What Good are Forms?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by dvcochran, Sep 8, 2019.

  1. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2017
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    411
    Trophy Points:
    218
    I look at forms / kata a little differently.

    Assume each technique (punch, block, push, throw, lock...) is a circle. Now, you are going to make a ven diagram with a bunch of those circles. If you pick the right punch, block, push, parry, throw and lock circles... your ven diagram will have something like 80% of the area shared between the circles you chose. (if you pick the wrong circles, you can get very little area shared)

    So, if you get two ven diagrams, each consisting of their own sets of technique circles, such that each diagram has 80% or more shared area... then if you practiced one technique from the first and transitioned to one technique from the second... its like you are practicing all of the first set of techniques together, and then transitioning to all of the techniques in the second set. So then, in application, you could pick any of the first set and then go into any of the second set.

    You do have to remember, that only about 80% is shared. The other 20% needs to be practiced. Which could be why this one is a "block" and this one is a "punch." That way you are also getting your block, punch, parry.... practice in as well.

    Additionally, the 80% of shared area for the set of techniques, is not a random 80%, but rather the most important 80%. The 20% that you have to change, to change a block into a punch, is the least important 20% of the technique. Yes, I realize that your fist has to take a slightly different path and strikes with a slightly different surface when blocking verses striking. But, if you have not developed the power, the speed, the structure, the connection to the ground... then shape of your fist is not really that important... as there is no power to deliver anyway.

    So if you think of the form or kata as how to move from this set of techniques to the next set to the next set... now, there is a ton of stuff to look at.

    Now, if I wanted to just practice the techniques and "shadow box" with them or drill with them... that works too. But, if you are trying to pass on all the things you learned to a large group of people, who will be instructors of many more people... you will notice that different people like different combinations. Each of your instructors will teach their favorites and each student will concentrate on their favorites. By making people do set forms or kata, you maintain all the patterns and combinations. Those things remain for future students to rediscover. When they do rediscover it... they already know how it fits into everything else. (judo has like 65 throws... but competitors have their own set of 4 or 5 throws that they use for competition. If each judo player only knew 7 or 8 throws... over time, many of those 65 throws would disappear and have to be rediscovered the hard way)

    Why does the down block technique and the advancing lunge punch show up so many times in the kata / forms? Why would a catalog list the same item like 30 times? It showing that these particular two sets of techniques (remember the ven diagrams for each) have many ways to transition into and many options to go to after. Looking at the kata / forms this way... the combinations of things that you are practicing get very big very quickly. Once you find that this move is not only a punch and a block, but also a lock... you just found a ton more combinations you can use... and you have already been practicing the most important 80% of the new thing you just found.

    Anyway, thats just how I look at it.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  2. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2016
    Messages:
    3,861
    Likes Received:
    1,372
    Trophy Points:
    303
    Forms are whatever you want them to be.

    If you think they're just dance movements then okay that's fine.

    If you think they're a good cardio blast. That's fine.

    If you think they're a good way to practice basics and stance proportions that's fine.


    Would you win a Mma fight because of form training? No

    Would you be able to defend yourself with nothing but form training? No


    Simply forms are a tool. You can choose to use them or not. It's not going to harm you to do them and it's not going to hinder you if you don't do them.

    For me forms are a quick cardio blast and stretch in the mornings, something I can do to practice my punches and kicks and stances and techniques without having to think about what I'm doing since I can do them instinvely and something I can do without causing my body any damage.

    If people like them great if they don't then great, you gotta do the training that's right for you. My idea of good training isn't doing 10 rounds of full contact sparring. Call me a wimp or whatever but it's just not what I'm into. Everyone's in their own journey and shouldn't waste time and effort belittling or criticising someone else's path just because it's not the same as your own. Life's to short for that crap
     
    • Like Like x 2
  3. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    3,385
    Likes Received:
    871
    Trophy Points:
    213
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    I think that some people would look at any training they don't find useful, or even training they find less useful, to be more harmful than training in the way that's useful.

    Which will get you somewhere faster? To travel by car for 10 miles, or to travel by car for 5 miles and walk for 5 miles? The walking will get you closer, but not as fast as driving.

    (I am, of course, playing devil's advocate, since TKD is very form heavy).
     
  4. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,751
    Likes Received:
    848
    Trophy Points:
    213
    Forms are cool, to learn to control your body, and as an isometric workout in a lot of cases (looking at you, hung gar!) Or if your goal is to be good at kata, obviously practicing them will be practical.

    As far as actual fighting is concerned, I've never seen convincing evidence that it can help any more than non-martial dancing.
     
