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mad_mally
9/17/2006 4:20am,
I found this let gem on MAP, and I just had to post it. I found it very amusing. Enjoy.

Finding the Function
An analysis of form exploration
by Mike Casto

All martial arts systems utilize forms as teaching tools. Some forms are choreographed like the kata in Karate. Others are freeform like shadow boxing. Some are done solo and others are done with one or more partners.

Many people, though, get lost in the forms. They go through the motions but never look past them. Or they don't look any deeper than the applications demonstrated by their instructor. At their basic level, forms teach body mechanics, posture, structure, spatial awareness, balance, and many other things.

People who never look past these basic elements, though, are missing a world of possibilities. Forms are like onions; they have many layers. Each layer exposes different elements and deeper layers.

Among other things, each layer contains many possible applications. So, how do we peel these onions? Each person will find his or her own method but I'll outline mine here and maybe it will help you find your own.

There are five elements that can be changed in any position or movement, or even across the breadth of an entire form. These elements are:
1. Speed/Tempo
2. Height
3. Tool
4. Line
5. Size


Changing the Speed/Tempo
This is pretty self-explanatory. Speed elements up or slow them down. Run the whole form faster or slower than usual, or randomly change speed/tempo in mid-form.

Change the Height
If something is normally practiced standing, try doing it kneeling or lying. Punch middle or low instead of high. Kick to the knee level instead of the head.

Change the Tool
This one covers a lot of ground. If the form usually calls for a punch, try using a kick instead. Try it with an elbow, knee, or headbutt. Do part or all of the form with a weapon in your hand. Do it with a flexible weapon. If a movement is normally done as a low kick, try doing it as a sweeping motion. Change the height and use your hand to perform the sweep instead of your foot.

Change the Line
If a motion is normally done on a horizontal plane, try it on a vertical or diagonal plane.

Change the Size
Exaggerate small motions and minimize large motions.

While exploring the forms, don't neglect the space between the postures. As you return your hand from a punch, analyze ways that the returning motion can be used. It might be a release from a grab. It might be a grab and pull. It might be used to unbalance your opponent, or even as a takedown. It might be part of a joint lock or disarm. It might be grabbing a weapon from nearby and that will then change the face of the rest of the form.

By mixing and matching these elements, you can find a lot of different applications that often get overlooked in forms. Not all of the applications you find will be workable in real-time, but many will be. And the exploration is fun and practical in its own way. Over time, it changes your overall perception. You will discover that you're able to find applications just by watching a form. Your mind will reflexively visualize what would happen by applying these different elements.

By using this method, you can take a short form, like a 5 movement juru from Silat, and find, literally, hundreds of possible applications within the motions of the form. When you apply it to longer forms, you will quickly lose count of your findings.

Muqatil
9/17/2006 7:36am,
Aaaaand this needs baching why?????

alex
9/17/2006 7:48am,
i think forms are a waste of time but as far as articles go, and if you just have to use them (forms), this is pretty good.

Matsufubu
9/17/2006 9:44am,
C'mon man, quit stirring. That's pretty low down on the scale of nonsense MAP threads.

Besides, kata isn't completely useless - just not as good as sparring.

Ke?poFist
9/17/2006 10:09am,
I will play (the ironic) devils advocate here and defend the assessment that this needs bashing:

What the article writer is trying to do is justify forms, but what he really is doing is taking the burden of instruction off of the instructor, and then leaves the blame of fighting suckage on the student for not "looking deep enough" into their training. I've heard this line of thought numerous times, and I've been told that I wasn't "open-minded" enough to understand.

You can take any form and make up applications. If you CHANGE the form...well now, the possibilities are endless! But the problem here is that why should a student engage in endless blind trial and error when an instructor is supposed to be there to help lead them in the right direction?

In the end though, solo forms are not productive in the least in terms of building combat ability. Take my cereal eating form, I made this up to demonstrate to my students the futility of kata practice in the name of fighting ability:

I hold my imaginary spoon.
I then scoop my imaginary cereal.
I then eat the imaginary cereal and put down the spoon.
I then wipe my mouth with an imaginary napkin and put the napkin down next to the spoon.

I then demonstrate on an uke those very same motions transfer near perfectly into a standing wristlock off of a collar choke. I then ask the class how many people would believe me if I said that just by eating cereal every morning they are improving their martial combat skills and would be more capable of executing that technique on a real opponent than had they not eaten cereal.

I of course then get a wise remark about how eating cereal gets you ready for your day so 'yes'.....to which I then kick them in the chest into the wall.

HearWa
9/17/2006 11:24am,
I of course then get a wise remark about how eating cereal gets you ready for your day so 'yes'.....to which I then kick them in the chest into the wall.
Best. Ending. Ever.

ThaiBoxerShorts
9/17/2006 2:39pm,
When I hear "forms" in the context of MA, I think of kata and other similar exercises. So I was going to call bullshit on this article after the first sentence: "All martial arts systems utilize forms as teaching tools" is patently false, if by "forms" you mean "kata," which is how I read it at first.

