The ancient law in the Orient was similar to the law of Hmurabi, "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and was rigorously enforced even if death was cause accidentally. In this type of environment, and since free sparring had not yet been developed, it was impossible for a student of the martial arts to practice or test his skill of attack and defense against actual moving opponents. Individual advancement was certainly hindered until an imaginative practitioner created the first patterns. Patterns are various fundamental movements, most of which represent either attack or defense techniques, set to a fixed or logical sequence. The student systematically deals with several imaginary opponents under various assumptions, using every available attacking and blocking tool from different directions. Thus pattern practice enables the student to go through many fundamental movements in series, to develop sparring techniques, improve flexibility of movements, master body shifting, build muscles and breath control, develop fluid and smooth motions, and gain rhythmical movements. It also enables a student to acquire certain special techniques which cannot be obtained from either fundamental exercises or sparring. Though sparring may merely indicate that an opponent is more or less advanced, patterns are a more critical barometer in evaluating an individual's technique.
System of Ranks
In Taekwon-Do, character development, fortitude, tenacity, and technique are graded as well as individual capacity. The promotional scale is divided into nineteen ranks - 10 grades (Gups) and nine degrees (Dans.) The former begins with 10th grade (Gup) the lowest and ends at first grade. Degrees begin with the first degree (Dan) and end with the ultimate, ninth degree.
The Chinese character for three and king are nearly synonymous. When the number three is multiplied by itself, the equation is nine, the highest of the high; therefore ninth degree is the highest of the high-ranking belts. It is also interesting to note that when the number 9 is multiplied by any other single digit number and the resultant figures are added together, the answer always equals 9, i.e. 9x1=9; 9x2=18, 1+8=9 and so on up to 9x9=81, 8+1=9. Since this is the only single digit number having this property, it again points to the number 9 as being the most positive of figures.
There are 24 patterns - one for each hour on the day. Each pattern is named after a figure or event in Korean history. Click below the name of Pattern to see video clip: