Review: “Taekwondo Black Belt Poomsae: Original Koryo & Koryo” By Richard Chun & Doug Cook

YMAA Publication Center provided me with this book, via NetGalley, for the purposes of reading and reviewing it. Even though it was provided to me at no cost, I am under no obligation to provide a positive review.

In many ways, I may be one of the perfect people to review this book. As a third degree black belt in taekwon-do, I have the foundation in the art to perform the techniques required for these two poomsae. But as my black belt is in another style of taekwon-do, where we perform the Ch’ang-Hon patterns instead of the Taegeuk / Palgwe / Yudanja sets, I don’t already know these poomsae, so they would be completely new for me.

Overall, I liked the way the authors demonstrated the patterns. For each move, a diagram was shown giving foot position before and after the move. Also included was a picture of the technique being performed by Grandmaster Chun. If appropriate, an inset photo from a different angle is shown for clarification of hand positioning, etc. Each move is also described in detailed steps, showing what stance transitions and techniques need to be performed.

Having only seen Koryo pattern in passing on video, and having not seen Original Koryo at all, I was able to take this text and learn both patterns to memorization in under an hour. Certainly, that’s not a level of proficiency required to advance to the next rank, but I believe it’s a tribute to the quality of the book that I was able to teach myself the patterns. While a book should never be used as a substitute for a qualified instructor, it can certainly be a valid complementary tool.

My only beef with the book is the description and demonstration of the patterns do not start until Page 73. All the pages up to that point are filled with a history of taekwond-do from its origins prior to its naming, as well as photos and descriptions of various taekwon-do techniques. As the target audience for this book is, by definition and title, black belts, why spend so much time on this subject matter? On the history of the art, perhaps, although I would hope any black belt worth his or her salt would have that familiarity already. But photos and descriptions of techniques learn at white belt or soon after? I’m sorry, but it comes across as fluff and an attempt to pad the book to a particular length.

That said, it’s definitely worth it as a supplemental resource for black belts wanting to learn Original Koryo or brush up on Koryo.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)