Kung Fu Forms.

arnisador

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I know that some forms of kung fu have as few as three empty hand forms (e.g. many variations of wing chun), and many styles of kung fu have dozens of forms (e.g. bak fu pai, at least according to http://www.tigerkungfu.com/system/faq.htm#2.5 which lists 36 solo empty hand forms, 45 weapon forms, plus two-person forms). Most karate systems have between 8 and 20 empty hand forms but there seems to be a much wider variation in the number of forms required in kung fu and the number of required forms is often much higher.

Why?

To a certain extent I think there is a southern (fewer forms)/northern (more forms) bias--as a general rule or trend, not without exceptions--but I wonder if those who practice a style with many forms would comment on the benefits and costs? More techniques learned but less time spent practicing each is the obvious trade-off, I suppose.
 
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Chiduce

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I think that it is not the number of forms themselves as much as it is the number of movements in each form itself, as was stated in the last post. The single change palm in baguazhang consist's of as little as 13 movements! The basic kung fu can have as many as 175 movements for one form! Shaolin Kung Fu, Hehu Quan has 40 movements; Polian Zhang 38; Luowang 18 Zhang 20; and Shaolin Louhan Shiba Zhang 108 movements! Thus, mastery of just one long form would develop as variation into an infinite number of technique applications for training and combative analogies! Sincerely, in Humility; Chiduce!
 
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arnisador

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Originally posted by Chiduce

Thus, mastery of just one long form would develop as variation into an infinite number of technique applications for training and combative analogies!

Thanks for the points of information, and I agree with you that a single form could be enough! It was common for senior karateka in Okinawa to know perhaps three forms. My gut feeling is that less is more--how could one master and be able to implement 40 long forms? Still, I'd like to hear from more kung fu people who practice a great many forms as to what benefits they perceive from this training.
 

tshadowchaser

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Only posting here to bring the form up again.I know there have been a number of new people on the list who might be able to give some insight into
this.
With full respect,
Shadow


:asian:
 
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Battousai

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My school is japanese in origin and we have lots of kata. I think more kata equals more insight into motion. But having indepth knowledge of only a couple is really good too.
When you try to figure out the self defense within every type of motion, katas are increased to try to approximate all motion. So more katas are better, if the students have time to look within each one.
Ofcourse looking at all possiblilty within motion is a lifetimes work. I would like to have lots of kata to study over a lifetime, instead of the same stuff all the time.
 
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disciple

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Originally posted by arnisador


how could one master and be able to implement 40 long forms?

I am no kung fu master myself, but as far as I know in kung fu (especially chinese kung fu) forms/sequence is to improve each technique (in the sense that techniques are punch, block, kick, etc, and sequences are combination of techniques). The more you practice sequences, the better your techniques get. As for implementation, it doesn't neccessarily means we use one or more sequences continuously, but rather combination of parts of sequences used accordingly to situation.
So, as posted above, more forms means less time spent practicing the same sequences, but still it means practicing techniques nonetheless. I think the number of sequences or techniques doesn't really matter then.


salute

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arnisador

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I recently bought The Secrets of Phoenix-Eye Fist Kung Fu : The Art of Chuka Shaolin by Cheong Cheng Leong and Mark V. Wiley.

The book has an appendix listing the forms:

kai san chien opening the mountain
er shih sze tien twenty-four points, number one
er shih sze tien twenty-four points, number two
hu chao chien tiger claw, ascending tiger
hu chao chien tiger claw, descending tiger
loong hu chien dragon and tiger
ta choong koong stamping inside, the palace being surrounded
mei hua chien plum blossom
lien huang tuei continuous kicks
tong tze pai kwan yin boy paying respects to the goddess of mercy
yin yan er sien ku two positive ane negative heavenly ladies
ta ooh li strength performance
shih pa lohan chien eighteen hands of the lohan
foong yen tin sun chien phoenix-eye fist guarding the mountain
shih ta hsing hsian ten animals fighting movements

The repeated names are in the original. Also listed are two two-person empty hand forms (both named kung sow twee chai), seven two-person weapons forms, and one two-person pole form (kung twee chai).
 
