What are Hyung?

What are Hyung?
from The TaeKwon-Do Patterns Resource: Chon-Ji by Master Andrew Lesser

          The word “hyung” directly translates from the Korean as “pattern”. Another word for pattern in the TaeKwon-Do martial art is “tul”, pronounced “tuel”, or the Japanese “kata”. Hyung in essence are choreographed fighting routines that have titles significant in Korean history. This history is not limited to the martial arts, and ranges from military to scholarly and religious figures and concepts. There are 24 traditional patterns in TaeKwon-Do, one for each hour of the day and each with a significant theme and unique techniques.

          During one’s study of the martial arts, patterns serve multiple roles in the development of the martial artist. In the beginning stage, patterns are a means to practice techniques in a moving pattern, exercising simple moves to more advanced techniques as the student improves. As in performing a piece of music, the individual movements begin to take form in the larger whole, and the pattern begins to be performed more fluidly. In addition, the student begins to grasp the inner meaning of the pattern as an exercise in both body and mind, in which the art is perceived. Coordination of the body is not only improved, but clarity of mind and focus become apparent in the search for inner balance within ourselves. In the words of Master Hee Il Cho:

“By enacting various situations of confrontation through patterns,
we begin to understand the nature of conflict, and we begin to
learn how and when we can avoid it and what to do when we cannot”.[1] 

          The patterns can serve to better prepare the martial arts student for situations where combat is unavoidable, but perhaps the confidence gained by knowledge of the patterns can serve to prevent conflicts, as in this quotation from The Art of War:  

“Subjugating an enemy without fighting is the pinnacle of excellence”.[2]


[1] Cho, Hee Il. The Complete Tae Kwon Do Hyung, Volume 1. Copyright by Master Hee Il Cho: Los Angeles, California, 1984.

[2] Tzu, Sun and Sawyer, Ralph, trans. The Art of War. Westville Press: Colorado, 1994.

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