Whether or not you love patterns, you’re probably always trying to get better at them. And let’s face it, if you’re reading this article, you probably like patterns. They say practice makes perfect, but it’s how you practice that matters. So here are eight ways to make your Taekwon-Do patterns even better.
1. Practice lower patterns
I love Chon-Ji. With 180-degree turns and two stances, it’s more complex than the uber-simple Saju Jirugi and Saju Makgi. But it’s still easy. (Well, assuming you’re higher than a yellow belt…) It’s perfect for practicing things like sine wave, body shifting, speed, balance, body alignment, power and getting that “snap” at the end of your movements. Dan-Gun and even Do-San are great for this as well, as they add just a little more complexity to the mix.
You can use these easier patterns to really feel your movements without worrying about complicated sequences or a huge list of techniques to memorize.
2. Watch yourself
Your instructor may give you excellent feedback and you may be great at feeling how your body moves. But there are some things that you can only identify when you watch yourself.
Hopefully your dojang has huge mirrors to practice in front of. If not, find somewhere that has them, like an aerobics studio at a gym. And watch yourself performing every technique. Break your patterns down into sections so you’re always facing the mirror. Watch your preparation, your sine wave, your alignment, your stances, your kicks, your turns, your everything.
Even better, watch yourself on video from time to time. That way, you aren’t trying to perform a technique and watch it at the same time.
3. Grease the squeaky wheel
You already know the techniques that give you the most trouble. Practice those over and over. And over. …And over. Don’t repeat the whole pattern just to practice those techniques. Rather, practice the techniques individually, but just like you would do them in your pattern. Let’s say you have trouble with the jump in Toi-Gye, for example. Start from your low block and back fist, and practice that sucker to death.
4. Face a different direction
We often get into the habit of doing our patterns facing in the same direction in a given room. Facing a different direction will take you out of your comfort zone and make you concentrate on the techniques and the diagram of the pattern. Trust me, it’s harder than it sounds.
If you want a serious challenge, practice with your eyes closed.
5. Use slow motion
Keep it nice and relaxed, and pretty darn slow. Slow motion will help you understand how to move from one technique to another and how to shift your body. It will also help you pick up on some fine details of your body movement that you might not notice when practicing at normal speed.
6. Get feedback from as many people as you can
I don’t mean just anybody. I mean people with serious knowledge of your patterns. If you have several instructors at your dojang, take advantage of that. If you’re able to attend seminars with people who are excellent at patterns, do it. Everyone who watches your pattern will pick up on something a little different. Also, hearing feedback from different people, phrased in different ways, can sometimes help you find the message that works for you. A little light bulb might just turn itself on inside your head.
I know, I know, competition isn’t for everyone. But it has huge benefits. And patterns competition isn’t nearly as risky or as nerve-wracking as sparring. The worst that can happen is that you don’t win. Big deal. (Well, it is a big deal if you’re trying hard to win, but you know what I mean.)
Even just training for competition is fantastic. If you want to try your best to win, you’ll probably put in tons of practice ahead of time to get your patterns in the best shape possible. But practice aside, even the feeling of being up in front of the judges, trying to win, can bring out your best. I’ve noticed time and time again that students improve quickly in the few weeks after a tournament.
Be a Taekwon-Do geek. Learn the fine points of the techniques. Read the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do (more likely the Condensed Encyclopedia) if you have it. Study the techniques for your patterns. Ask your instructors tons of questions. Check out videos of people like multiple-time world champion Jaroslaw Suska on YouTube. And, of course, read my tips on pattern techniques here on Dobok Squawk.