This week I will be writing about the Trigram Heaven. If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Trigrams, there has been much discussion of the subject on this blog, including many of the most recent posts by Master Pearson:

An Easy Way to Construct the Trigrams

A Fundamental Flaw in the Trigrams

The 8 Trigrams are traditionally credited to the Emperor Fu Hsi (2953- 2838 B. C.). They appear in the text known as I Ching, which translates to the “Book of Changes.” Each Trigram is constructed of 3 lines, each of which represents either Yin or Yang. Yin and Yang (Um and Yang in Korean) are represented in the I Ching by their lines, not by the familiar symbol of a circle divided by a wavy line, half black and half white, with a small spot of the opposite color in each. The oldest existing representation of that symbol dates from 682 A.D. and is found etched in stone at the remains of a Buddhist temple.

Um and yang represent two opposing qualities that are found in nature; like dark and light, female and male, and earth and heaven. The spot of the opposite color present in many (but not all) representations symbolizes that there is always a bit of Um in all things Yang and a bit of Yang in all things Um. The visual representation of the wavy shapes are meant to represent a thing in motion, that is constantly separating and melding together. I like to think of it as a 2 dimensional picture of a spherical object in which the Um and Yang are constantly in motion.

The Heaven Trigram is pure Yang. Heaven in this case is not the same concept as a Western Heaven of God and Angels believed to exist as an afterlife. The state of pure Yang in this case is associated with the color white, the element metal, the season of autumn, the direction of South, and the familial position of father. In Korean it is “Keon” and in Chinese “Qian.” Yang and therefore Heaven can be thought of as light as opposed to darkness; heat as opposed to cold;  masculinity as opposed to femininity; air or sky as opposed to earth;  summer as opposed to winter and daytime as opposed to nighttime.

Image via 1.bp.blogspot.com

In Shin Ho Kwan Taekwondo the first set of forms we learn, after our initial Basic Form #1, are the 8 Taeguk forms. Each of these forms is based on one of the 8 Trigrams and the motions portray an image of the element associated with that Trigram. Once we learn all 8 of the forms we practice them progressively as one form. As the practitioner performs each form he/ she holds the appropriate Trigram quality in mind and radiates this energy throughout the actions of the form. As stated in the manual of Shin Ho Kwan, Volume 2, the directive for the mental portrayal of the form Taeguk number 1 (Il Jang);

“Taeguk One is the beginning of all Taeguk Forms that follow. It is the father of all and the initial molding force that guides future actions and outcomes in these forms. It is pure Yang and therefore is representative of Heaven and light. As such, it should be performed with the grandeur that is due Heaven and with the caution that any mistake made here will change the course of future events for the worse.”

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