Taegeuk in the World Taekwondo Federation are in relation to a set of poomsae that were developed to guide in the training of Taekwondo. Poomsae, or form, is a detailed pattern of defense and attack movements and techniques. The word Taegeuk relates to the concept of yin and yang. Students of WT Kukkiwon must learn these forms in order to advance to progress through the belts. There are eight Taegeuks, each one similar to the previous one, but each time with more advanced techniques to display the students‘ competency of the techniques learned. Each Taegeuk is represented in WT Taekwondo by trigrams similar to those found in the four corners of the South Korean flag.
In order to achieve a black belt, the student must display all Taegeuks consecutively. Each black belt degree (Dan) also has its own form, required for grading. The first degree form for the WT is called Koryo.
Taegeuk 1 Jang
The first pattern (8th kup) signifies the heaven and light. There are eight kwaes which are divination signs. Keon (heaven and Yang) is symbolic of the beginning of everything created within the universe. This pattern or taegeuk consists of simple movements and basic walking actions so that the individual can be free from distraction or complication. This allows for a clear mental state hence promoting the free flow of the techniques. The basics are practiced here so that more complicated techniques are developed later. It includes ‘arae makki’, ‘momtong makki’, ‘momtong jireugi’, and ‘ap chagi’.
Taegeuk 2 Jang
The second taegeuk focuses on another one of the eight divination signs. The sign of Tae is displayed in this pattern. Tae has a meaning of joyfulness. It also represents the different states of matter i.e. firm versus soft. The individual can fully appreciate this when their mind (inner) is firm or strong whilst the external (outer) physical approach appears soft. This allows virtue to come to the surface. The student learns to execute techniques with force but in a gentle manner. A new focus within this taegeuk is ‘olgul makki’. There is also increased use of ‘ap chagi’.
Taegeuk 3 Jang
Ra, another divination sign that is symbolic of the fire and the sun i.e. hot and bright. The student develops more passion and a feeling of justice from training. The pattern involves progressive ‘makki’ and ‘chigi’ as well as successive ‘jireugi’. The practitioner executes counterattacks against the opposing ‘chigi’. New techniques involve ‘sonnal mok chigi’, ‘sonnal makki’ and ‘dwit kubi’ stance. By 6th keup, the student understands the symbolic nature of how man uses fire to gain not only light and warmth but also hope. The movements of Sam Chang are carried out with passion and energy.
Taegeuk 4 Jang
The fourth taegeuk utilizes the next divination sign, which is jin. This principle represents the concept of thunder. This can be interpreted as a symbol of enormous power and authority. Thunder and lightning also cause anxiety and fear of nature’s force. The student uses this entity to train the mind to react appropriately in a calm manner. Once the storm has been braved, then the sky will clear and the sunlight will return. New techniques include ‘sonnal momtong makki’, ‘pyon son keut jireugi’, ‘jebipoom mok chigi’, ‘yop chagi’, ‘momtong bakkat makki’ and ‘deung jumeok olgul apchigi’. The movements should be carried out in a strong fashion in order to oppose jin.
Taegeuk 5 Jang
The next divination sign of son is explored here. This represents the entity of wind, which can be calm or very forceful. Wind can be devastating such as a hurricane or a tornado. Wind can also be a gentle breeze by the sea. The student aims to develop a mental state that flows with calm and meets the daily challenges of life, however, when required the student can develop very forceful strong actions. The 4th keup student uses the new techniques of ‘me jumeok naeryo chigi’, ‘palkup dollyo chigi’, ‘yop chagi’, ‘yop jireugi’, ‘palkup pyo jeok chigi’. New stances involve ‘kkoa seogi’, ‘wen seogi’ and ‘oreun seogi’.
Taegeuk 6 Jang
The pattern is a symbol of Kam. Taegeuk 6 represents water. Water is a soft substance and something that flows freely. It is without form and flows with gravity to take up the shape of the area around it. If the student can act like water, it may be possible to overcome many obstacles by moving with the flow of the situation. New techniques for the 3rd keup are han sonnal olgul bakkat makki, dollyo chagi, olgul bakkat makki and batang son momtong. All actions should be executed in a flowing manner.
Taegeuk 7 Jang
The next divination sign is Kan. This is a representation of a mountain and is said to signify the stable object that rarely moves. In this way the student cultivates a stable mind, thinking carefully about each and every move. Nothing is rushed or performed for the sake of it. New techniques for the 2nd keup include the stable but flexible cat stance beom seogi. Others are sonnal area makki, batangson kodureo makki, bo jumeok kawi makki, mureup chigi momtong hecho makki, jechin du jumeok momtong jireugi, otkoreo area makki, pyojeok chigi, and yop jireugi.
Taegeuk 8 Jang
The last taegeuk poomsae. The Gon or ‘kon’ theory is one of the eight divination signs and it is symbolic of the Earth. This pattern is the root of Taekwondo which allows further development and growth. The Earth allows for life, energy and growth. The student perfects their techniques and executes them strongly. The 1st keup will have learnt dubal dangsong bakkat palmok momtong kodureo bakkat makki, twio chagi and palkup dollyo chigi. The student is well on the way towards the path for black belt.
