The Poomsae Series is intended to glean lessons from the meaning of each form or “poomsae.” My school studies the palgwe forms (as opposed to taeguk) so that’s what I will use for each post. Descriptions are taken from the book “Complete Taekwondo Poomsae” by Dr. Kyu Hyung Lee and Dr. Sang H. Kim.
Palgwe Il jang is “keon,” meaning the sky or heaven, which, according to Lee and Kim symbolize the “beginning of the universe.” Up until this time the student typically learns the blocks, punches, and kicks as stand-alone movements. They spend months sliding back and forth into front stance doing a single spear-hand thrust or knife-hand block like a toddler learning single words at a time before stringing together sentences. This form, the foundation for all others, is the beginning of expression through taekwondo. Sh*t just got real.
At first glance it’s a bunch of inside middle blocks, which was the hardest block for me to master as a white belt and incidentally is my least favorite (and least forceful) block. It’s fitting that the most complicated block forms the basis of the first form. It’s so much easier to go with what’s familiar, comfortable, and unchallenging. When we do that we keep getting the same results. We find comfort in stagnation. Our minds cloud so much that we even stop asking “What if?”
Trying something new is difficult. Putting yourself out there when you barely know what you’re doing is difficult. Breathing life, beauty, and power into this simple form is difficult.
My favorite yoga teacher once said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you can start to be great.” You’re not expected to perform at black belt level on day one in taekwondo. There’s a little yellow belt who has been coming to the cardio class on Monday, which for months has only been occupied by red and black belts. Most other lower ranking students avoid that class. She clumps through flying kicks and 360 roundhouses with the rest of us, and although she’s self-conscious she never stops smiling. She inspires me to work hard and tackle my challenges head on. How often do we put off something—a new career, a new relationship, a new hobby—because we don’t think we’re good enough? As someone once told me, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”
Black belt isn’t the pinnacle of perfection. It’s the beginning of another universe. Adopt a black belt mindset when you feel stupid, out of shape, unloved, boring, or when you think you’re the worst white belt in the room. Adopt a white belt mindset to humble yourself and open your senses. Find the beginning of your universe. Start to be great.