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Koryo Poomse

Koryo is the required form for 1st Dan

Koryo symbolizes the high-spirited Koryo people.The Koryo people emphasized moderation in actions.

The 1975 Taekwondo poomse textbook describes Koryo as follows:
"Koryo (Korea) is the name of an ancient dynasty (A.D. 918-1392) in Korea. The English word 'Korea' is originated from the name of 'Koryo' Dynasty. Koryo's legacy to the Korean people is very significant. Koryo men invented metal type for the first time in the world (1234), more than two centuries before Johannes Guttenberg (1398?-1468), and also created the famous Koryo ceramics. Moreover, they showed great fortitude by persistently defeating the aggression of the Mongolians who were sweeping the known world at the time.

The application of the spirit of Koryo men into the movement of Taekwondo is Poomse "Koryo". Consequently, every motion of poomse Koryo is the presentation of the strong conviction and will with which Koryo men held in check the Mongolians, and, therefore it can be one's posture of cultivating
himself in which he may follow the wisdom and unyielding spirit of the man of conviction."

The new Kukkiwon Textbook describes Koryo as follows (slightly different from the older explanation):
"Koryo poomsae symbolizes 'seonbae' which means a learned man, who is characterized by a strong martial spirit as well as a righteous learned man's spirit. The spirit had been inherited through the ages of Koguryo, Pahae and down to Koryo, which is the background of organizing the Koryo poomsae. . . . The line of poomsae represents the Chinese letter which means 'seonbae' or 'seonbi', a learned man or a man of virtue in the Korean language."

Of all the ranks and students, I expect the least from 1st Dans. 1st Dans oftentimes (but not always) go through a phase where they are inconsistent in their training, and instead strut around like they have "arrived". Because of the inconsistent training, their skill level often decreases, and it is often true that these practitioners had a higher skill level as a senior red belt than as a 1st Dan.

The 1st Dan, like the 4th Dan, is a very dangerous and instable time for many practitioners, and the point where many will stop serious training. Hopefully, for the 1st Dan, this phase will be a short one, and his or her desire and conviction for Taekwondo training will return.

The main difference between a 1st Dan and 2nd Dan is that the 2nd Dan has passed through the 1st Dan phase, and understands that there is more to learn and more to travel on the martial arts journey, that it is time to kick it up a notch and train even harder than before. For me, when a student comes to this realization, and shows the persistence and determination to go on with the journey, then this student is ready for promotion to 2nd Dan, where his focus will be to make his techniques solid and strong.

The diagram for the Koryo poomse is character # 31(Sa) in Bruce Grant's dictionary, and he defines it as follows: "scholar; gentleman; officer; soldier". Examples given are Shin Sa (gentleman, man of honour), Byun Ho Sa (lawyer, attorney) and Yong Sa (brave man, man of courage).

In many respects, a 1st Dan is similar to an "O1" in the military, the ensign or 2nd lieutenant who just came out of the academy or ROTC. No one expects much from these inexperienced officer level members of the military, and so how much can we really expect from a 1st Dan, especially from the 9th
Dan perspective? And like the O1, no one really stays at that rank for very long, and the 1st Dan, after learning to be comfortable at the dan rank level, and having demonstrated some discipline and understanding of the road ahead, is ready for the 2nd Dan promotion.

This is why in Korea, you will find many students being promoted relatively quickly to the 2nd Dan level, because in Korea, the "real" training starts at 2nd Dan, not 1st Dan.

I believe this is why so many instructors experience disappointment with their 1st Dans, because they fail to understand like the pioneers did that 1st Dans often times need to take a break from training, before resuming serious training at a later point. 1st Dan is a natural "cruise" time from many practitioners, a recess or summer vacation if you will, before training starts up again. The original Koryo consisted of a straight line, up and down, and you went back and forth up and down in the form, in much the same way 1st Dans act, will their waning interest during their needed breaktime.

This is a much different view than what most think of when they think of 1st Dans, but at the same time, I think we can all relate to it to some degree. Be patient with your 1st Dans in the same way that you would be patient with your brand new high school graduate child, and they will eventually come around and go back to school, or quit school altogether and do something else. Either way, it's their decision to make, which is the lesson and choice that all 1st Dans must make, on their own.

Special thanks to Master Glenn of Hawaii for his interpretation.


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Updated by Hoosain Narker