Focus or Definition In Forms

Flying Crane

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Look at taiji push hands competitions and look at real taiji push hands. Look at the rules for Taiji push hands competitions and again look at real push hands... they are not the same thing.

ah yes, the standup shoving match...

Many people who do the competition forms of CMA can be extremely Focused and have incredible Definition In Forms albeit they tend to be a bit unrealistic and sometimes downright unhealthy they are very focused and quite correct in their forms
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a good point. good definition and focus, but misdirected.
 

bowser666

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I think a big part of the problem comes from practicing the performance of the forms in a way that's detached from any understanding of their application. Given the fact that a lot of people don't really visualize their MA's form sets as the documentation of real fighting techniques, but rather as some kind of martial folk dance, that's not surprising. But I think it leads to exactly the problem noted in the OP. For the people I'm talking about, form takes precedence over function, because they don't have a clear idea of what the function served by forms really is.

Once I started learning how to do the kind of analysis of form application that's standardly labeled bunkai, I started practicing forms in a way that corresponds to the street-practical use I envisage for them. So a retraction/punch movement for me represents a trapping and pulling inward of an attacker's limb, and the punch is the payoff (which may be a palm-heel strike or any number of others things), prepared for by the hikite-movement that's typically labeled 'chambering'. And when I practice the form, that's what I visualize happening. When I do a pivot, I am visualizing a throw, and moving as though I actually were holding onto someone and throwing thembecause in a lot of the TKD colored belt forms I do, the pivot makes most sense as part of the previous combat scenario (not a mirror-imaging of that scenario to the other side), where the pivot corresponds to the total unbalancing and downing of an already damaged antagonist. By practicing forms that way, and visualizing them in terms of their combat content, I find much more satisfaction and interest in them than if they were nothing more than some sterile set-piece which you had to get just right because... well, as the joke bumper sticker has it, 'there's no reason for it, it's just our policy'.

When I teach beginners, I try to get them to understand, even at a very elementary level, that forms have combat content, and that when you carry out a movement in a form, you need to see your attacker, see the attack coming in, see your defense unfolding in real action. It's never too early to start learning that kind of visualization, even if the techs are still quite basic. As the Brits like to say, begin as you mean to go on...


COuld not have said it better myself!! Excellent!! I think one other thing I want to mention is , a little history lesson. I learned in the history of KungFu, as well as other styles i am sure, that Forms where a way for MA Practioners to practice in the open , but hide their applications in the forms that they perform. They would make it look more like a dance on purpose to distract anyone that may be watching them. However when training with the Sifu , the true "hidden" applications of the forms were taught. They made the forms look mroe liek a dance, or even excercise, rather than a fighting art to the untrained eye.
 
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Steel Tiger

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To bring this back to post, not that I have taken it away from it.

Many people who do the competition forms of CMA can be extremely Focused and have incredible Definition In Forms albeit they tend to be a bit unrealistic and sometimes downright unhealthy they are very focused and quite correct in their forms

Its true competition forms are a different from what I was originally talking about. These forms go off into tangents that are often just bizarre and occasionally dangerous.
 

bowser666

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Two major hits, right here.

The Circus Performance. I've done a number of performances over the years, both in capoeira and in kung fu. In a way they can be fun but i've gradually distanced myself from them. I really began to feel a bit like a trained monkey doing a circus performance. "Do the trick chimpey, hear the people clap!" I know my instructors never intended it to be like that. Their intentions were to spread the culture and the art by getting it seen. So I don't blame them for it. But I couldn't shake that nagging feeling like I was just on display for the entertainment of others. While the intentions were good, I think the audience often fails to understand the significance of what is being done, and just views it as entertainment.



I really thing martial arts ought to be practiced more privately, and the public demos and tournaments and whatnot would be best dumped. That's my opinion.

Sorry but I have to disagree with you, if it wasn't for those public performances people would not want to know, or learn alot of MA's. Think about Martial Arts Films...... Those are performances as well. Going to a Martial Arts Tournament many years ago at West Point Military Academy, piqued my interest in MA and introduced me to it , and I studied Kempo for many years, and am now back in it to learn Kung Fu. Check out that Needle Through brick movie, and you will see why we need to spread the word of MA. It is slowly dying................... Maybe if more parents took their children to see these Demo's instead of buying them a Xbox things wouldn't be the way there are now.......
 

D.Cobb

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In the Meibu system of Goju Ryu, we're taught our katas as being combat forms, right from the beginning. First you learn the moves, then you learn the basic meanings by doing the forms as 2 man sets. Then you learn how to use them against multiple attackers, in 5 man sets. Obviously this takes time, but the very first thing I noticed when i started in this system was the OBVIOUS violence hidden in the beautiful moves. Now when I do my katas I try to express that same violence and intent or purpose in every move.

--Dave
 

exile

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In the Meibu system of Goju Ryu, we're taught our katas as being combat forms, right from the beginning. First you learn the moves, then you learn the basic meanings by doing the forms as 2 man sets. Then you learn how to use them against multiple attackers, in 5 man sets. Obviously this takes time, but the very first thing I noticed when i started in this system was the OBVIOUS violence hidden in the beautiful moves.