  5. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2015
    Messages:
    6,855
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    Trophy Points:
    263
    If you have seen any of my sparring videos then you have seen how my Forms have helped me in terms of fighting. Especially the use of the big punches which come straight out of the forms. The only thing I had to change up is the timing needed to deploy it in a fight, but other than that my big punches are straight from the form. I also use a kick punch combo that's directly from the form as well.
     
  6. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2015
    Messages:
    6,855
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    Trophy Points:
    263
    Here is a perspective on forms

     
  7. JowGaWolf

    JowGaWolf Grandmaster

    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2015
    Messages:
    6,855
    Likes Received:
    2,023
    Trophy Points:
    263
     
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,751
    Likes Received:
    848
    Trophy Points:
    213
    Sparring super light, you can use anything. That's why you need to up the intensity sometimes to keep it real.

    That aside, I didn't say a dance routine, form, kata, whatever can't contain real moves. They certainly can and do.

    But does doing them help you become a good fighter? These are totally unrelated activities.

    Sure, form training can help to learn a syllabus of moves, but you'll have to relearn them anyway when timing distance and footwork get introduced later.

    Unlearning and relearning is so much more complicated than just learning correctly to begin with.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  9. DocWard

    DocWard Purple Belt

    Joined:
    Aug 13, 2008
    Messages:
    305
    Likes Received:
    178
    Trophy Points:
    198
    Location:
    Ohio
    What is your position, not just your opinion?
    I'm also not quite clear on the difference between "position," and "opinion." Be that as it may, I'm also not sure I can add anything beyond what has been well stated by others, but am of the position that forms have definite value in the martial arts. I will note that in my explanation below, I use the term "technique" to mean singular strikes and blocks, and to extended "combinations" and "self-defense techniques" which comprise multiple movements.

    If they are good and have purpose, explain why/how.
    I see the ways in which they have purpose as multi-fold.
    -To use the oft used quote by Bruce Lee, "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." For me, if done with focus, a form is a method of practicing techniques--that kick, punch, block or parry--many times. They also allow the practice of self-defense techniques as a larger action. True, they are not done against an opponent, nor against resistance, but they allow practice to occur, regardless. Perhaps more important, they allow practice in situations where these are not available.
    -I've found that personally, forms have allowed me to improve not only my footwork, but my balance as well. Yes, it can be argued that this would occur if one considered forms simply "choreographed / dance techniques," but I believe, not being a kinestheologist, that by focusing on the movements, and working to understand how I am propelling my body through movements, I am increasing the muscle strength leading to better balance and improved power.

    If they are purely in the art/dance category for you explain why/how.
    -While I believe kata/forms are certainly art, I don't consider them "merely" art or dance for me. The difference is mental focus. If I perform a technique while envisioning an active opponent, and responding to said opponent correctly, then I am practicing to hone my skills. If I am focusing on the movements for the sake of movements, then it becomes dance.

    How do you transfer these learned muscle memory skills into application?
    -A technique or self-defense technique is not "locked" within a form. It is simply there for purposes of practice. I've been aware of this simple fact for most of my time in practice. It was driven home as I was creating my own kata in preparation for my black belt. In order to create the flow I wanted, I needed to break down the kata into not only specific combinations, but to specific techniques making up the combinations. How an inward block set up a chop, which set up a rising elbow strike, etc... Breaking it down thus, and being mindful of the mental focus mentioned above, assists in transferring it to application. Working with a uke, taking those techniques and combinations from within the form further assists in transferring into application. The next step is to utilize the techniques against a resisting opponent.

    How do you defend forms as useful for fighting when they are a very specific pattern and a real fight or encounter is anything but specific?
    -Again, I look at forms as a method to practice and recall numerous specific techniques numerous time. While a real fight is "anything but specific," there are a finite number of attacks that an opponent can throw, and likely an even more limited few that an opponent is likely to come at you with. No, I may not be able to perform the entirety of a learned self-defense technique, but I should be able to respond to any number of attacks, with the proficiency to adapt and modify as the situation develops. Yes, this could be done by simply doing techniques and self-defense techniques over and over, but forms or katas help maintain interest, along with the other things mentioned as well.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  10. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2017
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    411
    Trophy Points:
    218
    Hitting a heavy bag can certainly include real moves, but does that help you become a good fighter? Not necessarily. Hard sparring or rolling certainly can include real moves, but does that help you become a good fighter? Not necessarily. I have seen many people do many types of training and never get it.

    Look at the top full contact fighters. At some point, they have to step away from the heavy bag and the hard sparring and work on their technique. There are many ways for them to work on improving their technique. Kata is one way to do that. Drills would be another. Breaking down the techniques and going through them a step at a time works too.

