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shughes's picture
ITF (Chang Hon) Karate connection

It's no secret that much of the ITF's patterns were heavily influnced by Karate kata, and in some cases, lifted wholesale with slight variations. Many have noted similarities between some patterns, but to my knowledge nobody has really dug into the details of how the various patterns relate to one another. This was my project over the summer, and I'm willing to share this with anyone who is interested.


I imagine that most Taekwon-Do practitioners are not interested in pattern applications, so much of this is presented as a study of the patterns' origins. My interest is primarily in finding applications, but finding the origins of sequences provided me with a larger pool of information to draw from, as well as a better understanding of the changes they went through and how that might influence their application. Though some links are a little tenuous, I thought it better to include them than not.

An interesting note: I've seen a lot of people say that the colored belt patterns draw from the Pinan series, and assume that the black belt patterns don't have any connection. I originally assumed the same, but I found evidence that suggests otherwise.

  • Dan Gun to Toi Gye progress through the Pinan series
  • with the exception of Joong Gun, which seems inspired by Jitte and other non-Pinan kata
  • Hwa Rang and Choong Moo, being the oldest patterns, draw from the entire Pinan series
  • Kwang Gae is inspired by Hangetsu/Seisan
  • Po Eun is obviously Naihanchi
  • Ge Baek seems inspired by Chinto/Gankaku
  • Yoo Sin contains a lot of Passai-Dai

It's true that many of the black belt patterns have little in common with Karate kata, and with the exception of Ul Ji, there's not much to say past Yoo Sin. However, my experience only takes me though Choi Yong, so any other observations are welcome.

I hope you find this information useful.

Tau's picture

OK, I basically agree with you. Full disclosure: I'm 1st Dan TKD and well versed in the Karate kata including Pinan/Heian and several "black belt kata."

I've also looked at this idea and played a little. I've long since dropped TKD but continued my Karate journey and so seen things in the TKD patterns that I previously thought exclusive. As an example, I only learned Jitte last year and so saw the "mountain stance" / "W-shaped block" in Toi Gye. Equally so the "U-shaped grasp" in Po Eun looks to me to be from Wanshu / Empi

To take a specific example, let's look at Do San:

The opened block-and-reverse punch including 180 degree turn is clearly from Pinan Godan. Then we move into Sandan for the spear and reverse turn. More Godan for repetition. We then finish on what is essentially Yondan. The side knifehands in horse stance can be most closely linked to Sandan's elbows I think.

You could so this for all of the kata.

I would argue that Po Eun is actually a bad merger of all three Naihanchi/Tekki kata. 

Now, my understanding is that the seven Masters who put what would become TKD together were all Karate dan grades, five of them having graded in Tokyo and the highest grade being 3rd dan. I could check some sources, such as Stuart Anslow's books but this is just off the top of my head. The patterns were largely composed by General Choi, with Hwa Rang being the first to be completed. And the opening looks a lot like Pinan Nidan so this makes sense. 

The negative: to me it looks like the Karate kata were thrown up in the air like several China plates and then glued back together haphazardly, leading to no joins in the pattern (and you can take whatever analogies you like from that.) This is why I've long since left TKD behind and see little value in it as a pragmatic art.

The positive: General Choi was a genius. In putting Korean culture and history into the patterns he preserved the subjugated Korean culture and spread it worldwide. I had an epiphany some years ago that (to my shame) I knew more Korean history that I did British. I have of course addressed that since but the point remains of how damned clever the patterns are. From a certain point of view.