Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Discussion' started by David Harrison, Jun 5, 2018.
No need to apologise, Tom! Sounds like an amazing trip, have fun!
Not at all! It was an interesting read.
And thank you to everyone else who has contributed so far. As I hoped, when it is not framed as an argument, more in-depth and varied answers come out.
Forms are great because it means I'm doing techniques and movements people 100/150 years ago were doing and there's a lineage there. There may be differences and changes but there's a certain "DNA like" replication (with mutation) that has maintained some fairly good fidelity.
Forms are great because, through common movements, I can access the ideas and concepts of different martial artists (from multiple arts) because we share a related lineage and related movement. We're drawing from the same pool.
Forms are great because beginners can learn them and they are very low key and "safe" while still being a bit martial artsy. This can make the potential progression and learning curve fairly gentle. I'm seeing people entering pattern competitions before doing sparring as that is a much safer and less daunting entry point to the pressure of competing and putting yourself out there. People who are naturally competitive (or aggro) can often lose sight of how tricky some things can be to people who aren't naturally confident or combative.
Forms are great because kids can learn them at a time when even putting one foot in front of the other or turning 90 degrees can be clumsy and they won't be punished (swept, thrown, hit) if they do it wrong or mess up.
Forms are great because on a Sunday afternoon I can go into my garden and run through them. Visualising what they are for, concentrating on elements I like, being aware of my hips, shoulder and joints. There are times when injured, between clubs or life events where forms have kept me "involved" with martial arts even though I wasn't regularly training in other ways.
This is because any given instructor of any given martial art has their own ideas about the emphasis and purpose of forms within said art. Some arts as a whole place more emphasis on forms, but it will still vary greatly depending upon each instructor's knowledge and background.
Since I like analogies, it is very much along the lines of asking an artist's forum why everyone can't agree on the use and purpose of texture within modern art.
I can only speak to my own experience, which is mainly within the classical Japanese arts (koryu). In my experience, the entire art is encompassed within the forms. Most forms involve two people, and are meant to convey the body mechanics and muscle memory inherent within the art. A great many of the movements within the forms have nothing to do with actual reaction in an encounter. This is something that beginners often have a hard time understanding. They are told the movement in the form and inevitably the question will come up "Why would I do that? Why wouldn't I do this instead?" It takes quite some time as far as hours of dedicated practice, to be able to internalize the movements within the forms.
Watching advanced practitioners doing two person forms can be very interesting. At lower levels, the purpose is to instill muscle memory and movement concepts, so everything is tightly choreographed for safety. At the higher level, these concepts are already instilled in the practitioner, and it is not uncommon to have the instructor present a different response midway through a form. This causes the form to veer off in a totally different direction since the advanced practitioner will respond as their muscle memory dictates. This allows the instructor to gauge where more emphasis is needed in training.
Forms within the classical Japanese arts are not set in stone. It has been my experience that nuances within the forms change on a regular basis, depending upon what the head of the school, or the instructors under him, feel needs to be emphasized. A very common complaint among the lower level practitioners is that they've been practicing hard to do a form a certain way, now they have to work on changing it. Once a practitioner has gotten to a high enough level to understand the underlying movements of the art, the exact positioning and nuances of the form are no longer very important for their own practice, as they'll now be covering what those nuances are meant to teach on an instinctive level without having to think about it. This is the Japanese concept known as shu, ha, ri, which has been used by countless Japanese martial arts practitioners as permission to go out and create their own art, even though they don't really understand the concept, or the art they are learning yet.
Now realize that this is only my understanding within the classical Japanese arts. It will be totally different to someone in a different art's understanding. It will also vary greatly even within the Japanese arts, as everyone is expected to develop their own understanding of the underlying concepts, and the methodology involved in attaining that understanding.
I can't remember if it was you or Dean Winchester, but I was given a very interesting link to an article on that. It was very enlightening as to the thought process behind Japanese teaching methods.
- was young, I trained the forms that my teachers taught me.
- get older, I only train the form/drills that I have created myself.
Today, I like to find out what moves/strategies/principles that I like to use in sparring/wrestling. I try to make sure that I don't forget those information.
Not sure if this is adding anything to what others have put but for me:
For me a form is as others have said a basis for you to be able to train on your own but should help to teach you movement, balance, control, basic movement / execution of the techniques contained within the form, breath control and focus with visualising what each technique and movement is doing as you perform them.
To me they are like a dictionary of words and from those you can create your own sentences.
Yes they are techniques that could be performed in a fight if the opportunity was presented and when you practice them in this way you will learn that they can not always be performed exactly as the form. Attackers arms, legs etc will not be picture perfect and you have to adapt to your situation.
