Taekwondo (ITF): Forms

General Choi Hong Hi founded the Taekwondo Forms and these set of rules in Korea 1966. This has set standards for training (sparring, patterns, and breaking). There is also a unified grading system.


The Tul (patterns/forms) are similar in principle to the well-known kata of karate. In total there are 24 patterns, which represent 24 hours of the day. Each pattern represents an important era of Korean history or an important person.

All the patterns start and end at the same position. This allows the student to develop stances and movement that have the correct stride, width and direction. There is a pattern for each grade including the nine degrees of black belt. The number nine has significance as the highest single digit number. It is formed from multiplying 3 by 3. The number three is significant of the three lines that represent the earth (lower), the mortals (middle) and the heavens (upper). ‘The individual who can unite all three realms within themselves will be reborn as a king.’

Forms Rules

They should begin and end at the same position
Maintain correct posture and direction
Muscle contraction and relaxation must be appropriate to the particular movement
The pattern should flow without being rigid
The pace of the movements should increase and decrease correctly
A pattern should attempt to be mastered before training in the next one
Techniques should be performed with same standard when using right and left lower and upper limbs


Taekwondo FormsAttention stance: feet together

Ready stance: feet shoulder width apart

Sitting (horse) stance: feet one and half shoulder widths apart with weight distributed equally.

Walking stance: Both feet facing forwards. One shoulder width wide. One and a half shoulder widths long. Front knee is bent and back leg is straight.

L stance: Weight is distributed as 70 per cent on the back leg, and 30 per cent on the front leg. Back foot faces horizontal. Front foot faces forward. Both knees are bent and the stance is one and a half shoulder widths long. This stance is useful for avoiding sweeps, and allowing the front leg to be quickly lifted whilst being supported on the back leg.

Fixed stance: Same as L stance but longer (up to two shoulder widths in length). The weight is equally distributed.

Saju Jirugi
This is also known as four directional punching

Saju Makgi
This is also known as four directional blocking

The 24 Taekwondo Forms

Chon Ji (8th kup)

 ‘The heaven and the earth’. Represents the beginnings of humankind. This is the initial beginner pattern that contains 19 movements and 3 different stances (ready, walking and L stance). Classical text explains that Chon ji represents the creation of the universe and the changing nature of the world. The theory surrounds the interaction of two opposing elements that form a combination for the basic matter of the universe. Many techniques within taekwondo use the interaction of opposing forces.

Dan Gun (7th kup)

The holy Dan Gun is known to be the ancient founder of Korea circa 2000 BC. This pattern contains 21 movements and 3 stances (ready, walking and L stance). The story of Dan Gun is derived from the mythical theory that Hwan ung came from heaven to rule the world. He was met by a bear and a tiger who requested to be turned into humans. The bear fulfilled the commandments and was transformed into a woman, but the tiger was not transformed. Hwan ung changed into a man and married the woman leading to the birth of Dan Gun. This story gained popularity after the merging of kingdoms.

Do San (6th kup)

This contains 28 movements and 4 stances (ready, walking, L stance and sitting). Do San also known as Chang Ho Ahn was a major promoter for Korean independence. He was a patriot who was determined to further the education and culture of the Korean public. This movement was at its peak during the Japanese occupation. Having spent various periods in the USA, he was ultimately arrested by the Japanese. He died in 1938 during his imprisonment.

Won Hyo (5th kup)

In the Silla Dynasty circa 600 A.D, Won Hyo was a famous monk who introduced the practice of Buddhism. This pattern contains 28 movements and 5 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance and bending). He was recognised by the Chinese Dang dynasty as a scholar. Eventually he travelled through much of Korea, teaching Buddhism and improving the quality of the suffering communities. He was regarded at the highest level within the monastery.

Yul Gok (4th kup)

This pattern contains 38 movements (signifying his birthplace on the 38th degree of latitude) and 5 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance and bending). Yul Gok was also known as ‘Confucius of Korea’. He worked for the government during the Yi dynasty but later on he focussed mainly on writing philosophical texts. He made some monumental changes and improved the country’s social structure.

 Joong Gun (3rd kup)

The first Japanese governor of Korea was Hiro Bumi. He was responsible for the merger with Korea. His fate was to be assassinated by Joong Gun. This pattern contains 32 movements that signify the age at which Joong Gun was executed for his crime in 1910. There are 5 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance and bending). He is remembered for sacrificing his life for the benefit of the country.

Toi Gye (2nd Kup)

The 37 movements symbolise the birth of Toi Gye on the 37th degree of latitude. There are 5 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance and bending). He was also known as Yi Hwang and was famous as a philosopher who promoted Confucianism (Joo ja hak). He attained the highest level of civil service but then left this to become a scholar. He educated young men at the Do san institute and eventually died around 1570.