But then he goes on to include shadowboxing in his definition of "forms." Fair enough. Shadowboxing is important to striking stylists. But he seems to be thinking way too hard about it. It's an important aspect of training, but it's only one aspect, and it's better to just do it than to wax philosophical about it.

mad_mally
9/17/2006 6:38pm,
I agree with guys. I just saw this article and it got me pissed. Especially the part about changing the moves in kata in order to find the hidden meaning and application behid them. I think this is patently stupid, because if you are changing the movements then the hidden application isn't in the kata; you're making it up. Kata is good for exercise when you have nothing else available, but otherwise it won't prepare you for self-defense or fighting in general. Oddly enough self-defense techiques by themselves don't help you in fighting or in self-defense.

Go hit something.

JohnnyCache
9/17/2006 7:38pm,
I agree with guys. I just saw this article and it got me pissed. Especially the part about changing the moves in kata in order to find the hidden meaning and application behid them. I think this is patently stupid, because if you are changing the movements then the hidden application isn't in the kata; you're making it up. Kata is good for exercise when you have nothing else available, but otherwise it won't prepare you for self-defense or fighting in general. Oddly enough self-defense techiques by themselves don't help you in fighting or in self-defense.

Go hit something.

Bingo.

Virus
9/17/2006 8:04pm,
There's some assumptons at work in the article, such as kata have hidden "applications" that have to be discovered which I don't personally agree with but as yet, it's a pretty unfalsifiable premise as you could invent any application out of any form. As far as I can understand, in the Japanese Koryu you aren't encouraged to change the kata as replication and handing down to a future generation is what it's all about.

TheDarkJester
9/17/2006 8:05pm,
Forms are useful as long as you don't view them as the end all be all to proficiency at ones style. Each form is a toolbox.. You may not need that particular tool now, but if the opening came up and you're proficient at said technique.. Why limit yourself?

Sparring teaches 'grace' under fire. Forms teach your entire body to work together in a more cohesive fighting unit. Everything has a method to the madness.. If you can't figure that out then perhaps you should take up knitting? Or perhaps a nice cooking show?

Ke?poFist
9/17/2006 8:42pm,
I always hear the toolbox reference, and I just don't buy it. When am I going to step out into an elongated stance and strike with reverse punch to the chin and tiger palm to the groin? And if you argue that that is but one application of the motion of many, then please elaborate on a better use. I suppose in the end it depends on how much focus is put on rote memorization of kata in comparison to sparring, but it just seems like an awfully lot of wasted time that could be better spent doing other things.....like practicing the practical applications that may or may not be in kata as taught by someone who uses them on a regular basis. As you said, why limit yourself?

TheDarkJester
9/17/2006 9:02pm,
Then that is your interpretation. It is what it is. But having it all wrapped up in a package that enables you to condition yourself to striking and moving at the same time.. Something that needs to be engrained in the mind and muscle before you can apply said techniques therein into a sparring/combative scenario. Typically what I notice in some japanese systems are the very hard sharp movements, with a clear and definitive pause between moves. I can see how someone not liking them based on appearances. Some Chinese systems are also guilty of this, but in most southern and northern flavors of kung fu.. there is a clear and definitive movement also, but it should be made to flow.

Now if we're talking literal interpretations of some forms, having a hand chambered by the waist to punch for example.. Not such a good idea to be interpretted literally.

Ke?poFist
9/17/2006 9:10pm,
Oh come on, you can say it. I'm an ass :)

edit* I'm an ass who knows clear over 20 katas, and knows 15 applications for each motion, did one-step drilling for each of those motions applying it on an uke, but in the end couldn't use a damn one of them except for the very simplist of ones that looked surprisingly like wrestling/kickboxing/grappling.

TheDarkJester
9/17/2006 9:12pm,
Oh come on, you can say it. I'm an ass :)


No not at all. I just find it somewhat amusing in that kinda paradoxical sense that you say on one hand I should not limit myself, but yet that's what your suggesting I do...

Ke?poFist
9/17/2006 9:15pm,
Then that is your interpretation. It is what it is. But having it all wrapped up in a package that enables you to condition yourself to striking and moving at the same time.. Something that needs to be engrained in the mind and muscle before you can apply said techniques therein into a sparring/combative scenario. Typically what I notice in some japanese systems are the very hard sharp movements, with a clear and definitive pause between moves. I can see how someone not liking them based on appearances. Some Chinese systems are also guilty of this, but in most southern and northern flavors of kung fu.. there is a clear and definitive movement also, but it should be made to flow.

The thing is, conditioning yourself to do that involved padwork and isolation sparring/drilling. I've seen people in one session of proper drilling more than double their ability at executing the same techniques the kata was meant to aid with.


Now if we're talking literal interpretations of some forms, having a hand chambered by the waist to punch for example.. Not such a good idea to be interpretted literally.

The problem is that by ingraining the form into memory so it's easy to practice involves to some degree a bit of muscle memory, and whatever good is gained from a form is quickly outwieghed by the bad of dropping your hands into chamber while punching. I've been guilty of this (still am to some degree, and I haven't done a kata in nearly a month now) and I know my old students most definately were hampered in their ability by kata.