In the end are all Martial Arts formless?

Juany118

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I have been wondering about this for a while now. Please note that more than a little of this is not about in the Dojo but what happens on the street. Also for ease of narration I will use Wing Chun terms.

First. Body mechanics are body mechanics. We have two arms, two legs, they can only move so many different ways.

Second. There is an old saying "no plan survives contact with the enemy."

When you are fighting do you say "I must Pak this punch" Or "Tan" etc. Or do you just use the manuver that is most practical in a split second decision. If you and the opponent both do a straight punch, can't your forearm arm block his punch, a Tan in all ways except your hand is in a fist and not an open hand?

It seems to me it might not be about, as Bruce Lee said, being formless, it's about seeing a form you may be learning as what it is, a teaching tool, nothing more. It's about teaching structure, balance, how to do the basics in a completely safe environment, learning body mechanics like someone else learns the keys of a piano.

That said, once a real fight starts (if you want a prayer at winning it) you aren't actually doing things off a sheet of music like a Concert Pianist, you are the Jazz cat who learned the notes (body mechanics) but who is riffing along free form with the drummer (your opponent.)

Just a thought I have had of late.
 

Ironbear24

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I normally just react and stuff Happens.then before I know its over.
 

Touch Of Death

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I lot of it is deciding that you want to, always have a plan to kill every one in the room, and that can only happen if, you are consciously aware that other people could have the same plan, so, there are good and bad places to stand, in that situation. If you are consciously avoiding peoples kill zones, you have an entire beat of time, to move, or position yourself to move, depending your level of paranoia. Now, depending upon, your basic defensive posture, hands up, one hand across your chest, or scratch year beard, what ever, you are locked into a response, from that position, but not a single move. That is crazy. :)
 
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Juany118

Juany118

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I lot of it is deciding that you want to, always have a plan to kill every one in the room, and that can only happen if, you are consciously aware that other people could have the same plan, so, there are good and bad places to stand, in that situation. If you are consciously avoiding peoples kill zones, you have an entire beat of time, to move, or position yourself to move, depending your level of paranoia. Now, depending upon, your basic defensive posture, hands up, one hand across your chest, or scratch year beard, what ever, you are locked into a response, from that position, but not a single move. That is crazy. :)

Both of you speak to my point. In the end any "form" is but a tool to teach biomechanics. After that the circumstances of the individual conflict dictate what occurs and then it's not the style, or lack thereof, that matters. On the street it's the combo of... skill/training+physical ability+mind set = victory or defeat.
 

drop bear

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It is both. Good structure makes a difference. So there is a way to maximise your potential. So martial art has form.
But to be adaptable you also need be able to create your own form.
 

MI_martialist

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When you say form, do you mean kata? Form must follow function, if there is no function, then there is no need for form. Forms are not a pre-arranged fighting sequence to teach you anything...if you are talking about solo performance forms. If you want to learn forms, learn application with a training partner. If you really want to learn forms, learn armed fighting applications with a training partner.
 

Phobius

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Problem is that for some, as Wing Chun for example. Form is just a dictionary. Whenever you write a sentence or even a chapter you do not look up every word in the dictionary. The moment you end up being stuck and have to open the dictionary it will cost a lot of time and also there is a risk that the text you are writing becomes incoherent.

To others forms are a base to train application of techniques, to them form is more than just a dictionary, it is a way to react and to move. As such form/kata to them can actually be about building entire sentences in one pieces and as such they might train more on looking up sentences or words quicker. Being faster with their dictionary so to speak.

Then we have those that do forms but give it little value other than to shape the body, to them forms are just a way of building muscles and assuring they have proper flexibility and shape to handle their moves. To them forms are all gone when fighting as it serves no purpose.
 

Bill Mattocks

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People instinctively revert to their natural reactions in crisis situations. However, those natural reactions can be changed through diligent training.

When you ask if martial arts are 'formless', you seem to be asking if martial arts theory and training goes out the window and we revert to savage instinct.

I would say no, we do not. While we may disregard some of the formalities of training when faced with urgent necessity, if we have truly made our training part of ourselves, our reactions will be those of a trained martial artist.

A few years back, whilst point-sparring at a tournament, my opponent glanced away from me and dropped his guard. Without thinking, I buried a right cross in his snot-locker, breaking his nose and ending the bout with my disqualification (and rightly so). I am not bragging; it was a huge mistake on my part. However, I did not consciously throw the punch. It happened all by itself. Guard dropped, fist went true. The Japanese call it 'mushin' or 'no mind'.

I am not a great martial artist. I am not claiming that I can defend myself on the street with any degree of ability. But I trust my training. I believe that if attacked, I will use the principles and methods taught to me, and that my body will do the needful without my having to think about it. I'll keep my center, generate power as I've been trained, and do my best to defend myself. I very much doubt it will revert to a slap-fest as if I were untrained.

