Following on from Basic Techniques, Hyungs (also known as ‘Forms’) seems to me like the logical progression.
In the very simplest sense, Hyungs are a pre-set arrangement of basic techniques. Broken down into their smallest elements, you just get basic techniques. Therefore, it follows, we should ensure, when practicing or demonstrating Hyungs, that we incorporate all of the concepts from the ‘Basic Techniques’ blog. But a Hyung is greater than the sum of the constituent parts…
For many outsiders, or those just coming across them for the first time in their training, Hyungs look just like a dance with very little real world application. Students will often comment that they are a useless activity for training someone trying to learn combative skills. However, I think that traditional Hyungs have a lot to offer practitioners that is directly applicable to combat.
As with the basic techniques, doing something over and over again allows your body to create ‘muscle memory’, allowing us to be able to just do it, rather than to think about doing it. Grandmaster Hwang Kee told a story about ‘if someone tried to punch you in the face, would you think about blocking it - or would you just block it?’. Master Parkinson talks about ‘unconscious competence’. They both refer to muscle memory.
Whilst this can be gained from practice of basic techniques, Hyungs can take this to the next level as you are learning to execute sequences of techniques that correspond to a specific self-defense applications. It is important to not only train in Hyungs the traditional way (without a partner) but also to train with a partner doing the applications from within them. We often take elements from within a Hyung & work on them, either with or without a partner.
Rhythm & Timing
We are not automatons (although we often see students who look like robots when executing Hyungs). There is an ebb and flow to applying fighting skills, with some sequences of techniques done in rapid succession & others done in a more deliberate & methodical way. Your execution of a Hyung varies over time - think about the first time you practiced a Hyung as a Green Belt & how you do it now as a senior Red Belt, Black Belt or 3rd Dan?
Hyungs combine sequences of techniques to provide a practitioner with these skills. Think of a Hyung like a set of building plans - you can look at the entire building blueprint to get the scope of the project but when you zoom in on a particular room, you see the details like dimensions, materials, requirements, etc.
You don’t need to think about breathing; it’s natural act of the body, isn’t it? For those that practice Hyungs well (or who spar), knowing how & when to breath properly can make all the difference. The same can be true, therefore, in a combat situation.
Exhalation at the point of strike/block/kick can provide significant power gains for that technique. Making sure you breath effectively during a series of techniques with stop you getting as breathless & tired as if you tried doing it holding your breath. The sharp exhalation of breath tightens the muscles in the abdomen, providing protection to the body.
Techniques Done Fully
As I said before, doing techniques alone allows you to do them fully without fear of hurting a partner. Hyungs can take this one step further, as you are doing a full fighting sequence from start to finish, rather than just one, two or three techniques. Hyungs often incorporate throws or takedowns and soothes can be practiced without fear of injury - you can then adapt a good technique on your partner to work, rather than attempting to learn from scratch.
Teaching Different Fighting Styles
In Tang Soo Do, as a modern martial art with ancient origins, Hyungs have been drawn from many different other martial arts - they were created by different people in different regions of the world (eg: northern China, Southern China, Okinawa, Korea, etc). Some were created to defend against weapons, others for unarmed combat. Take the Pyung Ahn Hyungs, which are also practiced in many other martial arts. They were created by Anko Itosu/Master Idos, who was a short, strong, stocky person. Some believe that a large part of those Hyungs involves breaking down an opponent’s posture in order to strike them (there’s not a lot of kicking in them) and so they posit that the Pyung Ahn Hyungs can teach how a shorter person can fight against taller opponents (amongst other things).
Builds Power, Speed, Strength, Balance & Stamina
Incorporating all the required elements into your Hyungs and executing them with full power & intent, means that you will improve physically as well. Think about how annoyed I sometimes get with people walking through a Hyung the week before Grading!
Done correctly, you should get stronger, your balance will improve & your endurance will improve - you should be slightly out of breath & feeling physical exertion at the end of your Hyung practice. You can of course do this in a variety of ways, but Hyung practice is a great all round one.
Builds Mental Focus
Additional to the physical attributes mentioned, practicing Hyungs correctly builds mental focus as you have to memorise & repeat a series of complex patterns with many details about power generation, stances, focus, foot positioning, direction, etc. All this takes a tremendous amount of focus - focus that is required against an opponent in combat.
In March 2020, martial arts centres, along with many other industries, were shut down due to the Lockdown Restrictions. When we reopened in the summer, we were still subject to restrictions and safety measures such as social distancing, so things like sparring & self-defence were off the practice menu. We therefore spent a more significant amount of time focusing on Hyungs & the elements within them (how many of you have heard me say ‘focus on your Hyungs whilst we’re off’ & ‘make sure you come back having learned the basics of Bassai as a Red Belt’). There was a reason other than we weren’t allowed to get too close to each other in the Do Jang.
Reread the above blog again now decide for yourself if you need to rethink how you practice your Hyungs, both now & in class?