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theneuhauser

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it seems to me that the brilliance in the many forms or sets in martial arts is their variation. like shadow boxing forms should prepare you physically for many different situations. while an early form might teach you a specific movement,(leg sweep for example),the same movement should be repeated from a different perspective. with either leg, retreating or advancing, high and low. scientificlly, this practice facilitates the muscle memory that allows you to apply the techniques of your style in many different environments. the basics are most important, the forms should be a way to develop oneself further. there should be many in a system so that one avoids becoming a MA robot with pre programmed combinations. forms are the "art" in martial art. with respect, this is my own opinion
 
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LanceWildcat1

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Many of the forms I have learned started out as a short, simple form. As you advance in rank/experience, you take many of these simple forms and add movement's to them-as well as learn new forms that do not require some of the previously learned Kata/DM/Pinans. As you gain competence with a form, you add movement's to it.:)
 
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ECYili

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To me, I think less is more. Most masters regardless of either Karate, Kung Fu, TKD or whatever will say you pick maybe 3 or 4 techniques and you master those and be able to use those against any attack. You also gotta look at what the forms, kata are trying to teach. Each one may be trying to teach a certain strategy, technique,stance or feeling. Then some may try to teach blending different technques, strategies together. But my feeling is that if even if only know a few forms REALLY well you'll be able to flow from one to the other seemlessly and without thought against any attack.

Just my thoughts

Dan
 
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arnisador

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I feel as you do, ECYili. I do wonder what case the proponents of a great many forms would make for doing 40+ forms.
 
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LanceWildcat1

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arnisador:
I feel as you do, ECYili. I do wonder what case the proponents of a great many forms would make for doing 40+ forms.


Our style starts out with 5 or 6 forms that you learn first. Then, you take those 5 or 6 forms and build on each of them. It makes it easy to learn. I suppose that if you considered each individual form that you added to, you'd have a lot of different forms to tackle. Fortunately, what we are doing is taking forms that we already know and adding a few move's, one at a time, until you have a few long forms that you can use bits and pieces of, or the whole form, as needed.
Lance Hyatt:asian:
 
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theneuhauser

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yeah, while the shear number "40" seems like so much material. in the northern mantis schools there are quite a few forms when you add them all up, but its really not all that much material in our case. basically, we had only 7 forms before the senior student level, and then that number doubles after that. the first 7 are principally similar in many ways, which is great. after that, the the variety from other cma's begins to creep into the advanced stuff.

even though that only adds up to 14 forms there were also 5 lower level weapons forms. and many more after senior level.
then our instructor added a bunch of others stuff, like hand to hand sets, and alot of internal ma's all of it starts to add up.

but if we are talking about strictly empty hand forms, it seems that in the old fashion, many northern schools would introducesome of the principles as a very short form (just 3 or 4 or 5) actions and later it would all roll over into the complete, longer versions. ive seen some northern mantis reports that talked about practicing forms with names that i had never heard before, and actually they were just breakdowns of movements i knew. such as the large windmill or crushing steps, they would be further dissected, im glad that we never did that. :shrug:

i am making no sense here, i think.
let me clarify. Many movements in CMA's are unique and take alot of development before they can actually be used. (white crane is a good example). and because many of those arts stress the power, balance, and especially the flow in a form, it takes on an approach like a dancing school might. dancers will learn the steps, then learn the dance. for a dancer, it would be a lot harder to learn a complicated ballet sequence if it was step by step "do this, now step here, now raise your arms", so even though one might be learning one act in a performance, its all those short forms that are brought together to create the one.

im going to stop here as i am convinced that this post was as close to useless as one can get after typing three paragraphs. its early, and someone threw theresa and i some kind of surprise wedding shower last night. i almost never drink alcohol, they made me do it, now im fearing for my lost brain cells:mst:
 
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LanceWildcat1

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I think that theneuhauser summed it up well. It works for many, many things in life, not only MA's. We learn the same way in school when it comes to some subjects. You get the basic's down, and then proceed to learn more and more complex ideas and concepts as you advance. In the MA's, it is especially effective, I feel.
Lance Hyatt :)
 
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arnisador

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I didn't realize the forms were added too so that there aren't as many as it seems! The ballet analogy makes sense. Thanks!
 

