Hyung Training Differences

November 2005

During the course of my martial arts career I've learned a LOT of hyung (forms). Different schools have put more or less emphasis on hyung training, and differed as well in what they emphasized.

This article discusses some of my specific experiences in hyung training. I will not go into details about the various schools I've trained with, leaving the reader to read my other articles, such as My History (in the menu, Martial Arts | My History).

Kang Duk Won Association, SUNY Potsdam & Lowville, NY

Kang Duk Won was my first really serious training in martial arts. I must say that some of what I learned in the fall of 1982 has carried through my entire career to the present time.

KDW put a LOT of emphasis on learning to perform hyung correctly. We worked heavily on technique, making sure that everyone did their techniques the same. Other schools I've trained in typically put less emphasis on technique -- more emphasis was put on memorization of the moves of the hyung.

In addition to technique, KDW put strong emphasis on timing and group coordination. We practiced moving all together, synchronized, and it looked impressive to see 50+ people moving so. At the time I didn't necessarily see the need, but in thinking back I am impressed.

Each testing cycle was 3 months (or 1 college semester). Assuming we passed to the next rank we learned a new hyung each cycle, and continued to practice our old hyung in addition to learning new ones. Class was once per week for 2 hours, and in that time we did a LOT of hyung training.

I recall doing Palgay Il-Jang extensively as a White belt! As a Yellow belt we did Palgay Il-Jang once or twice per class, and the Yellow belts and above would do Palgay Yi-Jang while the White belts continued doing Il-Jang. Then the Green belts (and above) would do Palgay Sam-Jang while the lower belts continued doing their rank hyung. This continued all the way through Brown belt, so the White belts knew Palgay Il-Jang inside & out!

Bailey's Taekwondo

Bailey's was a tournament school, so we put as much effort into sparring (fighting) as we did hyung. It was run by a husband & wife team, Terry & Vicky -- Terry was into sparring and Vicky was into hyung. So it was fairly well balanced. Each taught everything, but had their personal favorites.

We learned a new hyung at each belt, but at testing we were reponsible for all previous hyung, during which we demonstrated them ALL. And yes, that did take a long time. This was very similar to Kang Duk Won.

I was with Bailey's for a little over a year, so I didn't progress that far through the ranks. I recall that we practiced all our old hyung in class, but as time progressed we didn't work on old hyung as much as we did the current one, but did review them periodically. Before testing (which for my ranks was every 3 or 4 months) we ran through all our hyung and made sure everyone knew them.

There was a lot of emphasis on memorization, and I recall effort was put into instilling good technique. I also recall working on synchronization. Not as much as KDW, but a fair amount.

One side note on synchronization -- in addition to being attractive, it's also a safety measure. When you have 10, 20, or 50 people in an enclosed area throwing techniques, it's VERY beneficial to have everyone moving together. The other choice strongly resembles "feeding time in the shark tank"!

Vision Taekwondo, American Taekwondo Association

The ATA emphasized memorization as the paramount thing. We were taught correct technique, but it wasn't always emphasized as much -- as time went on it wasn't emphasized much at all. Especially at the colored belt level, correct memorization of the sequence of moves was sufficient to pass the exams. We did not practice synchronization (although some of us stuck closely together), which made practice, and even testings, rather amusing and sometimes dangerous.

The ATA worked on a hyung for only 2 or 4 months at a time, depending on rank. For White belt through Green belt we practiced a hyung only for the 2 months of the testing cycle. So we learned Songahm 1 at White belt and never practiced it again (in class) until we reached Purple Decided, a year later.

Purple belt through Red belt took two testing cycles for each rank (Recommended and Decided), so we did each hyung for 4 months. And at each Decided rank for each belt we were tested on an old hyung: Songahm 1 at Purple Decided, Songahm 2 at Blue Decided, Songahm 3 at Brown Decided, and Songahm 4 at Red Decided.

Then the test for Red/Black (1st Degree Black Recommended) required all nine colored belt hyung. Once people reached Red Decided they scrambled to relearn hyung they hadn't even thought of for as much as 1-1/2 years! Again, the focus was on memorization -- relearning a bunch of old hyung in a few short months didn't leave time for anything else.

Part of this was the short testing cycle. Having 2 months to learn a hyung while also learning 3 one-steps or sparring segments AND two self defense techniques did not leave a lot of time for perfecting techniques.

Bannard Soo Bahk Do, Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation

Soo Bahk Do trains similar to the way Bailey's and Kang Duk Won did. We are responsible for knowing all older material, although we may not be called on at testing to perform older material. The kicker is that we might, so we had better know it!

When observing a Dan clinic taught by Kwan Jang Nim Hwang last spring (April 2005), I was surprised to see him using Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu and Ki Cho Hyung Ee Bu (Basic Forms 1 & 2) to instruct the Dan members in basic techniques. That made it clear to me that I had better know my old material!

