top of page

Poomsae: The Taekwondo dance flow

Article by: Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin, Goven M. Barrera, and Marianne Lois M. Boncolmo

Graphics by: Clark Vincent Constantino

As part of the fundamental curriculum of Taekwondo, Poomsae is a set of attack and defense movements used in rank testing. With its ring disguised as a stage, the art of Poomsae does not seek combat but rather to systematically flow through firm movements and forms.

In an interview with Ranielle Paul A. Ledesma, a former member of the Mapúa Kicking Cardinals, he shared that Poomsae is different from Taekwondo sparring. “… it’s more like a dance number, pero kailangan mo maipakita ‘yung power, focus, and ‘yung timing,” he said.

While Season 96 of the in the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) has come to a close, some may still not know what the sport is all about. To catch a glimpse of what it truly is, here is a run-through of Poomsae–the soul of Taekwondo.

Knowing the Song

Literally translated as “forms”, Poomsae involves several foundational and advanced techniques such as stances, kicks, strikes, and blocks. Athletes simultaneously train their mind and body to perfectly execute these patterns of attack and defense movements in correct order and proper positions. Training for Poomsae helps players to develop focus, mindfulness, and self-discipline as these qualities are needed to excel in each level of the sport. Relying on balance, coordination, and muscle memory, Poomsae players glide through these forms to fight off imaginary opponents from multiple directions. These patterns constitute the basics of the martial art which makes Poomsae the core of Taekwondo.

Unknown to many, Poomsae has been a part of the NCAA since its 91st season. Overlooked as a demonstrational sport, Poomsae was given the spotlight in this season’s NCAA 96: Rise Up Stronger with the hopes of generating interest in the Taekwondo martial art.

Learning the Steps

The core of Poomsae includes patterns and forms that are divided into eight levels called taegeuk: Taegeuk Il Jang, Taegeuk Yi Jang, Taegeuk Sam Jang, Taegeuk Sah Jang, Taegeuk Oh Jang, Taegeuk Yuk Jang, Taegeuk TChil Jang, and Taegeuk Pal Jang. The first being the introductory or basic Taekwondo maneuvers, with the succeeding levels comprising of more difficult techniques. Athletes are encouraged to perfect each taegeuk and continuously improve their stances as they move to the next level.

The name of each taegeuk form is signified in a three-word phrase. First, taegeuk, in its literal translation, pertains to the unity of opposites — a balance of good and bad. The second word refers to the iteration of the Sino-Korean numbering system that identifies the degree of difficulty from one (il), two (i), three (sam), four (sa), five (o), six (yuk), seven (chil), to eight (pal). Finally, jang roughly translates to the word “chapter” that describes each form as more intricate than the previous one. More so, the different levels of taegeuk hold symbolic meaning, relating to the elements of nature such as water, earth, fire, and wind. The elements are reflected in each movement through the style in which they are performed. For instance, Taeguk Yuk Jang represents water and so the movements are to be performed like water—fluid and powerful.

Practice Makes Perfect

With the nature of Poomsae as an exhibition sport, one may think that the training is lax. This, however, is the opposite, as athletes endure hours of intense training, with each second spent on perfecting every strike and kick. Trainees have to proceed to the next act without hesitation, but this does not imply moving rapidly, but rather knowing the tempo in which they can perform the next movement. To do so, proper posture and balance must be observed to create a sense of control and a good stance to enable maximum force.

Ledesma shared his training experience where they had to do twenty repetitions of each form. “Dapat walang mali. If may magkamali sa team niyo papaulitin kayo ni coach,” the Poomsae player noted, emphasizing their goal to lessen the deduction of scores during competitions.

In the previous NCAA matches, the Kicking Cardinals usually participated under the Taekwondo categories of Sparring and Poomsae, wherein only Taegeuk Yuk Jang, Taegeuk TChil Jang, Taegeuk Pal Jang, and black belt forms are performed. One player is chosen for the individual category while the rest are to compete under the team category. However, for the Poomsae matches in the NCAA Season 96, only one player per school participated.

Maintaining the Tempo

Since some of the movements are indirect and may appear abstract, Poomsae players usually spend more time understanding each form and visualizing their imaginary opponents instead of sparring with another player. This demands the athlete’s utmost focus and understanding of the techniques. Apart from visualization, they must also be flexible enough to execute the forms to its full potential.

From learning the basics to finding the right rhythm of execution, Poomsae has always set a standard for athletes to persevere and rise until they earn the Black Belt. Each form or taegeuk is interconnected with the others and goes back to the roots, traditions, and philosophy of the majority of martial arts. With its ring disguised as a stage, the art of Poomsae is a dance that guides Taekwondo practitioners to train the mind and body, perfect the fundamentals, and continuously improve themselves.

0 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page