Pal Gwe (paal-gae), is a Korean series of patterns which closely resemble the original Okinawan Karate Kata. There are eight in total which typically bring a person to Black Belt rank upon their completion. All eight Pal Gwe trace a capital “I” pattern on the ground when they are performed. Very traditional schools utilize the Kicho series of patterns, 1-3 to prepare for the Pal Gwes during beginner ranks, thus preceding the 8 Pal Gwes with the three Kichos.
The meaning of Pal Gwe is equivalent to the Chinese Pa Kua. These Pa Kua, or “trigrams” in the English language, relate to the I-Ching Octahedron (Figure 1). This Oriental paradigm is a symbol that features a central, stylized “Yin-yang” symbol (Figure 2) in its center, surrounded on eight sides by these Pal Gwe or trigrams.
The Korean-ized Yin-yang (Center of Korean Flag, Figure 3), is achieved by a removal of the lesser Yin and Yang symbols (little circles), from the Yin-yang and a substitution of the black and white with the colors red and blue. These are usually described as “sky” and “sun”. To truly represent the Pal Gwe concept in its Korean interpretation, as the I-Ching is of Chinese origins, one should substitute the Korean-ized “Um-yang”, or “Tae Guk”, in place of the Chinese Yin-yang (Figure 4).
These forms were developed prior to the Tae Guk poomse and were brought to America by Korean Grandmasters who arrived in the U.S. in the 1960’s. The newer Tae Guk poomse are the standard in all reality today in terms of W.T.F. and Olympic competition, rendering the Pal Gwe a traditional or even antiquated series. It is sometimes to the disadvantage of a tournament competitor to use a Pal Gwe as many judges are unfamiliar with them. This said, many Taekwondo purists continue to prefer the Pal Gwe series to the Tae Guk as it has a distinctly more authentic feel in terms of its relation to the original spirit and appearance of Japanese and Okinawan Karate.