Thoughts on the Practice of Forms

Why do we practice forms and where did they come from?

Taekwondo forms were designed to serve several distinct functions.  Amongst these was to encourage the exploration of the practical application of techniques.  Secondly, forms were originally intended to encourage mental discipline, focus, and the cultivation of the mind and spirit.  These ideas should be maintained in the practice, performance, and transmission of forms.  Each motion of the forms has been inherited through a documented period of time.  What originated as creative improvisation has, throughout generations of teachers and their students, become systematized and concertized through practical experience, as well as medical and philosophical sciences.

From the standpoint of Shin Ho Kwan’s philosophy, forms are the foundation of Taekwondo and the basic movements are only the first step towards making the forms accessible.  Self defense then, it could be said, is a practical application of the forms.  The practice of forms also has a larger goal, that of Taekwondo spirit.  However, this aspect is not some abstract mental philosophy that can be learned from this or any other document, but rather, it must be obtained through the actions of the forms themselves.  In other words, Taekwondo spirit is both above and contained within the practice of forms.

Significantly, the forms can be practiced even without the presence of an instructor.  Indeed, the forms themselves take on the role of instructor, schooling the practitioner in such skills as accuracy of technique, speed, coordination, balance, focus, and mental discipline.

Through continuous practice of the forms, adhering to all of the aforementioned principles, the practitioner will eventually find himself capable of executing the forms as one continuous motion and without distracted mind or even conscious thought.  This, combined with proper execution of technique, represents the highest level of forms practice.


What is the best way to practice forms?  What should a student be thinking about while executing a form in order to do so properly?

Essentially forms are a series of blocks, strikes, kicks, resting motions, and preparatory postures.  Therefore, there are frequent changes in body position and direction.  One must be continuously conscious of the movement of the body, the direction of one’s gaze, one’s respiration, etc.  The steps of such consciousness are as follows:

  1. A complete understanding of the significance of each form and the principles of its composition.
  2. A highly developed memorization of the form’s pattern, movement, and direction.
  3. During the practice of forms, the physical and mental points of emphasis of Shin Ho Kwan must be taken into consideration.

Forms are extremely complex.  However, we can break down the practice of forms into the following broad categories.  Incorporating the following aspects into both the practice of forms can transform (no pun intended) and elevate significantly a student’s execution of his or her form.  The list below should also be viewed as a hierarchy of considerations when practicing forms.  As a student attains higher rank, he or she should progressively incorporate more of these elements into his or her practice and execution.

  1. Physical Pattern

The first aspect of practicing forms is to learn the pattern.  Additionally, balance, rhythm, strength, speed, respiration, gaze, angle of movement, and accuracy of technique must be emphasized.

  1. Mental Significance

In this aspect, the emphasis must be laid on the expression of the mental portrayal of the form through the execution of the physical motions.  Additionally, the practitioner should demonstrate an attitude of tranquility and selflessness throughout the entirety of the form.

  1. Practical Use

Every attempt must be made to understand the practical application of every physical aspect of the form, including transitions between techniques.  In so doing, the practitioner should imagine the realization of his techniques and their reception by his imaginary opponent.

  1. Individualization

After a certain level of proficiency has been achieved, the practitioner should feel free to individualize the performance of the form as fits his body structure and strengths and weaknesses.  However, the original physical and mental integrity and the quality of the forms must be maintained at all times.

  1. Completion

In order to demonstrate a higher level of concentration and control, one must finish the form in the same place he began it.  He then remains there, fixed in his final position until the instructor signals a return to ready motion.

What do you think?

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