forms??? my kenpo rant!


Black Belt
Jul 9, 2002
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Pittsburgh, PA.
Well now that I know it works...
Anyways, here is my meager martial arts experiece:

6 months in a guys garage. All one on one lessons. Involved kickboxing, brazillian jui jutsu, jap jui jutsu, and judo. Very intense. Very untraditional. He moved away or I would still be there.

5 months of Hapkido. I liked the style itself. But it is a very plush, catering to preppies, not very intense school. (no, not even to the upper belts) I left due to its babying of students.

3 months Kenpo. At my particular Kenpo school, what originally attracted me was the intensity. The owner got her black belt under John Conway Sr. from Panorama City, Ca. a long time ago. She has trined with Ed Parker as well. She currently trains under Dan Inosanto in JKD. (I think thats it) The other head instructor used to do real fighting back before there were rules. (eye gouging, etc.) They also incorporate boxing and Wing Chun into the mix. I left due to a foot injury that Im still recovering from.

My question, and Im sure this ones been beat to death already, is the purpose of forms. I love the boxing drills we do. I really dig the Wing Chun. The Kenpo techniques are cool. But the forms, talk about boring. Oh my God, how do you guys do it? Whats the point? The owner said its to practice when Im alone. But Ive got lots of other stuff I could practice when Im alone. I see it this way, for me to take one hour a week (which probably isnt enough) to practice forms is 52 hours a year. I sure could learn alot of valuable fighting in that kind of time. I dont think the people with these kind of credentials would steer me wrong, but I dont get it. I should probably clarify, Im only interested in self defense. I dont care about tradition. As far as Im concerned, everything changes for a reason. Im not really interested in upholding pure values, learning self confidence, becoming a better me, or anything like that. I like to learn to fight. I am completely non violent and will only use this stuff if I have to. I also have no desire to ever be in a UFC or anything like that. I just love training except when it comes to forms.
I will probably be off due to my foot for another month or two, at which point I may go back to this school. Again, I like the school, definately like the instructors, like the style. But the forms I see as completely pointless. If I had no desire to return, I wouldnt be asking these questions.
Whats your take on forms???
Thankss in advance.
I've noticed alot of the techniques and how they relate buried in the Kenpo forms.
Hi cfr,

Did you do the forms from your Wing Chun? Did you know it had any?

In its simplest application forms are a practice of your basics. While I do plenty of bagwork and shadow boxing, I simply enjoy practicing my basics by practicing a form. It also forces you to things that you might not ordinarily do and this may help you recognize faults in those basics.

That is just a starting point, good luck.

Wing Cun is really only done once a week at my school. The head instructor has basically
taken what she likes from it and scrapped the rest. So to answer you, no, we dont do WC
forms and no, I didnt know there were any.
Check out the Wing Chun forum for more info. on WC. There are three empty hand forms, a wooden dummy form, a staff form, and a butterfly swords form in most WC systems.
Originally posted by cfr

Wing Cun is really only done once a week at my school. The head instructor has basically
taken what she likes from it and scrapped the rest. So to answer you, no, we dont do WC
forms and no, I didnt know there were any.

Then, and hopefully I don't sound to pompous, you are missing the real essence of Wing Chun. It is laid out, effectively, in three very useful sets or forms. And you probably really aren't learning Wing Chun, if someone is only teaching the parts they like. You are learning a limited number of techniques that may or may not work if they aren't taken or taught in context.

All of the Chinese Arts that I am familiar with are steeped in form, and in most systems, the forms are the basis of the system and without them to teach the esoteric perspectives or aspects of the systems, you don't really have a system. You, unfortunately, have a limited number of tricks.

I know that many folks will throw Jeet Kune Do at me immediately. That is true, but JKD is not a system per se. That would be by Bruce Lee's own words.

So ... For what it's worth ... I stand by what I said.


Well, I thunk you was askin' fer opinions! :lol: :lol: :lol;

As mentioned earlier, Im not a violent person. I have certain spiritual beleifs that I
learn both patience and discipline from. However, when I go to a MA school, I want to learn
to fight. Do forms do this in your opinion? I am open to learning something about them
which I have never thought of. If I wasnt, I wouldnt bother with this post.
The forms only contains as much info as are willing to learn from them. If you look at them with a closed mind you will never see the value. The forms have many lessons that come up and bite you on the butt when you are least expecting it(meaning the hidden lesson will just appear one day).