Matt Stone

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First, there is a difference between sets/waza and forms/kata (sorry, but after living in Japan for so long, my memory has faded on the Chinese terms for these things...).

Some Chinese arts list sets as forms, thus the number of "forms" seems inordinately high. Xingyi normally has between 2 and 4 forms, but if you include each separate posture as a form, and each animal shape as a form (rather than the sub-section of a larger form as is proper) then the number goes up by 5 - 12. Bagua, likewise, normally has only a few forms, but if you were to count each section of a form as a form, then you count 8 sets in one form as 8 forms...

Ick. :erg:

However, there are some Chinese styles that really do have that many forms... Why? :confused: Often just for history's sake - forms that were learned from teachers long dead, and were kept in order to keep that teacher's contributions alive. Kind of like having an antique book, long out of date and unpublished, possibly in a foreign or dead language, in your library. You own it, you keep and cherish it, but it serves little use other than a rememberance of days past.

As for my understanding of Okinawan karate, it was the standard that a karateka only knew a few forms, and from their study was gained great insight. Collections of forms developed after the 1920s, when Okinawan arts migrated to mainland Japan. Some forms were intended for lifelong study, others were not. Ultimately, the purposes behind many of the forms were completely forgotten, and students became teachers without knowing the real reason behind their practice. Welcome to modern era martial arts and the anti-forms debate.

Anyway...

...but as far as I know in kung fu (especially chinese kung fu)...

Is there another kind of kung fu that I don't know about? I wasn't aware that the Chinese words "kung fu" were commonly used to indicate non-Chinese martial methods by non-Chinese speaking people... Sorry to be sarcastic here, but there is no such thing as "especially Chinese kung fu," as there is only Chinese kung fu... Anything else is simply something else that has been misnamed.

I think that it is not the number of forms themselves as much as it is the number of movements in each form itself, as was stated in the last post. The single change palm in baguazhang consist's of as little as 13 movements! The basic kung fu can have as many as 175 movements for one form!

It seems I am destined to always disagree with Chiduce... The movements of a form are not commonly referenced with the exception to Taijiquan, and then only to distinguish between compulsory forms in wushu competition. I have never heard of a 13 movement Bagua form, or a 175 movement something else form... Separate postures within a form are named, but not numbered. The only other numbered reference, beyond Taiji, that I have heard of have been the 108 movement wooden dummy form from Wing Chun. There could be more (I'm not ruling it out completely), but I'm not aware of it as a common practice. I don't think that this is what most martial styles are doing when they list their forms, though... It would be far too cumbersome to attempt to do something like this, as, like Chiduce pointed out, there develops an infinite variation on minor techniques, and what you call a movement and what I call a movement would easily be different...

Just my take.

Gambarimasu.

:samurai: :samurai:
 
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arnisador

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Originally posted by Yiliquan1

Is there another kind of kung fu that I don't know about? I wasn't aware that the Chinese words "kung fu" were commonly used to indicate non-Chinese martial methods by non-Chinese speaking people... Sorry to be sarcastic here, but there is no such thing as "especially Chinese kung fu," as there is only Chinese kung fu... Anything else is simply something else that has been misnamed.

One often hears of Vietnamese kung fu (e.g., the Vietnamese snake style) or Malaysian kung fu (e.g., Phoenix-eye fist, Chuka Shaolin), for example--arts that are clearly kung fu but that have been practiced in a nearby country to which they migrated for long enough that they are considered to be that country's "kung fu" now. Sometimes the term kuntao is applied to such styles.

