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I Used To Think Forms Were Stupid
By Lily Gold, LMT

I remember the first time I tried to learn a form; it was a nightmare.  I was at a one-day seminar where the day was broken up in small intro type classes.  There I was trying to learn this whole form - it seemed very unnatural and I didn't see the value of it.  No practical application was shown.  I just wasn't getting it.  I wasn't used to doing stuff in the air.  The whole time I was thinking, "this is stupid and a waste of time".

The next time I tried to learn a form, it wasn't much better.  The forms weren't a key part of the style and most people training in that art didn't do the forms.  Although I could see what they were for, the partner drills we did seemed to be of more value and interest to me than the forms.

Then, a few months ago, we started to learn some Kenpo sets in class.  We are not a traditional school and we don't specifically do Kenpo.  So why were we learning this?  Coach explained that he wanted us to get some foundational attributes that we didn't have because most of us had not spent time in a traditional art - we had the flow, and many other attributes, but he felt that learning a few basic forms would improve us on many levels.

So I figured I had to give it a try.  This was different.  First, we learned the set in parts, and did each one several times together before moving on to the next part, until we got the whole thing.  There were written notes for us to work from as well, so we had the experience of seeing how physical motion is described and working from that, sort of like learning to read musical notation.

Coach also showed us the practical application of each part of the set and related it to what we already do with stick and knife.  Now I could actually see what the set was about, instead of feeling like I was just doing a random bunch of movements with my arms and legs that may just as well have been a dance routine!

When it was explained that this would improve my body mechanics - I would move better, have better footwork, and begin to automatically move to the inside or outside - which ever was the better option at the time.  That this would help me learn quicker and have better retention and recall of drills, techniques and concepts - I was willing to give it a try.

I was impressed.  Everything Coach said about the value of doing forms was right on.  And I was actually enjoying them!  My confidence improved when I could see my own progress.  I learned 8 sets in a month!  (The meditation work we do in class really helped with that, too)  They weren't difficult, long or too complicated - but I learned them.  Something I didn't think I could do.

My body mechanics improved.  My balance improved.  I felt like I could learn things quicker and remember them better as well.  It really did help everything else that I did in martial arts.

I also liked the fact that I could go out in the morning and just run thorough my sets.  Better than 'exercising' with the added plus of the martial benefits and I didn't have to think about 'what I could do for a few minutes of solo training'.  So, if I didn't have a lot of time or wasn't inspired to do stick work or heavy bag work - I'd do forms.

I've heard lots of people (including myself in the past) say, "I don't do forms".  My question to you is - Do you do a patterned series of actions with a partner or by yourself? (also called a drill)  That's a form - they are essentially the same thing.  You don't need to learn "forms" from another style - you can simply do your partner drills (such as 6 count, a Modern Arnis Drill) by yourself - then it's a form.  Even for you shooters, tap roll and rack is a form in this sense.

Even with a partner drill you think you know really well, you will get gems of knowledge out of it by practicing it solo.  You *may* even discover that you are unclear on parts of a drill which you thought you really knew - sure you can do it with a partner, but practicing it solo is a whole new thing.  It is the difference between being able to sing along with the radio and being able to sing a song "cold" from memory with no cues.  Give it a try!  I think you will be pleased with your results.


Lily Gold, LMT

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This lesser-known kata is a stepping-stone between the older & newer forms of Goju Ryu with distinctive foot patterns, deep breathing, circular lines & hand actions of the old Okinawan fighting Karate


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