Very well said, DC. And I think the part bolded above is crucial: thinking of the kata as a guide to actual combat implies that it really corresponds to a partner drill, not a solo performance (and vice versa, to some extent).

The problem noticed by Steel Tiger in his OP is going to disappear pretty instantly once this approach to kata training is adopted. Because everything will have to work 'just so' in order for the combat principles and tactics encoded in the kata to be effectively realized in two-person (and up) drills. After all, the presence of the other person acts as a check on the real-world efficacy of what you're doing that you don't have in solo kata performance. Functional considerations will kick in from the get-go.

Your instructor sounds like a very advanced thinker in this area, DC—my impression (could be wrong of course) is that this way of approaching kata and bunkai/oyo is very unusual even in schools which teach the 'primal' Okinawan karate systems. Lucky you!

Now when I do my katas I try to express that same violence and intent or purpose in every move.

And it's just that kind of expression of the functionality of the kata in terms of its potential to apply violence to an attacker that's lacking from the kind of performances that Steel Tiger, Flying Crane and several others were talking about above. People like Iain Abernethy, Rick Clark and other 'applied karate' types have been insisting for years that you have to train kata in terms of street realistic scenarios, with a non-compliant partner, and be willing to risk some pain in order to distill genuine fighting ability from the kata 'instructions'. The fact that they've actually had to point this out as a novel, and necessary, way to train for maximum utility says, loud and clear, that what you've described is a rare thing in karate, and it's probably still more unusual in the CMAs and KMAs as well.
 

Flying Crane

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Sorry but I have to disagree with you, if it wasn't for those public performances people would not want to know, or learn alot of MA's. Think about Martial Arts Films...... Those are performances as well. Going to a Martial Arts Tournament many years ago at West Point Military Academy, piqued my interest in MA and introduced me to it , and I studied Kempo for many years, and am now back in it to learn Kung Fu. Check out that Needle Through brick movie, and you will see why we need to spread the word of MA. It is slowly dying................... Maybe if more parents took their children to see these Demo's instead of buying them a Xbox things wouldn't be the way there are now.......

I understand that a lot of people feel the way you do, and I recognize the points you are making. However, I will suggest that many of the "entertainment" style performances, including movies, are hurting the arts because they create an inaccurate understanding of what the arts are, in the eyes of the otherwise uneducated general public. So gradually the arts degrade, until they come into line with these public expectations.

Because of this, I find myself wishing the arts were not so well known as they are. I also recognize that this can seem somewhat disingenuous on my part, as I suspect many of my own opportunities to train would not have been possible, had the arts existed in pure secrecy. I acknowledge that point. Still, I feel the overall quality of the arts may improve, if they went back underground. Of course they would be much less widespread than they are. Those are just my thoughts, and I'm not surprised to hear disagreement.
 
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exile

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Still, I feel the overall quality of the arts may improve, if they went back underground. Of course they would be much less widespread than they are.

I have the same general feel about TKD. I'd be much happier if it hadn't achieved status as an Olympic sport, giving it visibility in the competition domain which has relegated its persona as a hard fighting art to the margins of the dojang world. Hearing that TKD is 'the most widely practiced MA in the world' doesn't make me feel one bit happier. By comparison, TSD, which comes from the same rootstock but has not lost its soul to mass sport spectacle and the associated $$, has kept much more credibility as a realistic combat system, even though the technical repertoire of TSD and TKD overlaps almost completely.
 

Flying Crane

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I have the same general feel about TKD. I'd be much happier if it hadn't achieved status as an Olympic sport, giving it visibility in the competition domain which has relegated its persona as a hard fighting art to the margins of the dojang world. Hearing that TKD is 'the most widely practiced MA in the world' doesn't make me feel one bit happier. By comparison, TSD, which comes from the same rootstock but has not lost its soul to mass sport spectacle and the associated $$, has kept much more credibility as a realistic combat system, even though the technical repertoire of TSD and TKD overlaps almost completely.


On a similar note, I've watched the growing popularity of capoeira, and I can say that I am not impressed nor gladdened by it. There has even been some discussions of trying to get it accepted as an Olympic sport as well. I think nothing could be worse for the art.

I've seen the focus in capoeira become heavily oriented toward the acrobatics. Just the other day my wife and I were watching various random capoeira clips on Youtube. I'd say 90-95% of what we saw were heavy acrobatics, and very very little on the development of a complete game. Video clips were often edited to only show the acrobatic elements, and were quickly cut as soon as the acrobatics tapered off. This is a very stunted view of capoeira. And over the years I've seen the acrobatics become more and more extreme than they used to be. Some of these people are really pushing the limits. Sure, they are outstanding athletes, but much of the game quality is being sacrificed in the mean time, and it is not good capoeira. It's just showboating.
 

exile

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On a similar note, I've watched the growing popularity of capoeira, and I can say that I am not impressed nor gladdened by it. There has even been some discussions of trying to get it accepted as an Olympic sport as well. I think nothing could be worse for the art.

