The ancient law in the Orient was similar to the law of Hmurabi, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and was rigorously enforced even if death was cause accidentally. In this type of environment, and since free sparring had not yet been developed, it was impossible for a student of the martial arts to practice or test his skill of attack and defense against actual moving opponents. Individual advancement was certainly hindered until an imaginative practitioner created the first patterns. Patterns are various fundamental movements, most of which represent either attack or defense techniques, set to a fixed or logical sequence. The student systematically deals with several imaginary opponents under various assumptions, using every available attacking and blocking tool from different directions. Thus pattern practice enables the student to go through many fundamental movements in series, to develop sparring techniques, improve flexibility of movements, master body shifting, build muscles and breath control, develop fluid and smooth motions, and gain rhythmical movements. It also enables a student to acquire certain special techniques which cannot be obtained from either fundamental exercises or sparring. Though sparring may merely indicate that an opponent is more or less advanced, patterns are a more critical barometer in evaluating an individual's technique. The following points should be considered while performing patterns:
The Korean word "TAE" means kicking, jumping, stepping or flying of the feet. "KWON" means punching, striking, or beating of hands or fists. "DO" means art, technique, or way. To put it simply, Tae Kwon-Do is a version of unarmed combat, designed for the purpose of self-defence. Though it is a martial art that has no equal in either power or technique, its discipline, technique and mental training are the mortar for building a strong sense of justice, fortitude, humility and resolve. It is this mental conditioning that separates the true practitioner, content with mastering only the fighting aspects of the art, from the sensationalist. Of course, wrongly applied, Tae Kwon-Do can be a lethal weapon, therefore, mental
The following are the cornerstones of Tae Kwon-Do and the guidelines by which all serious students of this are are encouraged to live:
- Patterns should begin and end exactly on the same spot. This will indicate the performer's accuracy.
- Correct posture and facing must be maintained at all times.
- Muscles of the body should be either tensed or relaxed at the proper critical moments in the exercise.
- The exercise should be performed in a rhythmic movement with an absence of stiffness. Movement should be accelerated or decelerated accordingly.
- Each pattern should be perfected before moving to the next.
- Students should know the purpose of each movements. Students should perform each movement with realism.
- Attack and defense techniques should be equally distributed among right and left hands and feet.
There are 24 patterns - one for each hour on the day ~ from Ch'on-Ji to Ton-Il. Each pattern is named after a figure or event in Korean history.