Will my movements look like karate? Perhaps not. But that's hardly the point, is it? The core principles are what matter when it comes to self-defense, and those, I believe, are part of me now.

The things I know I keep track of now, no matter the circumstances, in the dojo or out of it include watching for openings, taking advantage at the moment the opportunity presents itself, setting my distance, looking for opportunities to unbalance my attacker, getting in order to give, receiving in order to deliver. I watch the attacker's core now, rather than the eyes, I react based on telegraphed movements and count on my training to carry me out of the danger zone and put me where I can deliver a counter. I also know a lot more about the vulnerabilities of the human body now than I did prior to training. In the old days, I'd have been a head-hunter just like 99% of all Americans who fight without training. Now, I'll take the floating ribs so you can't breathe, the knees so you can't walk, and the liver so you pass out from pain. People can take head shots unless they have a glass jaw or a bloody nose freaks them out. Nobody likes a hard punch in the liver.

All thanks to karate.
 

Tez3

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Nobody likes a hard punch in the liver.
Bang to rights! It's not just the pain, it's the awful sickness feeling, the cold clamminess of the skin then the hot flush then the clamminess again just before you're sick and pass out. :eek:
 
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Juany118

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Well none and I think that is the point I am trying to make. Ultimately any form/kata is just teaching you exactly what you say, body mechanics and barring injury/disability body mechanics are shared across a species. So, with the exception of this art favoring grappling, that one favoring kicks, that one punching, they are all teaching the same thing, trying to achieve the same goal. The subtle differences between one arts punch and another doesn't change the fact that a punch is a punch. So to me being formless isn't about discarding styles really once you enter a fight, unless you are using something of limited techniques such as a "pure" punching art, you punch, kick, trap, grapple, as the fight dictates and one style of punch is really no different than another style, it's the person behind that punch that matters.
 

Tez3

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Well none and I think that is the point I am trying to make. Ultimately any form/kata is just teaching you exactly what you say, body mechanics and barring injury/disability body mechanics are shared across a species. So, with the exception of this art favoring grappling, that one favoring kicks, that one punching, they are all teaching the same thing, trying to achieve the same goal. The subtle differences between one arts punch and another doesn't change the fact that a punch is a punch. So to me being formless isn't about discarding styles really once you enter a fight, unless you are using something of limited techniques such as a "pure" punching art, you punch, kick, trap, grapple, as the fight dictates and one style of punch is really no different than another style, it's the person behind that punch that matters.

I'm afraid you have me confused. I haven't said kata/forms are teaching just about body mechanics, quite the opposite. I'm not sure you know what Bunkai, the applications of kata are because that's what my post was about but you seem to think it's about something else?
 
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Juany118

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I'm afraid you have me confused. I haven't said kata/forms are teaching just about body mechanics, quite the opposite. I'm not sure you know what Bunkai, the applications of kata are because that's what my post was about but you seem to think it's about something else?

Sorry I miss read what you posted by let me elaborate by what I mean by "body mechanics". First Body Mechanics also refers to building muscle memory, depending on the stance it builds strength etc.

Second Body Mechanics doesn't just refer to me but my opponent. When I execute a maneuver properly, I have a decent idea as to how my opponent will react. I deflected his first punch? Another limb is coming. I did a finger strike to the eyes? He head is snapping back, his eye (if still intact) will be watering and his vision impaired etc.

My point is however that a fight is dynamic. Look at the Kata like sheet music for the piano. It teaches you the notes, how they work together to make music. A fight however, unless choreographed, doesn't allow you to play that specific work, say a Mozart piano concerto. A fight is more like Jazz, you need to know all the notes, chord progressions etc. but if you must improvise based on what the Kata/form taught you, you will not be able to simply go through the Kata step by step.

After that my point is that, due to the basic structure of the human body, there are only so many ways to block, punch etc. Basically no martial art has a "secret sauce" you can't find in another.
 
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Bill Mattocks

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Bang to rights! It's not just the pain, it's the awful sickness feeling, the cold clamminess of the skin then the hot flush then the clamminess again just before you're sick and pass out. :eek:

Bingo. You turn red, then white, then you sweat, then you vomit, then you pass out. So much fun.
 

Tez3

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Sorry I miss read what you posted by let me elaborate by what I mean by "body mechanics". First Body Mechanics also refers to building muscle memory, depending on the stance it builds strength etc.

Second Body Mechanics doesn't just refer to me but my opponent. When I execute a maneuver properly, I have a decent idea as to how my opponent will react. I deflected his first punch? Another limb is coming. I did a finger strike to the eyes? He head is snapping back, his eye (if still intact) will be watering and his vision impaired etc.

My point is however that a fight is dynamic. Look at the Kata like sheet music for the piano. It teaches you the notes, how they work together to make music. A fight however, unless choreographed, doesn't allow you to play that specific work, say a Mozart piano concerto. A fight is more like Jazz, you need to know all the notes, chord progressions etc. but if you must improvise based on what the Kata/form taught you, you will not be able to simply go through the Kata step by step.

