Taekwondo patterns, also known as poomsae or hyeong constitute an important part of Taekwondo competitions. A pattern is a sequence of movements linked together in a prescribed sequence. Both basic and advanced Taekwondo techniques can be contained within a single patterns and the higher the level of the competitor, the greater the difficulty of the techniques and the complexity of the pattern. Competitors must perform their highest pattern in front of a panel of judges.
There are two types of Taekwondo pattern competition:
- Solo Taekwondo patterns – Performed simultaneously by two competitors, each from an opposing club. Every competitor may perform two patterns chosen from a range corresponding to his level – one designated pattern and one optional pattern. The best pattern is chosen by the judges and that competitor goes through to the next round by a process of elimination.
- Team Taekwondo patterns – Performed simultaneously by several competitors from a club organised into a single team. Club teams compete by performing two patterns each, one after the other. Once one team have finished both their patterns can the competing team then perform theirs. Again, the judges choose the best pattern to go through to the next round.
Under ITF rules there must be five judges on the panel and one recorder, one judge issues the commands to competitors. In both solo and team events the winner is chosen by a majority decision of 3 judges in favour. In the event of a drawn decision (two judges in favour of one team, two judges in favour of the other and the fifth judge calling a draw), an additional pattern must be performed. Patterns are judged on the following qualities:
- Accuracy. Taekwondo patterns should begin and end in the same place.
- Posture. Practitioners must have their body weight correctly distributed during each different stance and during footwork. Each technique must be correctly aligned.
- Realism. Taekwondo patterns are the learning ground for real combat. As such, every technique must display the requisite speed, power and firmness to be realistically used as an attack or defense move.
- Spirit. A competitors ‘presence’ on the mat must be as credible as his technique. Self belief, confidence in abilities and intention to perform to a personal best are tangible virtues considered indispensable inTaekwondo practitioner.
- Decorum. Proper manners must be displayed when interacting with the judges directly before and after the pattern. Respect must also be extended to rival competitors, clubs and other officials.
- Form. General qualities that judges look for in any Taekwondo practitioner include proper breathing technique and body control. The diaphragm must be engaged in deep breathing, shallow breathing concentrated in the upper abdomen results in raised shoulders and stressed muscles. The muscles of the body should be lightly relaxed in order to perform the pattern with fluidity, speed and grace. Muscles should only be tensed at the moment of imaginary impact in order to commute maximum power to any individual Taekwondo technique.
Here is a video of the North Korean Taekwondo team performing a team poomsae.