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Unfortunately, many of today's pattern performances are superficial, contrived, mechanical, robotic, unrealistic, posturing, and awkward theatrical productions meant to entertain, not to demonstrate principles or an understanding of the movements. Spectators tend to yell and applaud wildly as they would at any rousing sporting event.

Once in a while, spectators get to watch a simple, but emotionally moving, pattern performace that displays finess, concentration, focus, realism, inspiration, along with power and fluid movement. Rather than just being entertained, they sit reverently in awe, knowing they are witnessing a once in a lifetime event. They have the warm feeling that comes from watching perfection; many many have a tear in the corner of their eyes. When the pattern ends, spectators tend to sit stunned for a moment, and then rise in loud, but respectful, applause that builds to a roar. Not many pattern performances rise to this level, but it should be the goal of every martial artist.


Is there such a thing as a perfect pattern performance? Some say there is no such thing a perfect pattern performance, that there is always some element that could be improved. This may be true, but there are some pattern performances that are nearly perfect.

The quality of any pattern performance is in the mind of the observer, not the performer. There are many pattern performers who think their patterns are performed perfectly, so a valid evaluation of a pattern performance must be made by objective, nonpartisan, recognized experts in judging pattern performance.

Some element of a perfect pattern performance included the following.


  • Sequence. Use of the required movements in the correct sequence.
  • Understanding. Demonstrate that an understanding of the sequence of movements has been internalized and so that the movements flow with the naturalness and ease of reflex rather than thought.
  • Intent. Directing and concentrating entire attention on points of power. The intent of the eyes communicates both a determination to defend against attack and a predetermined plan or deliberate design for defense. The eyes anticipate the intended direction of movements by quick shifts of vision and then concentrate on the target.
  • Spirit or attitude. Exhibition a sense of calm and humility based on self-confidence and dedication to the perfection of pattern performance.
  • Tension and relaxation. Proficiency in breathing and timing for the accumulation and release of power.
  • Power. Command of the release, restraint, application, and relaxation of explosive but focused power.
  • Kiai. Powerful kiai is used at the proper places. Each kiai must exhibit the intent and power of the technique and the emotion of the performer but it must sound real and not contrived or fake.
  • Speed and rhythm. Coordination of movements at rates appropriate to their location within the pattern.
  • Direction changes. Maintenance of balance and confidence in movements when changing direction.
  • Technique. Use of rigor and strength in techniques. Using equal power in both attack and defense movements.
  • Distinctive features. Performance instills in the observer a vivid awareness of the specific kinds of attacks and of the number and direction of attackers for which the pattern was designed.
  • Precision. Demonstrates accuracy in the execution of movements and techniques that reflect the finest logical coordination of balance, distance, power, ability, and control.
  • Perfect finish. Maintenance of concentration and control throughout the pattern. The last movement of the pattern ends at the starting point and remains fixed there until signaled by the instructor, judge, or referee.
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