A good form is one that works but yes to me a form should be an example of good basic technique and function of the move and hopefully embeds the techniques and movements in your mind so you can replicate them without pausing for thought.
For the second section of this question, yes, a form should contain some of the ideals of the system within it, movement, strikes, locks and kicks otherwise like you say what is the point if not, but you can only put so much into a form.
As my teacher says to me forms are not always liked by many but they have their place and should be practiced, but you must always break them down into the individual movements and techniques to gain a better understanding of what you are doing. A form can be seen as the art side of Martial Arts, they look nice when performed correctly and look even better with a class full all performing them at the same time, but without them you are just focusing on the martial side and are no longer doing a martial art.
The 'art' is the application imo.
Yes, I think there is an art to being able to apply the application of the techniques as well as performing a sequenced form.
You do realize that one of the definitions of the word 'art' is "a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice". The 'art' in 'martial arts' does not refer to the same thing as the 'art' in 'fine arts'. Do not confuse the two, or you may end up finding that a paint brush is not a good self defense weapon.
Come at me bro
Yes pgsmith which is why I agreed there is art in them both.
Pretty sure, someone, somewhere has a giant paintbrush kungfu form. Or it couldve been from when I watched wuxia soap operas on the telly when I was a kid.
@Chimpcheng can you confirm?
I may end up filming a video reply to this thread, because there's a whole bunch of things I want to say that I would not be able to correctly get across without visual aids, and also it would end up as novel-length
Hi there. Gonna quote bits of people's posts on which I want to comment (replies to David, otherwise mostly agreement and elaboration) after reading the whole thread. Replies in colour within the quote boxes.
As per the prior reply, it depends, but generally, I would say partly, but more so exercises designed to get you acquainted with the actions that create good form and function in different contexts.
Not really, unless you can punch hard enough to penetrate a human body and/or are some sort of high-tech commando who can phase through solid matter . Solo training should still have follow-through included, whereas actual impact will cut many movements short or create points of tension or friction where force is applied continuously but displacement is restricted.
Sometime in the next few days when I have a half hour to myself (or if I can convince my partner to help to show pair drill stuff) I'll film further details of what I mean here with some practical examples, mostly from the kata sanchin and naihanchi, maybe one from seipai too.
I love analogies, and this one is definitely worth repeating! I will shamelessly steal this for future use.
Many apologies David for the late reply to your question. I lost track of the thread.
Why are forms "so" great? -
 because they allow you to practice some aspects of fighting on your own.
Why would you want to practice fighting on your own?
Because one does not always have access to a training partner.
Because ones capacity to fight against others has practical limits set by physical condition and or risk of training injury.
Because it allows one to practice many of the basic's of hundreds of movements 10s of thousands of times. "in response to that daft brue lee "i would rather .. thing.
Because it is a way to build up a sense of body awareness by feeling how your own body moves .
Why are forms "so" great?
 Because for the people that get on with forms, they really help them to learn a range of the fundamentals of movement, and technique.
Why are forms "so" great?
 because they are a very good tool for expanding ones range of proximal development. of beginning to recognise and understand what lies just next to what one all ready knows and understands. As such they promote self learning and self awareness.
Why are forms "so" great?
 Because they are not "so" great at all. they are a training aid. They have strengths and weaknesses like any other training aid. They present opportunities and threats to learning like any other training aid.
Personally I like forms. I also like marmite. Neither are essential for the preservation of life.
Forms are like marmite, but I don't have a taste for them.
And they should be a (minor) training aid, not the end goal. Like marmite, it's not helpful to overdo it.
A lot of "forms" are 2 person (2 person kata) and in reality they arent too far off learning a sequence as one would learn in bjj or judo
Boxing has all sorts of forms, which is why I've never understood the issues people have with sequence sets. In boxing 2 man practice people take turns as attacker and defender all the time. They change their forms.
1-2-1-1-1-2. That's a form no different to me than Heian Shodan, except that the shotokan form is done more slowly and methodically until you are a very advanced practician. I remember sparring as a kid in karate class (we actually gloved up) and at least the form gave me a few options rather than just turning my back.
Looking back, I don't remember much of the shotokan forms, but I know forms was something similar to regular old boxing because how else do you teach a toolset without going over each tool in precise detail. In contact practice a lot of that precision goes out the window, and I think what's left is formstuff you learned somewhere, maybe a combination of things rather than something you can point back at one art.
Like, which art "owns" the offhand jab? None of them, but alot of them have a "form" for it, and those forms are typically taught in increasingly complex combinations.
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