    The timing and the distance and the footwork are all included in the kata or forms. If you come up with a drill to work on a technique... you will still have the same issue when you start hard sparring how to set up the drill and when to actually start the technique from the drill... But I guess its better because its a drill?

    One thing I find interesting is that many people are not fans of kata. They find no martial value in it. Then I go watch how they train. If you watch people train, you start to see patterns of things they do. Some things they do every session, some they do every few sessions. When new people start, they are usually introduced to the art by learning the same techniques, with the same drills. The only difference between a drill and a kata are the letters used to spell the term: d-r-i-l-l or k-a-t-a. Kata tend to be a little more universal, as in most people do kata A the same way, or very similar. While bjj and mma don't have kata... show me a class that does not start with shrimping...

    When an arm bar from guard is taught to new people (or when its broken down for experienced people) there is usually a progression of drills introducing the different parts. Drill 1 is how to move the hips and body, practice with your partner. Drill 2 adds in the legs blocking the hip and coming up and over the body, go practice with your partner. Drill 3 is to do drill 2 left side, then right side then left side... back and forth, go do it with your partner. Drill 4 go through and apply the bar, after rolling the guy off on to his back. Drill 5, apply the bar while the other guy is still on top. If thats the progression used when introducing an arm bar from guard, chances are that that instructor uses that same progression of drills with every new student and every time he wants to brush up the students on their arm bar from guard. That progression is a 2 man kata or 2 man form... or a 2 man drill if that makes you feel better. But at least you are only working on one technique at a time.... well, not really. You are also working on a sweep from guard. And you are working on some basic body movement and hip movement from the bottom that can be used to set up all kinds of other techniques.

    Every boxer learns the jab first. Then they learn the straight right. Then they learn the old 1-2 kata... sorry, I meant combo. In fact, there are a few common kata / combos that most boxers learn. It teaches them how to put punches together, how to move their body, when to move their body and their feet. On top of that, every boxing coach has his own set of kata / combos and drills that he runs all his fighters through. Sometimes they shadow box these kata, sometimes they hit focus mits with these kata and sometimes they trade with their partner.

    Not every type of training is for every person. Thats why we train different arts and with different instructors. We find what works for us. Just because something doesn't work for me, doesn't mean it doesn't work for everyone. Many people get hung up on how bad kata and forms are... and don't realize that the drills and patterns that they use are essentially the same thing. My Shotokan Karate studies the Heian drills.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    21,626
    Likes Received:
    6,334
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I agree entirely. I never did forms (other than the one-step Classical stuff in NGA), even in my Karate training. During a long period when I couldn't reliably train at the dojo, I started stringing together some of those Classical forms into something folks would recognize as forms. I kinda liked it, so I put some together for my students when I started teaching my own curriculum.

    I currently have 5 forms I consider "official" (some I've not ever yet taught). Many mornings I go outside and do each form twice. I enjoy it far more than I'd ever have expected.

    Now if I could just figure out how to use a form on the dance floor, then I'd enjoy dancing, too.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  12. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    21,626
    Likes Received:
    6,334
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    Isn't that what a form is, more or less? Each move flows from the previous one, and some of those are combos (where one move actually leads into the next/sets it up)?

    Or are you talking about the fact that in many forms (maybe all?), there are points where the transition from one move to the next isn't a combo, but a change of action?
     
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    21,626
    Likes Received:
    6,334
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    To that last statement, probably the biggest difference (in my view) is that you're practicing movements and positions you'd use in a fight (though they may be exaggerated). Jazz hands aren't as useful. This distinction allows you to focus on specific transitions, weight shifts, etc., rather than just generic balance. It's a distinction of merit, but probably not going to make an order-of-magnitude difference. Using the right kind of dance moves would also improve balance, coordination, and body control, while allowing for a good exercise session. And I think those are among the most useful benefits in kata.

    So, maybe practicing West Side Story choreography is better than ballet. :D
     
  14. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    21,626
    Likes Received:
    6,334
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I think many of the issues people have with kata is a problem of expectation, not with the kata, itself.

    Shrimping drills are awful. They're a waste of time and don't teach you to fight. You can't expect someone to allow you to just do that motion over and over across the mat. You have to work on timing, controlling their limbs so they can't stop you, and looking for other options. Or maybe that's not what shrimping drills are about, and they are quite good for their intended purpose.
     
  15. Martial D

    Martial D Senior Master

    Joined:
    May 18, 2017
    Messages:
    2,751
    Likes Received:
    848
    Trophy Points:
    213
    If you believe that the movements you are learning in a given form or kata are going to translate to movement in a fight, then sure..you might have a case there. I'm not convinced this is so, in most instances anyway. Most of the movement combinations and movements in traditional forms across the board are pretty far removed from what a real game of punchy kicky slammy chokey looks like.