Recently I went through the current Gup Manual, which lists the requirements for each rank's test. The following table lists all the hyung and indicates which ranks include the various hyung in the testing material.

The narrow columns on the left represent the standard testing cycle of 3 months, which is used for 10th Gup through 4th Gup, each working towards their respective next higher rank. So the column labeled 10th Gup indicates the material that 10th Gups are responsible for at their testing for 9th Gup, etc.

The next wider columns, labeled 3rd and 2nd Gup respectively, are double-length testing cycles (6 months), the minimum time required for each rank to progress to the next. The last column on the right is a quadruple-length testing cycle (12 months), the minimum time for 1st Gups to progress to 1st Dan.












Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu











Ki Cho Hyung Ee Bu











Ki Cho Hyung Sam Bu











Pyung Ahn Cho Dan











Chil Sung Ee Ro











Pyung Ahn Sam Dan











Chil Sung Il Ro











Chil Sung Sam Ro











Yuk Ro Chodan











Haihanji Cho Dan (o)











Passai (o)











(o) : Gup Manual indicates this hyung is optional

Note: The above times are a minimum, although there is some allowance for people to test sooner, if they have training in other styles and/or learn the SBD techniques and use of hip at a faster rate. A discussion of that is beyond this article, which for simplicity assumes a standard testing cycle of 3 months.

As the graph shows, with the exception of Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu and Pyung Ahm Sam Dan, all hyung are worked on for a minimum of 2 testing cycles (6 months). Chil Sung Ee Ro is a notable exception for the lower ranks -- that is worked on for 3 testing cycles.

Note: The Gup Manual states that the test coordinator can request a demonstration of any lower ranked material, so while the requirements state the minimum for each rank, each student is responsible for all previously learned material. SO while we may not specifically be tested on earlier hyung, we may be so we have to keep them fresh in memory.

At 5th Gup we learn Chil Sung Il Ro, which is one of the easiest hyung I've ever memorized, but one of the hardest to perform correctly. Sa Bom Nim Bannard taught it to me last spring and my memorization of it is clear. But it will be another year before I believe I'm really doing an acceptable performance of it, and more years after that to really perfect it.

Note: Chil Sung Il Ro is not listed as testing material for 2nd Gup, while it is for 3rd Gup and 1st Gup. I'm not sure why this is -- it could be an error in the Gup Manual, or it could be that the testing material for 2nd Gup was considered robust enough. If I remember I'll ask SBN Bannard about that.

It struck me at one point some months ago that we do hyung for long periods of time, especially when compared to other organizations such as the ATA. [This is what spurred the writing of this article.] Recent classes have given me insight on why we do this.

SBN Bannard's modus operandi is to first concern himself with the memorization. We learn the sequence of moves, and he keeps corrections in technique to a (relative) minimum. Once we have things memorized he starts working on improving technique. As we continue to train he adds more and more detail to what we are practicing. It starts out slowly and then all of a sudden we're responsible for soooo much detail!

He works us on memorization first to build a framework, then his fills in the gaps. Kind of like drawing an outline of a painting, then filling in the areas.

This makes sense, as Kwan Jang Nim Hwang uses Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu to teach (actually reinforce) basic techniques to the Masters, who all have trained for a minimum of 12 years. So SBN Bannard using lower ranked forms to improve our techniques makes perfect sense.

Two weeks ago (22 September) we worked on stances, using il soo sik and hyung as the vehicle for the lessons. We worked on the first seven moves of Chil Sung Il Ro, in which he hounded us mercilessly on stances. We improved our front stances, back stances, and most of all, horse stances. I think I learned more about stances that night than I have in my entire career!

But let's be fair to my other instructors -- SBN Bannard has been training in Soo Bahk Do for going on 35 years. He's been training almost as long as I've been alive (I'm currently 42). Most of my other instructors trained for some where between 5 and 10 years at the time they taught me, so there is a limit to what they can have learned themselves.

I haven't been responsible for Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu (Basic Form #1) for since February (8+ months) but we still use it. Last week we wound down a class by practicing Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu, Ee Bu, and Sam Bu. For the lower ranks this is learning time, but for the upper ranks it's demonstration time -- we have the chance to demonstrate that we've learned something (like use of the all important hip, huri) since we performed Ki Cho Hyung Il Bu at our testing for 9th Gup.

More importantly he can tell from watching us if we're practicing outside of class. When we learn to better use our hip while practicing Pyung Ahn Chodan, we should be able to apply that lesson to other hyung without his having to specifically teach it to us.

Demonstrating THAT is what will get me to the Dan level sooner than later!

Copyright 1999-2008 Bryan Fazekas