Koryo poomsae is named after the ancient dynasty within Korea (circa 900-1400 A.D). In fact, the name Korea is a derivation of Koryo. It is also symbolic of seonbae which is a knowledgeable man. It also represents the strong spirit of mankind combined with the martial spirit. The dynasty is famous for the reason that Korea was successfully defended against the attack of the growing Mongolian empire. The new techniques appearing include kodeum chagi, opeun sonnal bakkat chigi, sonnal araemakki, khaljaebimureup nullo kkokki, momtong hecho makki, jumeok pyojeok jireugi, pyonson kkeut jecho jireugi, batang son nullo makki, palkup yop chagi, and me jumeok arae-pyojeok chigi. All movements should be executed with conviction and be strong in order to pay homage to Koryo’s struggle against the Mongolians.
Keumgang represents hardness and matter that is difficult to break. It also means diamond, which is one of the hardest substances in nature. Korea’s famous mountain which represents the nation’s spirit is named Keumgang Seok. Mountains and diamonds are both strong and beautiful and like this, the movements of this Taekwondo pattern are to be performed with the strength of the inner spirit. Movements are executed powerfully but balanced. New techniques include batangson teok chigi, santeoul makki, han son nal momtong an makki, Keumgang makki, kheun dol tzogi, and the hak dari seogi.
Taebaek poomsae is named after the ‘bright mountain’. Ancient Korean literature (circa 4000 years ago) tells us that Tangun was the founder of the nation of Korean people. The mountain of Taebaek is symbolic of Tangun’s soul and inner mind. In the present day it is known as Mount Baekdoo, which is the highest mountain in Korea. The line of the poomse symbolises the connection between heaven and earth, whereby the nation has been founded via orders from heaven. New techniques include sonnal area hecho makki, sonnal opeo japki, japhin-son-mok-ppaegi, dol-tzeogi, Kumkang-momtong-makki, deung-jumeok-olgul-bakkat-chigi.
Pyongwon represents the vastness of land or a plain. The movements of the poomsae are designed to display the infinity of the spirit and a majestic atmosphere. They also represent the movement of peace against struggle. A fertile plain allows for the cultivation and maintenance of human life. The plain is also the place where the human returns to upon death. New techniques include palkup ollyo chigi, kodureo olgul yop makki, hecho santeul makki, dangkyo teok jireugi, meongye chigi.
Sipjin is symbolic of longevity and the ten creatures of life. These are the sun, the moon, water, mountain, pine tree, stone, herb for eternal youth, deer, tortoise and crane. Two heavenly possessions, three natural wonders, three animals, and two plants. These cultivate the human feelings of faith, hope and love. Every movement of the poomsae is delivered with stability. New techniques include hwangso makki, son badak kodureo makki, opeun son nal jireugi, son nal area makki, bawi milgi, son nal deung momtong hecho makki, son nal deung momtong makki, kodeo olligi, chettari jireugi, son nal otkoreo area makki. The poomsae line comes from the Chinese letter meaning ten which signifies the infinity of the decimal system.
Jitae represents the man who keeps both feet on the ground and looks over the sky. There is a struggle to maintain life. The earth is a place where life not only begins but also ends. The earth cultivates natural things and life in all forms. The strong mentality of a student will be displayed with harmonious movements that symbolise the struggles for existence throughout life. The poomsae line is that of a man that moves from the Earth’s ground toward heaven. New techniques include han son na olgul makki, me jumeok yop pyojeok chigi, and keumkang momtong jireugi.
Chonkwon poomsae from heaven’s great might just like the emotions that come over a man who looks up at the sky with deep thought. In ancient oriental history the sky was a divine object that deserved much respect and worship. The belief was that the special Han people were settled near the heavenly mountain and heavenly sea. The sky also exerts influence over nature and the environment that we live in i.e. day and night, bright or dark. There are large, curving movements. The poomsae line represents a man than comes down from heaven to Earth. New techniques include nalgae pyogi, keumgang yop jireugi, bam jumeok sosum chigi, hwidullo makki, taesan milgi, hwidullo jabadangkigi.
Hansu means water, which is the source of all life and growth of living creatures. It is a powerful substance that we see in rivers and oceans. It can also be quiet and contained like in a lake. It can take the shape of any object that contains it. The fluid motion and flexible nature of water applies to the student that trains in the movements of Taekwondo. Actions are performed gracefully but in a continuous manner. Strength and weakness are represented with the new techniques of son nal deung momtong hecho makki, me jumeok yang yopkuri chigi, kodureo khaljaebi, an palmok arae pyojeok makki, son nal keumgang makki, and modum bal.
Ilyeo is a concept that symbolises ‘oneness’. This idea of being one is a fusion of mind, spirit and body. This was developed by a Buddhist (Won Hyo) during the Silla dynasty. A circle or line will end up as one. All possessions and materialistic desires should be sacrificed. The student of Taekwondo aims to achieve Ilyeo and become one with nature. The student does not have distractions but instead they are free to focus on each movement. New techniques include son nal olgul makki, wesanteul yop chagi, twio yop chagi, du son pyo, bitureo jabadangkigi, and the stance of ogeum hakdari seogi. The poomsae line represents the Buddhist symbol.