    I'd honestly take the jazz hands in many cases. At least it could sort of be a wide high cover for a looping punch. I'd rather that than say, a reverse punch from a low horse stance...

    Sure, you could build a form sequence from all practical movements, but why? Now you are practicing a static sequence that will never come to pass, and training your muscle memory to go into certain moves off other certain moves, not to mention you need further instruction to understand the purpose of the movements, because you aren't learning them in their native environment, so to speak.

    Why not just learn the right way straight off the bat, one technique at a time? This is the technique. This is how, this is why, this is when. Grab the focus pads let's go.

    It's 2019 bro :p
     
  16. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

    Top Poster Of Month

    • Supporting Member
    Joined:
    Mar 27, 2012
    Messages:
    21,626
    Likes Received:
    6,334
    Trophy Points:
    448
    Location:
    Hendersonville, NC
    I agree not everything in kata is efficient for fighting. In fact, that's true of the forms I created. I put some things in there specifically to force balance shifts, require work on one-legged balance, etc. All things that can be done other ways, or can be part of what we do with forms.

    I don't think forms are good for learning a technique, so I agree with you on that. I think they can be good for reinforcing movements that are used in technique (like the shrimping drill does, though it lacks several elements used in the actual escape). I'll take a block or cover in kata over jazz hands, so long as the block or cover approximates (better than the jazz hands) the movement I'd use in a fight.

    I also think forms should evolve as movement evolves. If there's a block in a form that doesn't ever get used, it should stop being in the form (at least as a block - I've had some explanations that the movements have another purpose...in which case, that's how the form should be explained from the get-go).

    As for the static sequence, every drill has them. And you can never count on being able to repeat that exact sequence, because the other person's reaction can change things. But we don't look at someone practicing a punch combo and say, "You shouldn't practice that over and over, because you can't count on using that exact, static sequence. They might step to the side, slip the punch, parry, or whatever." Again, I think many of the criticisms of forms are just blaming forms for not being something they aren't intended to be.
     
    • Like Like x 2
  17. wab25

    wab25 Black Belt

    Joined:
    Sep 22, 2017
    Messages:
    541
    Likes Received:
    411
    Trophy Points:
    218
    Boxers, kickboxers, muay thai fighters have been learning and practicing combos for quite a while now. They seem to be pretty effective with both the combos and the skills practicing those combos have given them. Judo players, sambo players, bjj guys and wrestlers have been practicing chain takedowns, chain throws and chain submissions for quite a while now and also seem to do quite well with it. Are you saying they are wrong and that there is a better way?

    Thats hard to do... and also not effective. Let's take the boxers 1-2 kata... I combo. If all you are learning from that is how to do a jab, followed by a straight... you are doing it wrong. You are learning how to hit with 2 punches. You are learning how to use the first punch, to prepare your body to give more power to the second punch. You are learning to measure distance with the jab, so you know you can land the harder straight. You are learning to hide the straight punch behind the jab. You are learning to vary your timing of the 2 punches to sneak the second through. You are learning to close distance. You are learning to maintain distance. You are learning how to defend against hooks and haymakers. So yeah, let grab the focus mits... and study a lot of stuff. Saying that the 1-2 kata is only about throwing 2 punches is like saying that the karate "down block to lunge punch" drill is only about a low block followed by a straight punch.

    A fun read on this topic:
    Lyoto Machida: Old-School Karate
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
  18. Rat

    Rat Black Belt

    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2018
    Messages:
    672
    Likes Received:
    78
    Trophy Points:
    43
    As has probably been stated, they over all 3 spetrums pending style. Honestly so long as no one sells you a non combat form or style as a combat one (which is fraud in my view) i dont care.

    In my perspective im more interested in fighting so unless its good exercise or can be directly applied to fighting, its on secondary importance at the moment. So basically the kung fu mediation ones take a lower priority than the others.

    edit: obviously its not the end all be all.
     
  19. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2016
    Messages:
    3,861
    Likes Received:
    1,372
    Trophy Points:
    303
    Since you're more interested in fighting does that mean you're now training?
     
    • Agree Agree x 1
  20. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2013
    Messages:
    3,385
    Likes Received:
    871
    Trophy Points:
    213
    Location:
    Lakewood, WA
    The meditation and respect I've learned at my dojang has gotten me out of several fights since I started TKD. I find that in all practicality, it's been the most useful self defense component of my curriculum.
     
    • Like Like x 2

Share This Page