After that my point is that, due to the basic structure of the human body, there are only so many ways to block, punch etc. Basically no martial art has a "secret sauce" you can't find in another.


Ah I understand now, but have to disagree lol. I don't see kata in that way, it is made for civilian self defence and is not choreographed techniques at all. Kata is greater and more useful than just using the movements as you see them. You don't use the kata step by step in a fight at all, you don't have to improvise either. I don't think there's any element of secrecy in kata, I'm not sure who has said there is.
 

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Ah I understand now, but have to disagree lol. I don't see kata in that way, it is made for civilian self defence and is not choreographed techniques at all. Kata is greater and more useful than just using the movements as you see them. You don't use the kata step by step in a fight at all, you don't have to improvise either. I don't think there's any element of secrecy in kata, I'm not sure who has said there is.

Sad part with all of this, I had to do Wing Chun to even realize there was so much hidden stuff in kata. Reason being that knowing the hidden stuff was not necessary to compete in katas.

In a sense it is a shame because there was so much more I could investigate on my own... then again YouTube was not there either. On the other hand I would probably have missed out on the wonderful world I am in now instead. Of course the parts I did are still with me, there is some of that knowledge being useful even now.
 
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Juany118

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Ah I understand now, but have to disagree lol. I don't see kata in that way, it is made for civilian self defence and is not choreographed techniques at all. Kata is greater and more useful than just using the movements as you see them. You don't use the kata step by step in a fight at all, you don't have to improvise either. I don't think there's any element of secrecy in kata, I'm not sure who has said there is.

Oh I agree with your summing up of forms/Kata. It's just a lot of people who talk about "formless" or hybrid arts seem to see them in the way I describe and thus see them as impractical. My point is to say they aren't impractical because the people saying this don't understand the dynamics of an actual fight and how form/Kata fits into it.

When I say "improv" I imply mean the order. A D flat on a piano key board is always going to be a D flat, that doesn't change. What changes when you play Jazz is if or when you play the D flat. In the Jazz band that need (or lack) feeds off what the rest of the band is doing, in martial arts its the dynamics of the fight and your opponent that determine it. I think we are on the same page, I am just describing my thoughts quite poorly lol.
 
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drop bear

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Oh I agree with your summing up of forms/Kata. It's just a lot of people who talk about "formless" or hybrid arts seem to see them in the way I describe and thus see them as impractical. My point is to say they aren't impractical because the people saying this don't understand the dynamics of an actual fight and how form/Kata fits into it.

When I say "improv" I imply mean the order. A D flat on a piano key board is always going to be a D flat, that doesn't change. What changes when you play Jazz is if or when you play the D flat. In the Jazz band that need (or lack) feeds off what the rest of the band is doing, in martial arts its the dynamics of the fight and your opponent that determine it. I think we are on the same page, I am just describing my thoughts quite poorly lol.


Ok. There is a form to every activity.

Let's take motorbike riding.

You have to be doing certain things or you fall off. But once you are doing those things automatically it frees you up to create tactical choices on the fly.

This is why good basics,or in this case form,is an important factor.

Now because we are discussing "A hill" you can technically go up one using any method. That would be formless. But the harder the hill the more chance poor form will let you down.

So back to fighting. At a basic level you have to have form. You also have to have strict tactical choice. You can't invent fighting very effectively on the fly.

At some point though you can understand the form well enough to break the rules of that form.
 
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Juany118

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Ok. There is a form to every activity.

Let's take motorbike riding.

You have to be doing certain things or you fall off. But once you are doing those things automatically it frees you up to create tactical choices on the fly.

This is why good basics,or in this case form,is an important factor.

Now because we are discussing "A hill" you can technically go up one using any method. That would be formless. But the harder the hill the more chance poor form will let you down.

So back to fighting. At a basic level you have to have form. You also have to have strict tactical choice. You can't invent fighting very effectively on the fly.

At some point though you can understand the form well enough to break the rules of that form.

When I refer to "form" as a noun, I am referring to a Kata (it's what a Kata is called in Wing Chun as an example.). When I refer to formlessness, the adjective, I am referring to what you do in a fight. You don't follow the form or Kata verbatim, you do what the fight dictates, or like in Mountain bike riding (never did motocross) what the lines of terrain dictate.

Maybe my use of form in two different contexts has messed things up.
 

drop bear

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When I refer to "form" as a noun, I am referring to a Kata (it's what a Kata is called in Wing Chun as an example.). When I refer to formlessness, the adjective, I am referring to what you do in a fight. You don't follow the form or Kata verbatim, you do what the fight dictates, or like in Mountain bike riding (never did motocross) what the lines of terrain dictate.

Maybe my use of form in two different contexts has messed things up.

No we are on the same track. You follow good form. So you can go where the mountain dictates.

In a fight your good form lets you go where the fight takes you.
 
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