change leaf

The Poomsae series is intended to glean lessons from the meaning of each form. My school studies the palgwe forms 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.

My favorite yoga teacher often says “Be the change you want to see in the world.” He will sometimes offer a variation on it: “If you don’t like something change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Palgwe Yuk Jang is all about change. It starts off inconspicuously enough with a standard knife-hand block, snap kick, and punch. Okay, I can do this. I’ve done it a million times.

Then you’re asked to do a funky knife-hand high block AND simultaneous knife-hand neck strike, oh, and THEN leap towards the front and land in a cool-ass little cross footed stance, and be sure to yell and give it some glamour. Oh yeah I almost forgot, you don’t end facing the right as usual. After a few blocks and kicks to the back you pivot menacingly towards the front and like a viper paused to strike, ending in a back stance and double knife-hand block. Dare I say this form is sexy.

Hold up, WHAT? We never did that stuff before!

“When patterns are broken, new worlds emerge.” – Tuli Kupferberg.


Palgwe Yuk Jang is a ticket to red belt, which is a pivotal change in the career of the taekwondo student. This form carries with it the pressure and responsibility the transition to red belt entails. The complexity of the form pushes the practitioner to perform at a higher level of precision and creative interpretation (as much creative license is allowed by a very strict and traditional martial art).

What adds complexity to this form are the pauses, the silence, the negative space that floats in the air after a staccato palm-heel strike or a dramatic leap into that rear cross stance as your yell echoes into silence. My very quotable yoga teacher asked us during class one day to be mindful of the pauses in our practice and in our life. A pause can be a moment of decision and precursor to change. Those frozen moments in time, whether it’s a second or a year, allow us to examine the facts, listen to our deeper intuition, and choose the next step, whether it is continuing on the same path or foraging a new one entirely.