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White Belt

The beginning Tae Kwon Do student often feels overwhelmed by how much there is to learn before he can do anything in class. There's learning how to tie your belt, to bow properly, to stand at attention, and to move to ready stance. Then you find out your first test will include punching, kicking, blocking, breaking a board, sparring, and memorizing and executing a form! The best way to prepare for your test is to attend class regularly, as often as possible. But, we recognize that some students will remember better if they can read to reinforce what they learn in class. So, below is a description of some of the most basic elements a white belt must learn. Following that is a description of your poomse, Kibon Hana.

Attention Stance

We start almost everything by standing at attention. When the instructor calls out "cha ryut" you move to attention stance as follows: moving only your left foot, move your feet together (feet touching each other) and put your hands at your sides in loose fists, palms towards your body.

Ready Stance

After attention stance, the instructor may call out "jhoon be." This tells you to move to ready stance. Moving only your left foot, step out one shoulder's width apart. Both feet should point forward. The outside edges of your feet should be parallel. Your hands, both in fists, move up to the center of your chest and then shoot down in front of you. Wrists are straight, elbows are very slightly bent, fists are one fist away from your body and are a few inches apart.


Making a good fist is a very important lesson for the beginner. If your thumb is sticking out or your fingers are not positioned properly, you could sprain or break your fingers during training.

Start with your hand open, fingers out. Roll up the four fingers as tightly as you can. Next, pull your thumb over your fingers and lock them down. When you bend your fingers, there are 3 segments. The thumb should be clamped down over the middle section of the fingers and should not show above the knuckles. When you punch, you should hit with the top knuckles of your pointer and middle fingers. Your wrist should be perfectly straight -- do not let it bend.

Middle Punch

The middle punch is a basic technique, so let's analyze how it should be done. The punch starts with your fist pulled back to your waist, about belt level or a bit higher. The palm faces up, elbow stays close to your body. When you punch, your fist should shoot out straight ahead and only twist to a palm down position at the last moment. Your elbow should be straight, but not hyper extended -- leave just the smallest bend possible to protect your joint.

Consider where this punch is supposed to land. If your opponent is facing you and your arm shoots out 90 degrees from your body, you will either hit your opponent's arm or miss him entirely. You are supposed to aim for the center of your opponent's chest. When practicing without a partner, you imagine an opponent exactly your size and aim for his solar plexus, which is about where the small patch is on your uniform, at the base of the V neck.

Low Block

The low block is the first block a beginner learns. For this block to be effective, it must come from high to low and the fist must twist at the end. Start with your left fist held up and to the right of your body with the palm facing you. Then swing it down and twist it palm down into the low block position. At the end of a low block, your left hand is in a palm down fist hovering over your left leg, just to the inside of the middle of your thigh. The fist does not touch the leg.

At the same time you are blocking with your left hand, you are moving your right arm. When you are preparing a left low block, your right arm is helping to cover your chest from attack. Then, as you execute the block, your right fist shoots back to your waist, twisting to palm up fist. The right hand is now ready to punch, if necessary.

Forward Stance

A basic stance that all beginners learn is the forward stance, sometimes called front stance. Properly executed, your feet should be about one shoulder's width apart. Your front foot should be one and a half to two shoulder's widths in front of the back foot. Your front foot should point straight and your back foot should be as straight as possible, but never more than a 45 degree angle from straight forward. Your front knee should be bent and that knee should not extend beyond the foot. The back knee should be straight and locked. Both heels must be flat on the floor. Your shoulders should be square to the front -- do not put one shoulder further back than the other -- and should be at the same height.

The Look

You should look serious when training in Tae Kwon Do. Do not let your eyes wander around and do not smile -- keep your focus.

Always look sharply before turning. Before you make your first step, block, or kick to the left, snap your head to the left and look. In a form, you are battling imaginary opponents. You don't block or kick until you've looked and seen your opponent!

Even when you are practicing, you should look serious. If you make a mistake, recover quickly and make it appear as if you meant to do what you did. If you fall, jump up and shout. You should be in the habit of looking confident, as this will help you to gain confidence and give you an advantage over opponents. Do not let fear, doubt, or weakness show in your face or body language.


Make your yell (ke-up) short, but loud. This yell scares your opponent, forces you to breathe, and helps you to focus. You should sound fierce and confident. You yell at the moment of impact of a punch, kick, or other attack. In forms, there will be a prescribed place for the yell and you'll have to memorize where it belongs.

Kibon Hana -- Basic One

Tae Kwon Do beginners often find Kibon Hana, the first poomse or form, the most difficult to learn. Once it has been mastered, however, students find it easier to learn all subsequent forms. So, let's talk about ways to help memorize this first poomse.

First, let's consider the overall pattern. The three Kibon forms trace the capital letter I. Of course, they're really tracing a Chinese character, but it looks like an I. The trick is in knowing which part of the letter you are on and which way to turn. Here's one way to think of the turns:

Left, right, left (to front)
Left, right, left (to back)
Left, right, left (to front)

That's it! Somehow when you're first learning the form, it seems like the turns are arbitrary, but they really do fit this simple pattern.

This form has only one stance, the forward stance. If you know this stance and can move forward or turn in this stance, you're all set. And, there are only two techniques in this form, a low block and a middle punch. There are 2 yells, or ke-ups, in Kibon Hana and each comes after a series of three punches.

How can you remember which arm and leg to use when? In Kibon Hana, if you turn left, you step with your left foot and you block with your left arm. Similarly, if you turn right, you step with your right foot and block with your right arm. If you are stepping forward without a turn, follow the same pattern: when you step with your left foot, you punch with the left arm; if you step with your right foot, you punch with the right arm.

After all this, you are still left wondering, "What is the Kibon Hana form?" Well, a search of the internet or any number of Tae Kwon Do books will turn up lots of step-by-step descriptions and photos, but we feel the best way to learn a poomse is to do it. Nevertheless, we recognize that some students learn better if they can read something. A short hand description follows, but it alone will not be enough to learn the form. It is just too tedious and error prone to include every step, such as "moving your left foot, turn 270 degrees counter clockwise ending in a left forward stance with a left low block." So, you can memorize the following words, but you'll still need to come to class to learn it completely.

1/4 Turn left, low block, step, middle punch.
1/2 Turn right, low block, step, middle punch.
1/4 Turn left (to front), low block, step, punch, step, punch, step, punch, ke-up!
3/4 Turn left, low block, step, middle punch.
1/2 Turn right, low block, step, middle punch.
1/4 Turn left (to back), low block, step, punch, step, punch, step, punch, ke-up!
3/4 Turn left, low block, step, middle punch.
1/2 Turn right, low block, step, middle punch.
Wait until the instructor tells you to end, then
1/4 Turn left (to front), ready stance.