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Performance tips


Pattern competitors must demonstrate they have an understanding of the patterns and the techniques used in them through their pattern performance. Patterns must be performed with competence and competitors must demonstrate a clear understanding of the principles underlying the patterns. Here are some tips on how to improve your pattern performance.


  • Basics. Regardless of your rank, your basics need to be sharp. As a beginner, your basics might consist of a front kick and some simple punches. As an advanced competitor, your basics might also include spinning kicks and jumping kicks.
  • Learn the movements. The first step in learning a pattern is to understand its movements. When the movements become automatic, the real learning begins. Remember, many of the techniques were preserved from actual combat techniques. Study the movements by visualizing a real opponent in actual combat. Many martial artists have done the same technique in the same way for years, and then suddenly, while doing the technique one day, they discover a new meaning in it. This is why one instructor in a system can show you a technique exactly the same way that another instructor does it, but the interpretation is different. The technique stays the same, but a visualized change in the opponent causes the application of the technique to change.
  • Enthusiasm. When your name is called at a pattern competition, loudly acknowledge, run to the mat and respectfully bow and present yourself to the judges. This sets a tone that alerts the judges that a motivated competitor coming.
  • Work not walk. Work through the pattern, do not walk through it. If you merely walk through the pattern, you will have an average performance; whereas, if you work through the pattern, you will have a powerful performance that deserves recognition.
  • Do not be afraid of the judges. They are people just like you who enjoy the martial arts. They love to watch a crisp powerful pattern and want each competitor to his or her best. Do not be intimidated if they sit stone-faced, they are doing it out of respect for you.
  • Stances. Keep your stances as low and wide as they should be. Ensure your weight distribution and foot alignment are accurate. Posture is important before, during, and after your presentation.
  • Rhythm. Use the correct rhythmic in combinations. Try not to make your entire routine a blur. Stop for a moment after each technique sequence to let the judges appreciate your solid stances, incredible balance, and perfect basics.
  • Realism. Move similar to the way you would if fighting real attackers. Strong kicks, punches, and blocks are essential. Remembering you are fighting numerous imagery opponents and that there will a slight delay before engaging each new opponent.
  • Facial expressions. Your facial expressions control how you feel and how others perceive how you feel. It would be hard to take someone's pattern seriously if they smiled all the way through it. Keep your expressions serious throughout your kata and intensify your expression when you kiai. Do not act out your feelings; express your feelings.
  • Eyes. Eye movements include scanning your environment for threats, staring down your opponent, and turning your head and looking in the direction you are about to move or strike. Always look before you move.
  • Accuracy. Do not add any meaningless stylized movements; keep it real.
  • Power. Move smoothly and deliberately but execute the technique with maximum power and body tension. Since a pattern is a self-defense scenario against imaginary opponents, your movements and techniques should be powerful and effective. Strong kicks, punches, and blocks are essential. It is better to have a strong low kick than a weak high kick. Do not give up power for flash. There is no reason to save yourself for later. Let it all out, while remaining in control, and really show you have the power to make each punch and kick count.
  • Balance. Stumbling during a pattern is a major error. Demonstrate good balance and show that you are in control during the entire routine.
  • Symmetry. Symmetry defined is beauty of form arising from balanced proportions. Symmetry in patterns refers to your general form. Patterns are very specific about how arms and legs are positioned in relation to the body. The blocking arm usually extend from the line of the body at a 45-degree angle. Punches are usually at a 90-degree angle from the line of the body. Most techniques are aligned at 45- and 90-degree angles. Pay close attention to your symmetry.
  • Concentration. Do not lose your concentration if you make a mistake. Nobody is perfect. Some days are good days and some we try to forget. If you make a mistake keep going and do nothing to acknowledge the mistake. This is a fight for your life, you cannot give up.
  • Be quick but do not hurry. Make the technique quick (unless a slow movement is required) and powerful, but do not rush through the pattern.
  • Freezing. Do not be discouraged if you freeze and have to start over. Just bow to the judges and ask if you can start over. Give your second try all the enthusiasm and effort of your first try and you may still make the podium.