You have taken classes in a diverse amount of arts, but how many of them have you actually studied. There is a lot of great info to be learned from any one style, but to be trying to combine so many things can be counter-productive. It took your instructors years to be able to blend styles so easily and sometimes instructors forget the lessons they learned to make them as good as they are. Study the forms, at this early of a stage you are still playing with the beginner material in the forms, don't overlook what you think you already know.
I haven't been involved in kenpo for long, but I've seen the value in forms. Here's my take on it (without sounding too preachy, I hope)....

Learning techniques is great, because you get to see the self-defense in action almost immediately. Learning basics (footwork, individual punches, kicks, and blocks, etc.) isn't much fun, but it's absolutely essential since the basics are the "foundation" for every single move and motion in kenpo.

And that leaves forms. Forms, at least to me, seems to link the two (techniques and basics) and make both better. Forms allow you to learn how to link techniques together, flowing from one into the next seamlessly. It ensures that you are synchronizing your motions for maximum effect. It gives you a chance to make sure you are moving with economy and ease.

In Ed Parker's "Infinite Insights" books, he lists some ridiculous number of principles and concepts that forms teach (the number is astounding). While an individual technique may teach some of those same things, no single technique teaches as much as a single form does. And that means that doing the forms is engraining principles and concepts into your motions BEFORE you may see it in a technique. And if your body already "knows" the principle, learning the technique becomes much easier.

I don't think kenpo is really kenpo unless you are practicing all three things -- basics, forms, and techniques. They all feed into each other and strengthen each other. If you take one away, you're not learning to move as fully as you could be.

Just my thoughts. Hope it helps you find some value in the forms.

I am not a big fan of forms. Having said that, I am going to defend them. One way to think of forms is as Moving Meditation. It gives you the opportunity to clear your mind of outside influences and allow you to feel the flow and rhythm of what you are doing. Forms teach many things; for example, they introduce new concepts that you may have not been taught. They prompt you to question what you are doing. They teach proper body alignment and stance transition. They teach you to defend or attack form different heights, widths and zones. They teach you to attack and defend simultaneously, often from different directions. That is what you can gain from them as a student. As an instructor, it allows me to see how you move in a set pattern to allow me to see if you are developing any bad habits that need my immediate attention. This is just the tip of the Ice Berg.:asian:
,,,but I still do them because I see them as a extension of the basics, combining the hands and the feet with the footwork, not to mention that some of the forms have built in techniques. Although the techniques are my favorite part of kenpo, it is only one part of the whole of kenpo.
I love forms. Early on I was Good at forms, and Bad at fighting so that may have influenced me for a long time. I'm still better at forms I think.

Forms however offer a tremendous amount whether you are willing to learn it or not. Just tonight I analized a guys move, repeated what he said and did and he "saw a light" and thanked me. I just showed him what was already there.

Forms do give you something valuable to do when alone. They improve and test your strength, balance, flexibility, coordination, concentration, mental memory and muscle memory/reflexes (very important) among other things. They also traditionally serve as a "Notebook" offering you a convenient way to learn and practice basics that you will repeatedly employ in techniques and in fighting.

So, they teach you all this and you can get good at it by practicing alone.

You can NOT get highly proficient at fighting without a partner. No. You can't do it. So doing forms can let you simultaneously work on a lot of basics that will improve your fighting, but "shadowboxing" will only help you get better to a certain degree.

I know that on the tournament circuit there are people who fight and don't do forms and they are very good. I guarantee you that they fight a lot of Opponents to hone their skills and don't just do bag work, weight training or non-form and non-fighting drills.

So as a way to improve your overall skill when working by yourself, forms have tremendous value.

They also let your instructor see you move... teach you patience as you try to get them right, work your brain as you try to recall what you're doing... very often offer many, many hidden lessons, teach body alignment, continuity of motion, and a lot of other stuff that everyone has mentioned.

I hope this helps you in with your Journey. Did you see the Karate Kid? You sound a bit like Danielson complaining to Mr. Miyagi. No offense, but there is a parallel between his complaint and yours. Wax on, wax off... "when are you going to teach me something I can use?"

Frank Trejo was a really amazing fighter by the way. And he was also very good at forms.

