Steve Morris says all forms of Karate are useless

Discussion in 'Karate' started by ronki23, Mar 7, 2018.

  1. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny

    I also shadowbox, and at least for me, forms training is not an equivalent of shadowboxing with the same intent and same objective.

    Some people who train heavily in kata for the bunkai (applications, typically interpreted as hidden applications) side of things is going to heavily disagree with this, but for me, I train in forms for the same reason that US Marines learn to spin rifles. In addition to the biomechanical lessons about basic movement that it reinforces (Fish of Doom touched on this), it's a challenging drill of precision, crispness, and sequence, that ultimately leads to a performance art I really enjoy. I enjoy practicing, I enjoy performing, and I enjoy competing in, because forms competition is a competition category just like sparring competition is, at least in the style I train. Yes, there's some crossover benefit to my sparring training, but there's more to it than that, and if all I was trying to do was improve sparring, there are other things I could do that are probably hour-for-hour more efficient.

    For those who aren't familiar with what I mean by "spinning a rifle," here's the basics:

    Here's what happens when people get really good at this practice:

    It's not hour-for-hour the best way to learn to fight insurgents in Fallujah. Obviously. But it's a drill of precision, focus, and performance that's been part of the Marines for generations.
  2. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny


  3. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Valued Member MAP 2017 Gold Award

    So we're in agreement then? It's bugger all to do with fighting and won't help in any towards learning to fight and people do it for traditional purposes.
    Monkey_Magic likes this.
  4. Mitlov

    Mitlov Shiny



    "It has really helped me develop my body mechanics, like Fish of Doom described at length a few posts up, and I've found it beneficial on that front even though there are other things I can also do to develop that front; and the biggest draw for me personally is as a performance art in an of itself" is radically different than the condescending quip "It's bugger all to do with fighting and won't help in any towards learning to fight." I feel I've explained this difference repeatedly and you keep trying to twist my words into something they're not.

    The fact that my biggest draw to it is as a performance art similar to rifle-spinning doesn't mean it doesn't have any value besides being that sort of performance art. I've repeatedly described the other ways in which it has had value for me personally.

    Do you understand the difference between "the biggest value of drinking milk is calcium" and "drinking milk has no value whatsoever besides calcium"? I'm saying the former; you're saying the latter. They're not the same.
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  5. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    I've learnt about 10 forms which i feel had little to no crossover to fighting ability, 5 of which were wushu forms.

    At the time I felt like there was some crossover, but the main thing was aerobic conditioning which I get more benefit from running and bag work. The coaches would often imply that there was much crossover:
    "See it's a punch that martial arts",
    Sure but when I hold my hand out in a fist to drop dice in dungeons and dragons that's never considered having crossover?

    After a few years and a car accident I stopped wushu and spent more time training in mma/ kickboxing/ wrestling gyms it felt like a bitter pill to swallow that most of my forms and time training them could have been spent elsewhere.

    Even years after that I spoke with people still training wushu forms who believed it was more martial arts benefit than bag work or shadow boxing.

    The forms that I still practise that I do feel have benefit are yang taichi form (for training relaxed movement) and 2 wuzuquan forms (Sanchen, erzequan) which focus a lot of time on hip rotation in punching (which can easily be done jab cross on a bag) and landing strike and weight whilst moving forward and backwards (Can be done with a partner on pad work).

    I rarely practise the latter forms as I feel the application is best with a partner, the taichi form I feel helps me train relaxed, but I feel that's more a mental tool; there are plenty of relaxed strikers around that don't do such forms.
    Still I practise 24 yang taichi form more than any other.

    I'd be interested to see a poll on the ratio of those who go from forms training style to no forms as vice versa.

    Also those who used to train forms to styles with no forms who still practise the forms frequently, or if there are a select few that are favoured for particular functional movement?
    Monkey_Magic and David Harrison like this.
  6. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Active Member

    I’d challenge that assumption, based on my experiences of wing chun and JKD.

    Some of the moves I learned in JKD were identical to those I learned in wing chun. However, JKD teaches the correct structure and mechanics without using forms.