Hwa Rang (1st kup)

This is based on the 29 movements (29th infantry division) and 7 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance, bending, vertical and closed). The Hwa Rang were a group of highly trained young men, who had to maintain the highest moral values as well as physical skills. Living in the mountains, they lived by pledging an allegiance to the king, respect for parents, friends and animals. They originated in Silla and ultimately led to the conquering of the three kingdoms and unification of Korea.

Choong Moo (1st Dan Black belt)

This pattern consists of 30 movements and 5 stances (ready, walking, fixed, L-stance and bending) Choong Moo (Admiral Yi Sun Sin) created the first armoured battleship (precursor to submarine). His death is symbolised by the left-handed strike which ends the pattern.


This contains 36 movements and it is based on a famous poet called Chong Mong –Chu towards the end of the koryo dynasty. The direction and layout of the pattern symbolises the loyalty to king and country.


Kwang Gae Toh Wang was a famous king during the Koryo dynasty. He gained power during the Koryo dynasty. The 39 movements symbolise the year he ascended to the throne 391 A.D.


This is named after a man who was a famous general during the Baek je period. The movements and spacing are based upon strict military discipline. There are 44 movements

Eui Am

This 45 move pattern is based upon the age when Son Byong Hi used the term sondo kyo (The way of heavenly religion) He had an important place in the korean independence movement.

Choong Jang

Also known as General Kim Duk Ryang (circa 1350 A.D). This pattern symbolises his young death whilst in prison. There are 52 movements.


The 45 movements centre around the idea that man is in control of his own destiny. The layout of the pattern represents Baekdu mountain which contains the spirtit of the Korean people. It is here where an idea was created that man is the master of everything.

Ko Dang

The 39 movements have been created for Cho Man Shik. He was a patriot who was part of the Korean independence movement and he provided much education for people.

Sam Il

The 33 movements signify 33 patriots who initiated the Korean independence movement which began on the 1st of March 1919.

Yoo sin

68 movements represent the year 668 A.D when the Korean kingdoms were united. The pattern is named after General Kim Yoo Sin who was a famous commander during the Silla period.

Choi Yong

This is named after General Choi Yong. He was a commander in chief during the Koryo dynasty. He was widely respected for his patriotism but was executed at the hands of Yi Sung Gae. It has 46 movements.

Yong Gae 

The 49 movements represent the year 649 A.D, which is when General Yong Gae brought about the exit of the Tang dynasty from Korea during the Koguryo period. 300,000 troops were lost by the Chinese.

Ul Ji

42 movements tell the story of how General Ul Ji Moon deflected Tang’s invasion around 612 A.D. Korea was successfully defended.

Moon Moo

61 movements signify the year 661 A.D when Moon Moo became the 30th king during the Silla period. His body is said to have been placed in the sea, so that his soul may defend against the Japanese.

So San

Choi Hyong Ung is a famous monk from the Lee dynasty. 72 movements represent the age 72 which is when he arranged for a group of monk soldiers to make resistance against Japan during the 16th century.

Se Jong 

This contains 24 movements which are a representation of the 24 letters of the alphabelt that was created by Se Jong in 1443. He was arguably the greatest king of Korean times.

Tong Il 

The 56 movements of this pattern are centred around a layout that represents unification. This relates to the segregation that occurred around 1945.


The arena is 9m by 9m. If the fighter moves out of this area, a warning is given. Three warnings lead to the loss of one point. If too much contact is used, then a point can be subtracted. If three points are lost in one bout, the fighter is disqualified. Each sparring round is two minutes. There are two rounds in national competition. ITF uses a ‘continuous point’ sparring score system, whereby four judges will award points during the fight. Elbow strikes, knee strikes, blows to the back of the head or below the belt are not allowed.

Kicking drills

Seven main types of kicking are practised . The routine consists of the individual throwing a jab and a cross, which is then follwed by the kick with the right leg. The individual then turns 90 degrees to the left and repeats the routine and so on until 360 degrees has been acheived. Therefore each kick is executed four times with the right leg and then the direction of turning is reversed in order to repeat the routine with the opposite leg. This is done for each of the following kicks:

1)    Front kick
2)    Roundhouse kick
3)    Side kick
4)    Axe kick
5)    Hook kick
6)    Spin back kick
7)    Spin hook kick

Breaking / destruction

The practice of board/wood breaking techniques usually begins after blue belt stage (4th kup). Breaking is used to display the accuracy and power of a particular technique. Commonly used lower limb techniques include side, back, hook, turning (roundhouse), jump side and jump back kicks. Upper limb techniques include elbow, palm heel, inner and outer knife hand strikes. Successful breaking depends on correct attitude, good technique and aiming for point behind where the board is held.

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