We don't do forms, but I'm only now realising that it's a bad idea. The main things that all belt levels are getting pulled on when out head instructor comes up to grade and stances, and changing from one good stance into another.

If you ask me, these are the 2 things that forms would seem to teach you better than anything else?

He actually produced these personal development sheets for everyone (well, everyone who was at the last grading, so I don't actually have one...) with things on that need lots of work; and on everyone's it says "Can't step back into a fighting stance" (as in from a stood normal stance).

Um, I can't help thinking if we'd been doing short form one from early belts like proper EPAK schools that wouldn't be so much of a problem....?

Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know. I've never been taught forms so I can only read them and watch video clips to arrive at my conclusions.

People get into Martial Arts for all sorts of different reasons. And everyone has their favorites, whether in which style, or what part of the style, etc they like. If you like the self-defense part of kenpo that is great, it will probably always be your strong part.
However, to be a good martial artist I believe you should practice all aspects of any art. Whether you like it or not. Each of them have something good in them that you can constantly learn from and develop yourself to be a better martial artist. But you have to "actively" practice and analyze them, more so that just going through the motions.
I understand your point of view I felt the same way for a long time. I used to hate forms....I loved the self defence techs hated the forms! I kept getting told BASICS BASICS BASICS.....and the forms are just that good reinforcement of basics..and without strong basics your self defence techniques will be weak! Self defence techniques are nothing more then series of basics applied to get a certain effect, Forms help greatly improve this. I used to hate short 2, short 1, long 1, but it comes to a point where it all ties together and your developing yourself the way Mr. Parker intended. Stances are where you develop your power and I think forms are great for developing your stance and transition from stances.

Forms seem to be a good point of study for me now....I used to hate forces you to think about zones, defences, attacks, directional movements. Kinda have the whole universal pattern thing going on ;) Some people go through the motions of doing a form I want to be one of those goes who knows and shows whats "in" the form. They have an awsome purpose when you think about it, just give it an honest chance and listen to these guys who have been in it awhile it will make sense.
I've taught elementary school, and this forms/no forms argument is reminding me of a discussion I had with my third grade class.

Class: Teacher, why do we need to learn times tables? We're never going to use this!

Me: When you know them, it gets to the point that you use part of that information every single day. When you know them really well, it gets to the point that you use them without even realizing it.

They were then given a homework assignment to ask at least ten adults when and why they used multiplication. I would advise you to go to a tournament, a big one with lots of black belt competitors, and ask the competitors in the black belt forms division what forms have taught them.

I'm not a black belt, but some of the things forms have taught me are:

how to move. how to flow from one motion to the next.

how to balance stability and momentum. Don't move so fast you're off balance, but not so slowly that you're not effective.

good, solid stances. a form without a solid stance doesn't look good. A streetfight without a solid stance can land you on the ground or dead.

Breathing. You'd be surprised how many people on this planet don't breathe effectively. The average person uses about 10% of their lung capacity. Scripted kiahs and breaths in forms ensure that you breathe deeply and often, and it becomes natural. Techniques don't teach this as well, because they're so short.

Discipline. If you really want to know what discipline is, do long form two ten times in a row. Don't just walk through it. Go 100%, competition level, full out, all ten times. I'd be willing to bet that you'd get a better work out than if you spent the same amount of time sparring.

Focus. How to keep your mind on what you're doing. A good, well performed form takes significantly more mental focus than most daily activities. I've discovered now that I read faster, work harder, and am more efficient in other aspects of my life also.

When you're learning something, you don't always see the practical applications. You have to learn the concepts and theories first, before you begin to apply them... how many of us thought that Algebra, Geometry, and Physics were practical applications when we were in high school? not many, I'd guess... however, I used algebra to figure out my monthly budget, and geometry last time I bought furniture, and physics every time I play a game of pool.

Most things in karate have very obvious applications... to throw a punch...gotta know that one, right?

techniques...what to do when someone throws a punch at you... have to know that too....

sparring...well, knowing how to fight is good, and its kinda fun...yeah, I'll keep doing that... do I do with that?... you ask around, gather information, learn everything you can, and let it sit in your brain until your martial arts understanding has expanded enough that you can comprehend it. I'm just beginning to see the larger picture, but I will add that I have never met an extremely accomplished martial artist who doesn't think they have more to learn from their katas, even ones like short 1 that they have been doing for years.



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