The Kukkiwon uses the word pumsae for form. Pumsae philosophy originate from the book ‘I Ching’, a Chinese oracle. The I Ching has 64 hexagrams, a combination of two sets of three lines, closed or broken. The sets of three lines are called trigrams. The closed lines represent Yang, the open lines Yin. In the Chinese language, the unity of Yin and Yang is called ‘taich’i’. In the Korean language, the unity is called Tae-geuk. This explains the term pumsae Taegeuk. The eight trigrams together are called Pal-gwe as in pumsae Palgwe.
Most Kukkiwon schools will use the pumsae Taegeuk whereas a few schools will use the pumsae Palgwe. The meanings, trigrams and symbols are shared by both pumsae Taegeuk and pumsae Palgwe, however the sequence of movements is different. The first 8 forms of the set of pumsae differ from each other, whereas the last 9 forms of the set are shared between the two sets.
Palgwe pumsae were used from 1967 to 1971. Taegeuk pumsae have been in use from 1971 to the present time. Kukkiwon states that Palgwe pumsae have been eliminated.
The official forms for Kukki-Taekwondo, as mandated by the Kukkiwon (World Taekwondo Headquarters), are the Taegeuk pumsae. Pumsae is sometimes written as poomse; however this would lead to an incorrect pronunciation as the Hangeul for the term uses the same Jamo as the Tae in Taekwondo, not the sound “Sey” (comparison: Teh-kwon-do not Tay-kwon-do nor Tie-kwon-do). However, many dialects of Korean pronounce the jamo ae and e almost identically. The Hanja for pumsae is ??, and means “Quality Shapes of Strength”
On February 26, 1987, the Kukkiwon amended the spelling with it being interpreted as poomsae, which changed the Hanja character from the earlier “se” to the current “Sae”. This also changed the meaning to one that is more complex. This has been reflected in the WTF World Poomsae Championships and of which the inaugural event was held in Seoul, South Korea in September 2006.
Taegeuk Il Jang/Palgwe Il Jang
The general meaning of this form and associated trigram is Yang, which represents Heaven and Light. Also, this trigram has a relationship to South and Father. The first Taegeuk form is the beginning of all pumsaes, the “birth” of the martial artist into Taekwondo. This pumsae should be performed with the greatness of Heaven.
Taegeuk Yi Jang/Palgwe Yi Jang
The associated trigram of this pumsae represents the Lake. Also, related to the symbol is South East and the relationship of the youngest daughter. The movements of this Taegeuk/Palgwe are aimed to be performed believing that man has limitations, but that we can overcome these limitations. The Lake and its water symbolize the flowing and calm nature of the martial artist. This form is to reflect those attributes.
Taegeuk Sam Jang/Palgwe Sam Jang
This trigram represents Fire. Related to this symbol is also East and the relationship of the Second Daughter. Fire contains a lot of energy. The symbol behind the fire is similar to the symbolism of the water in that both can aid and both can destroy. This form is intended to be performed rhythmically, with some outbursts of energy to reflect fire’s rhythmic and energetic dualism.
Taegeuk Sa Jang/Palgwe Sa Jang
This trigram represents Thunder. Also, the trigram is strongly connected to northeast and the relationship of the Eldest son. Thunder comes from the sky and is absorbed by the earth, thus, according to the beliefs of the I Ching, thunder is one of the most powerful natural forces. This pumsae is associated with power and the connection between the heavens and earth. This pumsae is intended to be performed with power resembling the Thunder for which it is named.
Taegeuk O Jang/Palgwe O Jang
The trigram associated with this pumsae represents Wind. The trigram is also related to southwest and the relationship with an eldest daughter. The I Ching promotes that wind is a gentle force, but can sometimes be furious, destroying everything in its path. As such, it is intended that this pumsae is performed like the wind: gently, but knowing the ability of mass destruction with a single movement. The performer and audience should be aware of the duality of the form.
Taegeuk Yuk Jang/Palgwe Yuk Jang
The trigram associated with this pumsae represents Water. Also, there is a relation to West and the relationship with a Second son. The movements of this pumsae are intended to be performed like water; flowing, powerful and cleansing. Sometimes standing still like water in a lake, sometimes thriving as a river, sometimes powerful like a waterfall. The water is to symbolize calm and cleansing, while also possessing the attribute of being violent and destructive.
Taegeuk Chil Jang/Palgwe Chil Jang
The trigram associated with this pumsae represents a Mountain. Also, it represents the northwest and youngest son. The symbolism behind the mountain is the indomitable and majestic nature that all mountains possess. This pumsae is intended to be performed with the feeling that all movements are this majestic due to their unconquerable nature.
Taegeuk Pal Jang/Palgwe Pal Jang
The trigram associated with this pumsae represents the Earth. Also, there is a representation of North and Mother. The associated trigram of this pumsae is Yin. Yin, here, represents the end of the beginning, the evil part of all that is good. This being the last of the pumsae Taegeuk, it represents the end of the circle and the cyclic nature of the Earth.
Koryo, or Goryeo, is the name of an old Korean Dynasty. The people from the Goryeo defeated the Mongolian aggressors. It is intended that their spirit is reflected in the movements of the pumsae Koryo. Each movement of this pumsae represents the strength and energy needed to control the Mongols.
Keumgang means “diamond,” symbolizing hardness. Keumgang is also the name of the most beautiful mountain in Korea, as well as the Keumgang warrior, named by Buddha. Thus, the themes of hardness, beauty, and pondering permeate this pumsae.
The legendary Dangun founded a nation in Taebaek, near Korea’s biggest mountain Baekdoo. Baekdoo is a known symbol for Korea. The definition of the word taebaek is literally “lightness”. Every movement in this pumsae is intended to be not only be exact and fast, but with determination and hardness resembling the mountain Baekdoo, the origin of the nation of Korea.
The definition of Pyongwon is “stretch, vast plain.” The name carries with it a connotation of being large and majestic.
Sipjin stands for ten symbols of longevity, which are Sun, Moon, Mountain, Water, Stone, Pine tree, Herb of eternal youth, Turtle, Deer, and Crane. This pumsae represents the endless development and growth by the basic idea of the ten symbols of longevity and the decimal system.
This pumsae is derived from the meaning of the earth. All things evolve from and return to the earth, the earth is the beginning and the end of life, as reelected through the Yin and Yang.
Cheonkwon literally means ’sky’. In the pumsae, the sky symbolizes the ruler of the universe. According to belief, it is mysterious, infinite and profound. The motions of Cheonkwon are full of piety, vitality and reverence.
This pumsae is derived from the fluidity of water which easily adapts within nature. The symbol of the water repeats itself many times throughout all pumsae, hyeongs, and in martial arts in general.
The state of spiritual cultivation in Buddhism is called ‘Ilyo’ which means ‘oneness’. In Ilyo, body and mind, spirit and substance, “I” and “you” are unified. The ultimate ideal of the martial art and pumsae can be found in this state. It is a discipline in which every movement is concentrated on leaving all materialistics thoughts, obsessions and external influences behind