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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.

Finlay's picture


I have been interested in such a project for a long time, i have spent many an evening lokoing at video of karate Kata a spotting where the movments of the ITF patterns came from.

Like Tau said, the patterns seems to be made up of fragments of kata which makes tracing the movements quite difficult. added to this there have been a number of modifications to the individual movements which can hide their original purpose or roots. It is commonly accepted that these changes were made under a flawed understanding of the original movement

it is however a worthy project i feel

Anf's picture

Finlay wrote:
It is commonly accepted that these changes were made under a flawed understanding of the original movement

Is it? I think this makes the assumption that the creator of the original form wanted to somehow lock his style in time. I've met a number of martial artists over the years, and if I was to foolishly try to pin down just one character trait that made them awesome or not, it would be that the awesome ones all have an open mind and an insatiable thirst for new ideas and influences. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to exactly replicate the movements of a great master. In fact I personally think that attempting to copy exactly is a good way to start to form a solid foundation. But if some master takes a form and tweaks it, then does that mean he/she didn't fully understand the intent? Or might it be that they did understand the intent, but wants his/her students to learn different concepts in a different order, or place emphasis on a different aspect. If a 200 year old form has a technique for taking a spear from a horse mounted warrior, might a more recent master perhaps want to tweak it to represent taking a baseball bat or stick or broken bottle from a drunken thug for example. So I don't think it's right that forms get changed due to misunderstanding. I think more likely it's partly about teaching style and partly about keeping it current.

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

Finlay wrote:
It is commonly accepted that these changes were made under a flawed understanding of the original movement

Anf wrote:

Is it? …

… I think more likely it's partly about teaching style and partly about keeping it current.

Hi Anf,

I think you may have misunderstood the point being made. Historically we know that many of the motions in the karate kata have become misunderstood i.e. obvious throwing motions were reinterpreted as bizarre “double blocks”, etc. Taekwondo was also influenced by this misunderstanding when they adopted the karate motions into their forms. They brought motions into their forms believing them to be “blocks” and then made adaptations based on their misunderstanding. Finley is therefore correct in the observation. It’s nothing controversial or derogatory to TKD because it was the widespread issues in karate that were the ultimate cause of the problem.

We are therefore not talking about changes made to make the art more relevant to the times. Because the motions in the forms were generally misunderstood at that point in time, they were not in a position to do that.

Does that make sense?

All the best,


Finlay's picture

Yes, Thanks Iain, that is what i meant

to borrow from one of your analogies

it is like someone handing you a hammer and telling you it is to spread paint on the wall. You then improve it for this purpose by putting some bristles along the top. What you have then is a hairy hammer, instead of a paintbrush