This time I'm going to talk about the significance of practicing systematic set forms and being formless. I have never quite known how I should perceive the concept of forms until now. In most traditional martial art schools, students are expected to memorise forms that are often in vast quantities. At the rank of second degree black belt at my Taekwondo school, I must be proficient in 15 patterns each consisting of 18 to about 30 moves. This can be looked at in different ways. One might think that I am practicing someone else's expression, and thus I am being fraudulent and unauthentic. I am painting someone else's picture, not my own. I partially agree with this, however there are many positives that I have experienced through practicing traditional forms. I find that they are a good way to exercise, execute techniques, and they provide a solid foundation, especially for beginners. Memorising such technical detail in vast quantities has improved my cognitive ability to memorise information, helping me at school.
After reading a section called 'The Significance of Form and Formless' (page 55/56) from a book titled 'The Art of Shaolin Kung Fu" by Wong Kiew Kit, my view has been harmonised. The book describes that many techniques in martial art are unnatural to a beginner. A beginner would most likely find it more 'natural' to punch as in Western boxing, rather than to use a palm heal strike. In a self defence situation, it's likely the aggressor won't expect to encounter a technique like a properly executed palm strike and other techniques. In order to benefit from the advantages of martial art techniques, a practitioner may learn a patten which is initially unnatural, and practise it so it will eventually become natural to them. This can be seen as the stage of 'from formlessness to form'.
At a later stage when one is competent in set forms, one may modify a form or part of a form to suit the demands of a particular combat situation if necessitated. For example, when strictly standing strait and throwing a punch according to the patten, one might lean forward to achieve extra length. This is when one approaches the stage of 'from form to formlessness'. Eventually one may do away with form because he or she can now move the hands, legs or any part of the body in any way appropriate to the situation. The practitioner may also wish to express them selves spontaneously, like dancing. Unfortunately however, I don't know of any schools that promote you to develop your self to this extent, with the exception of FMK. Most Martial Art schools seem to be quite happy for every student to be stuck on set forms like a robot, never to progress and be formless again. It is as if the systems are broken. As a result of this, students must take it upon themselves to develop in their own way. Some Martial Art schools do better than others; but overall I think they could be doing more in regards to the overall topic of forms.
I think that set forms complement formlessness. Learning a form gives you a good means of practicing techniques and a good foundation. And to do this spontaneously, not thinking but physically expressing internal feelings, is a advanced level of pure Martial Art that is formless like water.
Thank You for reading my blog. Do you guys view forms like this?.