I've seen the focus in capoeira become heavily oriented toward the acrobatics. Just the other day my wife and I were watching various random capoeira clips on Youtube. I'd say 90-95% of what we saw were heavy acrobatics, and very very little on the development of a complete game. Video clips were often edited to only show the acrobatic elements, and were quickly cut as soon as the acrobatics tapered off. This is a very stunted view of capoeira. And over the years I've seen the acrobatics become more and more extreme than they used to be. Some of these people are really pushing the limits. Sure, they are outstanding athletes, but much of the game quality is being sacrificed in the mean time, and it is not good capoeira. It's just showboating.

Sounds like the same Kiss of Death about to settle on a new victim art.

Long, long ago, the semi-pop cultural historian Max Learner said that America had perfected the art of vicarious living. We don't do, we watch others do. Now it's not just America, it's the whole world, apparently. A lot of what we're talking about here comes from that tendency to live life at second or third hand. In the end, it all seems to come down to bread and circuses. It's not just the MAs, it's all of culture; very hard to fight it. Easy lives seem to make for detached, disengaged people, and entertainment becomes a crucial part of filling up the time between being born and dying...
 

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Exile and flying crane

I have been reading your exchange here and sadly I agree.

I look at arts that are fading, have faded are recovering form fading or are virtually dead and there are a lot more than people are willing to admit.

It appears that the arts that are not pretty or flashy have managed to avoid most of it but they are hurt by the fact that not being flashy or pretty people do not want to train them. There are not a whole lot of big Xingyiquan or Bajiquan classes out there. There are not pretty or flashy and the training is hard, at times boring and generally painful.

I have talked about this before on MT but my first Sifu went the way of flash and now a days he teaches bad CMA and he has a LOT of students. There is a Chen group in the area that has fewer, my Wing Chun Sifu has classes of 1 to 6 people at the most and he is REAL good. And my taiji Sifu has only a few students and my Xingyiquan Sifu has none.

It is not only the flash that is killing of CMA though and I imaging this may apply to some TKD schools as well. It is also the lack of real training. At my first Sifu’s school you can see a lot of smiling people doing multiple forms badly. He does not expect much of them. He shows them the form and lets them go off and do it like they want. He lets them call themselves masters because they know 100 or so forms, even though they do them badly. And then he has them go off and teach.

Yes the acrobatic Shaolin Long Fist Wushu is amazing to watch and draws people in to the arts and the movies do as well but of the majority of people that were impressed by any of that, or if that is all that got them to go check out MA, I am fairly certain that is a real CMA Wushu coach from the Chinese national team showed up to train them they wouldn’t last the class.

My first Sifu’s wife was a national team Wushu competitor and when she was first training students at his school the class dwindled to about 2 people form 25. After much arguing between my first Sifu and his wife (in Chinese) she stopped teaching for many years and when she returned she was still training people harder than her husband but no where near as hard as she use to and she corrected little.

Yes flash gets them in but sub par training keeps them and that is what, IMO, is really doing a number on MA today. A complete lack of focus and lack of concern about definition in form
 

Flying Crane

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Sounds like the same Kiss of Death about to settle on a new victim art.

Long, long ago, the semi-pop cultural historian Max Learner said that America had perfected the art of vicarious living. We don't do, we watch others do. Now it's not just America, it's the whole world, apparently. A lot of what we're talking about here comes from that tendency to live life at second or third hand. In the end, it all seems to come down to bread and circuses. It's not just the MAs, it's all of culture; very hard to fight it. Easy lives seem to make for detached, disengaged people, and entertainment becomes a crucial part of filling up the time between being born and dying...


damn, you hit the target right on the bull's eye. I couldn't figure out a way to express this notion cleanly, and you just did it. thanks!
 

MJS

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I understand that a lot of people feel the way you do, and I recognize the points you are making. However, I will suggest that many of the "entertainment" style performances, including movies, are hurting the arts because they create an inaccurate understanding of what the arts are, in the eyes of the otherwise uneducated general public. So gradually the arts degrade, until they come into line with these public expectations.

Because of this, I find myself wishing the arts were not so well known as they are. I also recognize that this can seem somewhat disingenuous on my part, as I suspect many of my own opportunities to train would not have been possible, had the arts existed in pure secrecy. I acknowledge that point. Still, I feel the overall quality of the arts may improve, if they went back underground. Of course they would be much less widespread than they are. Those are just my thoughts, and I'm not surprised to hear disagreement.

What a great post!! You hit the nail right on the head! Its bad enough that some people have this distorted view of the arts, but I just don't see how viewing cartwheels, and gymnastics moves is helping. IMHO, its hurting, because now when little Johnny wants to join the martial arts, and his mom and dad sign him up and they don't see those 'fancy' moves, I'd bet anything the first question will be, "This doesnt look like (insert art here). Where are all the flying kicks, jumping in the air, etc.?
 

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