  • Your competitors are your peers. You are usually competing against people of your same age and belt level. Your competitors are people just like you with a similar experience level. They are nervous too!
  • Focus. You must focus if you want your techniques to be accurate. Usually, when a person's eyes start to wander, he or she is unsure of the next move. Do not lose your concentration because someone shouts, or loud music suddenly starts playing in the ring next to you.
  • Intensity and presence. Since you are fighting imaginary opponents, you should not have a blank look on your face or a smile. Be intense. Use your facial expressions to help the judges visualize your fight. Kiai intensely at the appropriate points. Low intensity kiais or powerful exhalations help emphasize techniques at other times.
  • Speed. Some basic, traditional patterns do not require much speed from strike to strike. However, even in a simple form, show great speed in a single kick or a single punch. In the more advanced forms, showing a quick combination of movements is important. Do not overemphasize speed. 
  • Crisp techniques. Ensure your techniques are executed in a crisp and snappy manner. The arms, legs, or body should move from one position to the next as quickly as possible and should stop exactly in it is next position. If the technique calls for a flowing motion, seek to be smooth rather than fast.
  • Flexibility. If your flexibility is good, show it. Perform difficult kicks as high was you can while still maintaining power and form. 
  • Difficult movements. The better you perform the more difficult movement, the higher you will score. Do not show a lack of confidence.
  • Perform for the back row. Stage actors make exaggerated movements so the movements may be seen by people sitting in the last row of the theater. When performing patterns, you should perform for the person sitting on the top row of the bleachers. When sweeping movements are required, make them very large sweeping movements; when snap is required, make it very snappy; when power is required, make it very powerful. Remember, are performing a fight, not demonstrating realistic fighting techniques.
  • Have a good backup. Make sure you know the rules regarding ties. Some tournaments may require a different pattern. Even if they do not require a different form, have a solid backup. If you can go out and do a different form just as well as the first, you are showing how multi-dimensional you are.
  • Stay true. When performing patterns, form and technique must be true to the fundamentals of your martial art. Show the judges you are a master of your art, not just a practitioner.
  • Ancient elements. Perform patterns remembering the ancient elements
  • Earth. Strong stances, balance, and good basic techniques.
  • Wind. Proper breathing, lightness, and direction of movement.
  • Fire. Speed, power, and focus.
  • Water. Fluidity, smoothness, and giving and receiving.
  • Sequence of movements
  • Turn head. Turn your head toward the direction of the attacker (identify threat) and chamber for your block or attack (prepare a threat response).
  • Turn body. Turn your body to face the threat.
  • Move feet. Step into appropriate stance and execute the block or attack (neutralize the threat)
  • Six principles of performance
  • Eyes. Bright and clear.
  • Mind. Calm and focused.
  • Body. Soft and low (stable, supple, and relaxed).
  • Feet. Firmly and precisely planted.
  • Hands. Fast, powerful, and controlled
  • Perform pattern in honor of its namesake? According to General Choi, each taekwondo pattern should be performed to reflect the personality and spiritual character of the person or thing the pattern was named after. However, the point of a martial art is combat, and the point of a pattern is to increase your combat skills. Therefore, it seems that you should not worry about imitating the personality and spiritual character of a dead warrior, especially when the pattern is probably one of those "borrowed" from shotokan karate that has no connection to the namesake other than the name. Instead, you should perform a pattern as though you were in mortal combat with multiple attackers. If you perform as a warrior, you will be honoring all warriors.
  • Common errors
  • Incorrect foot placement in stances.
  • Lack of facial intensity.
  • Using small motions that are supposed to be large motions, or vice sersa.
  • Allowing deep stances gradually change to shallow ones
  • Tiring too soon.
  • "Pushing off" from the feet rather than initiating movements properly through the hip.
  • Not allowing the body to move as a unit; arms and legs seem disconnected.
  • Nor having proper hand and foot. When moving, hand technique should finish just as stepping foot touches the floor.
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