What a delightfully dry topic this is.
In Taekwondo, every form has a floor diagram. The floor diagram shows the lines along which a student should move as they perform the form.
In Karate, floor diagrams, which are called 演武線 embusen, ‘lines of attack’, are often more literal. If you take more steps in one direction than another, this is shown on the diagram. In Taekwondo, floor diagrams, which could be called 연무선 yeonmuseon – the Korean pronunciation of 演武線 embusen – are more symbolic. The asymmetries of the form are often not shown – for example, in the Changheon-yu form Dan-gun, you start by taking two steps to the left, and then turn and take two steps to the right. The result of this is actually that you move twice as far from your starting position to the left than you do to the right, but this is generally not shown in the floor diagram.
This symbolic aspect of floor diagrams in Taekwondo is taken even further, and floor diagrams are often based on a 한자 漢字 Hanja character (indeed, the Hanja character for the form is chosen first, and then the form is designed around it). This is, arguably, one of the defining aspects of a form in Taekwondo. It’s more common in Kukki-won and Jukam-yu Taekwondo than it is in Changheon-yu.
Some Hanja characters are more popular for form design than others. In the table below I’ve counted how many forms use which Hanja character, and given the meaning and pronunciation of each character. (For this list I’ve looked at the forms that I included in my book, Taekwondo Forms, as well as a few others.) In this table I’ve included not only those forms for which the symbolism of the floor diagram is intentional, but also those for which it is co-incidental, for comparison.
(There are some forms which have floor diagrams that do not match any Hanja character – the form Dosan being the most well-known example.)
|Hanja Character||Mandarin Pronunciation||Korean Pronunciation||Meaning||Where the symbolism is intentional||Where the symbolism is co-incidental||Number of forms|
|下 ||xià||하 ha||below||Cheon-gwon||Godang, Palgwae Chil Jang||3|
|上 ||shàng||상 sang||above||Jitae||Pyeong-an Samdan, Pyeong-an Odan, Balsae, Yeonbi, Chungjang||6|
|士||shì||사 sa||scholar, gentleman||Yulgok, Toigye, Koryeo||Pyeong-an Sadan, Palgwae Pal Jang||5|
|工||gōng||공 gong||work||Taebaek||Gwan-gong, Ja-eun, Dan-gun (Choi), Wonhyo, Junggeun, Hwarang, Chungmu, Dan-gun (Bak), Palgwae Il Jang, Palgwae I Jang, Palgwae Sam Jang, Palgwae Sa Jang||13|
|一||yī||일 il||one||Pyeong-won||Cheolgi Chodan, Cheolgi Idan, Cheolgi Samdan, Po-eun ||5|
|十||shí||십 ship||ten||Shipjin||Shipsu , Banwol, Cheonji, Samil, Choiyeong, Yeon-gae, Munmu, Seosan, Jisang, Jigu||11|
|土||tǔ||토 to||land, territory||Gwanggae||1|
|山||shān||산 san||mountain||Juche, Keumgang||2|
|乙 ||yǐ||을 eul||second||Eulji||1|
|王||wáng||왕 wang||king||Sejong||Taegeuk Il Jang, Taegeuk I Jang, Taegeuk Sam Jang, Taegeuk Sa Jang, Taegeuk O Jang, Taegeuk Yuk Jang, Taegeuk Chil Jang, Taegeuk Pal Jang ||9|
|平 ||píng||평 pyeong||peace||Pyeonghwa||1|
|水 ||shuǐ||수 su||water||Hansu||1|
|卍||wàn||만 man||a sacred and auspicious symbol in Buddhism||Iryeo||1|
|None||–||–||–||–||Pyeong-an Chodan, Pyeong-an Idan, Myeonggyeong, Dosan, Gyebaek, Uiam, Yushin, Tong-il, Jugam, Palgwae O Jang, Palgwae Yuk Jang||11|
 This character is made more geometric for the floor diagram.
 The lateral dash is not part of the floor diagram.
 This may actually be intentional.
 The symbolism of the floor diagrams for the Kukki-won Taegeuk forms is intentional, but the floor diagram is supposed to look like a trigram, rather than the Hanja word for ‘king’.
So it seems that 工 gong is the most popular, followed by 十 ship and 王 wang (which is mainly because all of the modern Taegeuk forms have that diagram). It’s easy to see why these are the most popular – they’re quite simple, and they’re symmetric, and they allow for easy stepping between the lines of the diagram.
When I write about forms, I will often describe a form as having a ‘工 gong shaped floor diagram’, or a ‘十 ship shaped floor diagram’, even if the symbolism is not intended, because it’s quite a convenient way of showing what the diagram is.