Thanks for your interesting post. I still don't think I have a full answer to my original question but I have many more perspectives from which to view it now! Saving anything from an older master sounds plausible.

Still: What are the advantages that accrue? I'd think I'd be less able to respond to an attack from having too many options.
 

Matt Stone

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Originally posted by arnisador

One often hears of Vietnamese kung fu (e.g., the Vietnamese snake style) or Malaysian kung fu (e.g., Phoenix-eye fist, Chuka Shaolin), for example--arts that are clearly kung fu but that have been practiced in a nearby country to which they migrated for long enough that they are considered to be that country's "kung fu" now. Sometimes the term kuntao is applied to such styles.

I know of those... Heard 'em before, but I have to say that I doubt that, like the terms kali and dumog from FMA, those terms are used to a great extent in the country from which those arts herald... The Japanese can read and understand the characters for kung fu, and they know what they mean when they read them, but they still don't commonly refer to their own indiginous arts by foreign terms.

Still: What are the advantages that accrue? I'd think I'd be less able to respond to an attack from having too many options.

Illustration, I guess? Multiple variations on a theme? In Yiliquan, we have the Eight Shapes (which form the core of our system and teach the essential theories and applications), basic and advanced Xingyiquan, Taijiquan and Baguazhang forms, as well as Baixingquan forms. Top this off with our primary and ancillary weapons forms, and we have quite the cornucopia to choose from (8 Shapes, 6 Internals, 4 primary weapons, 6 ancillary weapons, 5 Baixing forms = 29 forms!).

Ultimately, only a handful are necessary... The others provide "homework" problems. Think about it - when you were in high school math class, you learned a theorem and then had to work, what, 50 - 100 problems to drill the ideas into your head. Forms aren't necessarily so different, at least to my method of thinking.

Gambarimasu.

:samurai: :samurai:
 
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chufeng

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Originally posted by Yiliquan1



Illustration, I guess? Multiple variations on a theme? In Yiliquan, we have the Eight Shapes (which form the core of our system and teach the essential theories and applications), basic and advanced Xingyiquan, Taijiquan and Baguazhang forms, as well as Baixingquan forms. Top this off with our primary and ancillary weapons forms, and we have quite the cornucopia to choose from (8 Shapes, 6 Internals, 4 primary weapons, 6 ancillary weapons, 5 Baixing forms = 29 forms!).

Ultimately, only a handful are necessary... The others provide "homework" problems. Think about it - when you were in high school math class, you learned a theorem and then had to work, what, 50 - 100 problems to drill the ideas into your head. Forms aren't necessarily so different, at least to my method of thinking.

Gambarimasu.

:samurai: :samurai:

Matt's analogy to "homework" is appropriate for our system.
Truth is, regardless of style, you will only MASTER one or two forms in your life...the lessons learned from mastering a single form, however, can be applied to all other forms.

As most systems do, YiLiQuan starts with fairly basic movements in the "beginner" forms...BUT those lessons are carried forward in every subsequent form learned (this is where "some" schools fall short...they don't build on the basics but move into more advanced material without having a solid foundation...hence, they can't fight very well (notice I said "some" schools, so don't flame me for this)).

At the senior levels of YiLiQuan, if one chooses NOT to teach...it is NOT uncommon for the senior to select one or two advanced forms and focus on them...perfectly OK...But if one chooses to teach, then the other forms must be trained continuously in order to pass them on...of course, when one teaches, one learns much more about the system...even then, the senior will usually emphasize one of the major systems in his/her own training...some prefer the XingYiQuan "feeling," others the PaKuaQang "feeling." ... and it is apparent in the interpretation of movements within the other forms they practice...

All of that being said, I say LESS IS MORE...that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

:asian:
chufeng
 
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