Patterns; the why, the what, the when and the how?

July 13, 2015

Most Martial Arts that have their roots in a traditional system will have some form of Kata, Forms or Pattern.  These form a routine of techniques that will help develop the students skill and accuracy with regular practice over time.


Many of these moves when performed as a single move may be very different from what might be performed when actually defending yourself.  With Choi Kwang Do this isn’t the case.  The movement that is performed in your pattern is exactly what should be performed when doing a defence drill or a pad drill.


Let’s analyse the white belt senior pattern.  It only has two core moves which are repeated 4 times and then again from the opposite stance.  Sound easy?


If you want to get it right and focus on being a good martial artist it isn’t so easy.  Each and every move is broken down into many components.  Each of these components needs to not only be performed correctly in itself but then be linked to the next move in the correct way to allow the body to flow and really work together to achieve the move.  If one part is slightly out of time you will struggle to complete each move correctly.


Bruce Lee – “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”


To this end I practice my white belt pattern more often than any other.  If I can connect the moves required for a white belt pattern to a high level then I stand half a chance of getting the rest correct even some of the time.


What I focus on with each move is the everything.  This pursuit of excellence when practicing patterns can become all encompassing.  As I focus on the white belt pattern which only has a few moves I can focus on the detail to a minute level.


To start with the stance position, am I relaxed?  Is my weight correctly on my toes and not my heels?  Are my shoulders relaxed and ready to move? Are my feet a good distance apart, just beyond my shoulders but not too far?  So 4 questions before you have even moved an inch.

As you start the first move you should focus on the left foot moving backwards so you are in an exact 45 degree position.


The diagram above should help explain this position.  Your left foot should move from A to B in a straight line leaving you in a right front stance.  A left front stance would be moving the right leg back in a straight line.  The feet themselves should simply come back into a comfortable position, allowing you to get your weight on your toes with 60-70% of your weight on your back leg.  Your front foot should point slightly forwards.


Whilst moving back into this position you should bring your lead arm up to carry out the first block.  It is important to remember that the first block starts from a hands down position and not a guarded position.  Therefore this block will actually be slightly different in form to the rest of the blocks.


As you transition the block through the guard position you should start to raise the lead shoulder in order to protect the chin, this will also add strength to the block.  The blocking hand should go clear above your head as should the elbow.  By doing this you are ensuring maximum strength to the block.  If you attempt this block without lifting the elbow you will find you are relying heavily on your strength and you could easily be at a disadvantage.


Once your hand and elbow have reached the peak of the block they should circle to the outside.  So a right handed block should circle right, back into guard.  This circle when you first start practicing should be a large circle but in time should become a more compact and precise circle.


Unfortunately the human body is designed to be “efficient”, so if you teach the body a small movement, it will quickly change it into no movement.  So teach the body a big movement and you will end up with the correct movement.


The things to remember with the hand movement, the two bones making up your forearm should be parallel to the ground.  This will act as a wide platform to catch the opposing weapon and lift the weapon upwards.  If you use the side of the arm you will only be using one of the bones and therefore you will have a greater impact on both your attacker and you.  In training this could easily lead to an injury, but with good practice this would simply move the opposing hand out of the way.  As well as this you should make sure the hand stays a good distance away from you when performing the block.  The closer the hand is to you the more danger you are in.


Whilst performing the block you will need to turn the front knee and leg so it is turned inwards.  This is achieved by lifting the heel whilst keeping the toes firmly placed on the floor and pushing from the ball of your lead foot.  This movement will help you move backwards and to the side.  If this shift is performed perfectly you won’t even need the block as you will have moved sufficiently out of the way from an incoming punch.


Now that you have completed the block and whilst still shifted backwards you are now ready to return the punch.  At this time you will switch your heels, so the front heel will go down, the rear heel will come up and the hips should start to turn so they are facing forwards.  The hips should finish whey they are again in line with line A.  Your knees should also be in line by this point.


Whilst performing this move you keep the left hand back for as long as possible, the shoulders should start to move forward and only when you can feel the tension around your chest as the hand is being torqued should you release.  At this time you would also bring the guard hand back towards your forehead to protect your face and the momentum of this will aid the power of the punch.


Once the punch has hit through its target, going through the central point it should decelerate using the shoulder to circle the hand back into a guard position.  Your rear heel will still be up, you are now in a reverse dynamic guard.  From this position you should turn to the left, keeping the guard up, switch the heels, so left down right up.  you can now move the left foot straight back placing you in right front stance facing 90 degrees to the left. 


From here we start again.  This time you start the block from the guard position and not the chumbi position.  As you shift by turning your lead leg your shoulders and hand will come with you, keeping the lead elbow tucked.  Once you have shifted across you will then release the lead hand.  This will give you a nice wide block and make you a narrow target with only your shoulders and elbow vulnerable.


You then repeat this process for the remaining 3 sides and then finish the movement with a front punch.  This is executed from a forward dynamic stance by pushing up from the ground allowing the punch to travel up from the foot, to the hips, to your ribs and finally to the shoulders and hand.


You will then repeat this exercise from a left front stance position to ensure that both sides are equally trained.  This entire set of movements will only take a few seconds when practiced.


The entire black belt routine will take approximately 7-8 minutes depending on your fitness and size.  (bigger muscles take longer to move so a larger person will take longer to complete the set)


These routines should be practiced on a regular basis.  They can be performed either as a cardio work out – carried out at a reasonable pace , an anaerobic workout if carried out at full pace or as a very gentle and focussed workout if carried out at a slow pace working on technique.


You should always try and focus on technique with the first workout once fully warm.  This will ensure your techniques are as precise as possible.  If you try and practice good technique whilst tired the quality of your techniques will suffer.  Whilst you may remember the good technique it is more difficult to get the body to remember.  Going back to the Bruce Lee quote, it takes approximately 2,000 repetitions for your body to remember the basics of a move.  Each move should be carried out with the same intentions so you no longer have to think about the move.  To perform the move to a good level it should be practised 10,000 times at a high level and for it to be at a high level it needs to be practised 20,000 times.


So this is the reason I practise my patterns on a regular basis.  I haven’t quite reached 20,000 recitals of each move, not yet!


The other reason I practise them is that by practising them towards perfection you are totally focussed on the moves.  This then becomes slightly meditative.  Like the moves of Tai Chi.  You focus on the each and every part of each move, which suddenly absorbs your time.  You are no longer thinking about what’s for dinner, what the kids did or didn’t do and what report you have on your desk. Just did I shift at the right time, did my arm face towards the ceiling, did my hand circle and on……………..


Patterns can be performed whenever you have a spare few minutes.  Even if you’re a black belt, you can perform a set whilst the kettle boils.


Some of the younger students are not so keen on patterns.  Personally, I think they are brilliant.  A few minutes of self-indulgence, whilst getting fitter and healthier.  Almost as good as a bottle of wine to finish your day, but much better for you.


I don’t currently have a video of white belt pattern so I have borrowed from Master Dale Miller (with permission).  The video perfectly demonstrates the moves of the pattern carried out at a nice slow pace.




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Hope you enjoyed the article, if you have anything else you want me to cover please let me know.


Paul Truman

Chief Instructor

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