The Songahm Difference

27 May 2001

What is the "Songahm Difference"???

It's a term I made up to describe why I believe that the Songahm style of TKD has advantages over some other TKD styles. It has NOTHING to do with the fact that I am a member of the American Taekwondo Association. I'm not a gung-ho zealot who believes that the style I do is correct and everyone else is wrong. [Actually, I don't believe there is any *one* perfect style, and have a personal interest in learning other martial arts to complement TKD.]

As I've described in other pages, TKD is a bastardized style, made up of pieces of various Korean arts and including a lot of material borrowed from Japanese and Chinese arts. Fifteen years ago, long before I ever heard of the ATA, I questioned the fact that the forms I did included very little kicking.

Apparently Grand Master HU Lee did the same questioning. As a result of his questioning, Songahm TKD came into being.

So What Is Different About Songahm TKD?

That's an easy question to answer: Pretty much everything except the techniques themselves.

OK -- the kicks, strikes and blocks are not all that different from the other TKD styles I've done. Nothing there to pull anyone into the ATA.

But the forms, one-steps, and sparring segments ARE different, so strongly different that they should pull people in.

Those are the obvious points. What isn't so obvious is the structure, the order in which those not-so-special techniques are taught. THAT is very special.

Note: I am using the term "pattern" to indicate any pre-planned, structured group of moves, including forms (kata), one-steps, and sparring segments. In general usage "pattern" means the same as "form" or "kata", but I'm using it differently [mostly 'cuz I couldn't think up a better term to use! :-)]

The first thing that struck me during my introductory month is that the techniques we learned as White belts were all used in our patterns! This had never happened before! In my previous experience there was no correlation between the techniques we learned and the forms we did. But at Allen's we learned techniques and then reinforced them through every bit of practice we did. This pattern continued through each belt, up to and including my current belt (Red Decided).

Each pattern we do is designed for Songahm TKD and includes the new material we learn at that belt! At White belt we learn the Front and Side kicks, and use both in the patterns. At Orange belt we learn the Round kick -- and -- you guessed it -- it's in the patterns! This continues all the way up to Red belt (which is all I know so far).

In other styles of TKD the forms used (Chon-Ji group, Palgue*, etc) are taken from Japanese or Chinese arts and include little to no kicking, at least for lower belts. At one school I was with our forms included no kicks until the fourth one, and then we did two Front kicks.

Before someone burns up my mail box with flames, please calm down. I'm NOT saying that the ATA is the only style of TKD that is doing it right. What I AM saying is that the method and patterns developed for Songahm TKD are designed from the ground up to better reflect the art of Taekwondo.

* Note: I have discovered that there are nearly as many ways to spell some names are there are styles of TKD. The spelling of non-ATA terms that I use may not agree with how your style spells it, but it is a valid spelling.

Let's look at the Songahm forms and analyze them. I have summarized the nine ATA colored belt forms, counting blocks, kicks, and strikes, and came up with the following:

Form

Blocks

Kicks

Strikes

Total

Songahm 1

6

4

8

18

Songahm 2

9

6

8

23

Songahm 3

8

6

14

28

Songahm 4

11

10

10

31

Songahm 5

18

10

6

34

In Wha 1

16

14

14

44

In Wha 2

14

10

18

42

Choong Jung 1

16

10

18

44

Choong Jung 2

18

12

16

46

Total

116

82

112

340


We do a LOT of kicking in our forms. I've summarized these details in the next tables:


Form

Blocks

Kicks

Strikes

Songahm 1

33%

22%

44%

Songahm 2

39%

26%

35%

Songahm 3

29%

21%

50%

Songahm 4

35%

32%

32%

Songahm 5

53%

29%

18%

In Wha 1

36%

32%

32%

In Wha 2

33%

24%

43%

Choong Jung 1

36%

22%

41%

Choong Jung 2

39%

26%

35%

Aggregate:

37%

26%

36%


The above shows a fairly large percentage of kicks. Less kicks than blocks or strikes, but still a fairly large number. To contrast this, I reviewed the first four forms of a previous school, giving them the same treatment:


Form

Blocks

Kicks

Strikes

Total

Basic Form 1

8

0

12

20

Chon-Ji

8

0

11

19

Tan-Gun

9

0

11

20

To-San

11

2

13

26

Total

36

2

47

85


The difference in percent of kicking is startling!


Form

Blocks

Kicks

Strikes

Basic Form 1

40%

0%

60%

Chon-Ji

42%

0%

58%

Tan-Gun

45%

0%

55%

To-San

42%

8%

50%

Aggregate:

42%

2%

55%


Not a lot of kicking for a style that is supposed to concentrate on kicking!

Before someone flames me: One school I belonged to was (and probably still is) a very good school. Assuming that it's still being taught by the same people I would strongly recommend the school. When I was with them I was on the road to being a VERY good martial artist.

My point is that the ATA has produced a good system that truly reflects what we do in Taekwondo. I am asking other martial artists to think about what they are doing and ask themselves, "how do we improve?".


Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas