with the intent to reintroduce close range fighting techniques into Taekwondo is considered Ok (it is extra curricular training after all).

If you mean your post to ask if you would teach an "advanced" form to a total beginner I am not sure that I would. Naihanchi is a relatively easy form to learn (dont get me wrong here, I am strictly speaking of the performance side). You can learn it relatively fast to a decent degree and it is not a long form (I have concentrated on the first in the series). I do not see myself teaching Poomsae Koryo to a total beginner since it contains many techniques that are difficult to perform and rely in some cases on very fine motor skills. It opens with double knife hand block followed by a double side kick (two side kicks with the same foot in two different heights, without putting your foot down in between). I think teaching a form like that to a total beginner would discourage the beginner instead of encourage him/her to continue their training.

Starting with Naihanchi/Chulgi with realistic applications on the other hand would probably give them what they want to begin with if they are late teens or adults. They start for self defence in many cases and teaching close range fighting to begin with would perhaps give them a good starting point. They would probably have a lot easier to see realistic applications in the succesive forms they are taught later in their training.

Have you ever tried such an experiment Steve?:-) 

mattsylvester's picture

Rick Clark recommended teaching Naihainchi to beginners/university students (due to term times etc), and having seen a chap with a name that sounds like Borat (he was a Slovakina though), demonstrate how he teaches it to the Slovakian Presidential Bodyguard and special forces, I have seen just how devasting the applications contained within are, and yet how simple a pattern it is. I used to love doing it in my shotokan lessons.