The Poomsae series is intended to glean lessons from the meaning of each form. 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 Yi jang, performed at the 7th gup (in our school it’s a yellow belt with green tip) takes its concept from “tae,” or “river,” evoking a gentle and strong mind. The book emphasizes that the form should be done with “smooth yet dynamic” inner force. The strong yet soft concept is the leitmotif for many if not all the upper forms. It’s the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. Speak softly and carry a mean snap kick. A river can nourish life as well as destroy it.
This form throws in a few new twists like high blocks and double knife-hand blocks. There are higher expectations of the student not just in the form but in the rest of their taekwondo progress. Now they’ve gotten into one-step and free sparring. Your universe has expanded to include interaction with others. While it requires greater strength and tenacity, it also requires greater humility and respect towards fellow students…especially since you might accidentally punch them in the face if you’re not paying attention.
What does it mean to have a gentle and strong mind? In our society those two concepts are often mutually exclusive. A man can’t show any signs of gentleness lest he be considered soft, weak…feminine…secondary. A strong woman is called bossy, bitchy or worse. How many of you had coaches who screamed at you that you ran like girls? Did any of you men have fathers who yelled at you not to cry like a woman? Why does “strong” have to mean harsh or a willingness to climb over others to get what you want? Why does “gentle” have to mean being a doormat? Why can’t we be both?
There is resilience in strength. It’s also present (if you want it to be) in gentleness and humility.