    What’s more, I found JKD training made the same move more functional than wing chun training. I think this was because time wasted on forms (in wing chun) was instead used to practice applications in an alive way (in JKD).
    Last edited: May 26, 2018
  7. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    I think the gist of the debate here is that utility of training methods is an expansive spectrum rather than an either/or. Every movement a human being is capable of producing will land somewhere on the spectrum in terms of to what extent each person can apply it in specific contexts.
    axelb likes this.
  8. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Actually in JKD most of the form sometimes is lacking precisely because of the looser format....JKD trapping is ine such example. Returning to the sources really lifts ones game
  9. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Active Member

    Hannibal, I know you’re a JKD instructor but I can only relate my own experience. I was better able to learn the function and mechanics of movements when I didn’t learn them via a form. YMMV, but JKD improved my trapping more than wing chun did.

    I’d argue two things. First, it’s clearly possible to learn correct function and mechanics without learning them via a form. This was my personal experience.

    Second, I think Milov hit the nail on the head when he compared forms to rifle spinning. I’d argue that many arts place too much time and emphasis on forms. The Marines may learn rifle spinning, but it’s not going to determine whether they reach Sergeant. Whereas forms form the basis of grading in many arts.
    axelb likes this.
  10. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    In my opinion you have miss understood the purpose and use of forms. Forms are not an alternative to other types of training they compliment them.

    To me a form is like a text book. It is possible to memorise a book by rote and have no real understanding of what it means. The same goes for forms. Training in forms in isolation meaning less. Which is why partner work plays a key role in all practical form based arts.

    The benefit of a textbook rather than a pile of published papers is that a textbook provides a coherent overview and a consistent approach. It allows a student to collate and organise their own understanding. To me forms serve this same function.
    aaradia likes this.
  11. Pretty In Pink

    Pretty In Pink Valued Member MAP 2017 Gold Award

    But proclaimed by many on this board forms are constantly misunderstood by those that use them. This by design makes them an inefficient way of learning if lots of people are not doing it correctly.

    As opposed to say, Muay Thai where the correct explanation is known to the instructor and there is no need to decipher anything. This is then tested under full resistance until it can be correctly done under pressure. There are no real mistakes in the transmition.

    There are also not many "poor" Muay Thai gyms (that have competitors). They all have a good standard across the board.
    axelb, Monkey_Magic and icefield like this.
  12. Knee Rider

    Knee Rider Valued Member Supporter

    They are frequently treated like an alternative though (by virtue of the emphasis placed on them), which is all he is saying.

    Partner drills don't really fill in the holes in solo form work either as it depends on what the technical material derived from the form is and then on how it is drilled: frequently both are of low quality.

    For those instances where there is good material being drilled, it usually bears no resemblance to the original form in any meaningful way from a biomechanical/somatic perspective. So it leaves me wondering how a form can be such a useful tool for cognitive ordering of anything relating to effective martial material, as you suggest here:

    On top of that I think if you need 100 plus forms to contain the material of your art then it's worth considering how much of that material could be distilled into a simpler more cohesive set of practices or teaching approaches.
    axelb and Monkey_Magic like this.
  13. Van Zandt

    Van Zandt Mr. High Kick

    I think this a poor analogy. A textbook is static, a snapshot of the current knowledge at that moment in time. It is years before revisions are published in later editions. Textbooks often are slanted towards the author's biases. Papers are constantly and rigorously checked and expanded upon by way of systematic review and meta-analysis, and updates appear in frequently published journals.

    I agree that forms are like textbooks in that they serve the author's own interests; especially in the age of self-publication, the author can claim whatever he or she likes and get a book into print. He or she can say "forms do x, y, z."

    Combat sports are essentially the peer review of martial arts. If something doesn't work, a large number of highly skilled, experienced and capable martial artists will quickly tell you. They will refute - with very compelling evidence - that "actually no, forms don't do x, y, z."

