What's In A 'Form'?


Jan. 25, 2016, Toronto, ON - "Why do forms?" Every traditional martial art has them; yet, everyone has their own interpretation as to why we, as martial artists, do them. So, here’s my take.

A lot of people claim that forms are a great way to help train the body for physical combat, to teach it how to move, to intuitively know what to do in any given combative situation. Granted, this may be true to some degree, but aren’t there a lot more practical ways of accomplishing that? Moreover, a lot of other people will claim that forms are a great way to exercise; that doing a form will get you into great physical, combative shape. Again, this may be true to some degree, but aren't there a lot more practical ways of doing that, as well? I mean, there are some forms out there that require very little movement at all. Beyond the physicality and practicality of forms, forms are a great way of training both the mental and energetic body. In essence, forms are the spiritual practice to any martial art.

The mind, like any other tool, needs guidance. Turn on a power saw and leave it there. It will begin to chaotically saw away at anything around it. Now, take hold of that same saw and guide it to help cut away at what's needed. Similarly, in this way, forms are a great way of handling the mind. They help to discipline the body and the mind (for they are non-separate), through the breath of each movement. Outwardly, some moves may appear completely illogical and impractical on a physical level; however, on an energetic and mental level, they are there to strengthen and shape us.

Visualization is the key to utilizing both our minds and these forms properly. In an empty form, purely physical, one will only see the movement. A kick is nothing more than a kick, but if you put something into it (a mental and energetic component) the kick becomes something more. The kick is fueled by belief. The belief of being strong, the belief that you are more powerful than you know, and the understanding of decisiveness with every selected movement. Suddenly, the kick has transformed.

It is through these subtle energetic and mental manipulations that we are better able to utilize forms more effectively and to understand them in consciousness. The mind, like any tool, is wild. First we must still the mind to make it civilized, and only then can we begin to make savage the body; guiding our energetic awareness in order to complete what we want, through both the physical and mental layers of control.