    Unfortunately some egos can't handle this.
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  14. Monkey_Magic

    Monkey_Magic Active Member

    Tom, I understand what you mean about forms being a textbook. What I’d question is how much emphasis some arts place on forms.

    If you want to learn to drive a car in the UK, the textbook is Driving: The Essential Skills. It’s a good textbook. However, after a brief theory test, the main driving test is a practical one: you’re tested how well you drive on the road, not how well you know the textbook.

    In contrast, many martial arts emphasise knowing the textbook (i.e. forms). I’m arguing this is the wrong emphasis. Why not treat forms and partner drills as learning aids, but grade people on more practical things (technical sparring, etc)?
  15. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    Forms are a cultural method of compiling a physical reference library on a particular system or individual's fighting methods. In some cases they represent a wider guide to training progression too (a beginner starts with this, then this, then should look at that, etc).
    I see them as pre-technology books, DVD's or Youtube videos.
    They aren't vital or even necessary for learning how to fight or defend yourself (countless arts don't use them of course while some, arguably, use too many!).
    If you are only doing the physical solo part you are just doing a martial looking dance IMHO. You can enjoy that in and of itself but in terms of physical skills that's next to useless.
    For forms/kata to have utility you MUST break them down, draw out the lessons they impart, drill, introduce, isolate, integrate, spar, adapt and adopt or discard. All the stuff you do in arts without forms to get good.
    Some people, myself included, like the lineage and connection to past masters that kata bridge. I like them as a warm up and cool down. I like them as a low risk, low level form of visualisation training and as a common reference book multiple people have access to.
    I don't like kata competition and view them in the same way as a competition for someone lacing up their gloves or shoes before sparring or going for a run. Yes you can do that what can you really do? Being able to do kata well from an outside aesthetic perspective but not being able to throw down when needed is like those film sets where it's just a nice looking shop front with nothing behind it. It's empty.
    I absolutely agree their place in training has been massively over-emphasised whereby reading the "reference material" (learning a solo form) has become a proxy for actually doing the thing itself (learning how to fight/defend yourself).
    David Harrison and Tom bayley like this.
  16. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    For me the comparison between shadow boxing and forms is a false one.
    At best, at best, doing a form is like doing someone else's shadow boxing rather than your own. It's copying rather than creating.
    Now that can, I think, be useful and important to some but they aren't IMHO similar.
    YouKnowWho, David Harrison and axelb like this.
  17. Smitfire

    Smitfire Cactus Schlong

    But then again there are bits of kata and forms (not perhaps whole ones) that are just like how I like to fight (or would like to be able to fight) so even though I've copied them initially they are now "mine" and so are a bit closer to doing shadow boxing for me. YMMV.
    Having done a bit of Thai for example, any time I knee or elbow in a kata or pattern I can visualise and feel what that's like on someone else. Clinching the neck, pulling them on, driving the hips in, the knee sinking into the gut, tucking my head into theirs, etc.
    Other people, without that experience, tend to lift their hands up and then bring them down as they lift their knee up as an abstract "move". It ain't the same thing.
    Tom bayley and axelb like this.
  18. Tom bayley

    Tom bayley Valued Member

    I agree with you that many clubs and organisations place too much emphasis on practising forms without the necessary practical partner work (which includes sparing in various ways). I think that this is a problem with the clubs and organisations. not with the forms themselves. a form is a tool that carrys out a job. if forms are not used correctly they do not do the job and are waste of time.

    I would argue that both theory and practice inform each other. Forms and application inform each other. Form is not application and application is not form. but they do revolve around the same thing - fighting (or driving to use your analogy).

    Vert good point - I agree.
    Last edited: May 28, 2018
    axelb likes this.
  19. axelb

    axelb Master of Office Chair Fu

    I like this concept, all the places I trained at that had "forms" treated these as the primary focus for grading and all else was secondary.
  20. YouKnowWho

    YouKnowWho Valued Member

    Agree! You can repeat the Shakespeare's Romeo and Joliet 10,000 times in your life. It's still Shakespeare's creation and not yours. If you don't create, you are just a copy machine, no more and no less.
    David Harrison likes this.

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