View Full Version : benefits of forms

06-15-2000, 08:15 PM
Greetings, all! I just wanted to express an opinion on forms. So many folks lately are poo-pooing traditional kung fu, especially forms practice, saying that it's useless and has no place in truly learning applicable combat technique.

I beg to differ. In the first place, learning to do a form hard, fast, and with proper technique throughout is one of the most vicious cardio workouts I've ever endured. I run distance, run intervals, jump rope, and yet forms still leave me panting sometimes, depending on the intensity. That kind of stamina most certainly has its place in combat.

Secondly, the dexterity and agility one gains from practicing forms is also most helpful. Pinpoint control of your body's actions is a good thing, and forms can help with this.

Thirdly, there are many usable fighting techniques in most forms. Now this is where people start booing, but I'm not saying that most folks will be able to use perfect chunks out of their form to defend themselves. . .all the techniques within the forms are tools, and you have to spend the time learning what each one is for, then to use each tool on its own, and against an opponent, otherwise, the movements are just dance. But there are tons of viable techniques in many forms. Most folks just don't learn how to use them properly.

I think that part of the problem comes from folks who practice nothing but forms and then think that they can actually use those moves in combat. I was one of these folks at one time, but times change. Learning martial arts takes a lot of effort (duh!), and that includes strength training, flexibility training, dexterity/agility work, technique alone, and applied technique (not to mention the internal work!). If you leave any of these components out, you're short-changing yourself.

Train hard, and with an open mind. Never stop learning. After 18 years of northern mantis, grappling, escrima, and western combat, I still feel like a baby with a white belt on.

06-15-2000, 11:19 PM
Hi Whitmcc,

Thank you for such honest and wonderful post. I think you have brought up some great point.

the Western sports fitness traditions (atheleticisium) focus on 4 pillars; whereas, the Eastern martial arts fitness traditions focus on 6 pillars.

Western sports:


Eastern Martial arts:

all of the above plus
impact training

This difference stemp from the different spirituality of the East and the West. Eastern thoughts encourage the mind/body connection; hence, one can or learn to gain control over all faculties. The forms are put together in such a way that if perform correctly drain all systems. In this way, one starts to realize that relying on the Western fitness standard is a limitation. To go beyond it, one must learn how to gain contral of the cardio-vascular system through the help of meditation. Western thoughts on the other hand, believe in separations and relingush contral (God's will and Law). Not thing one can do about it.

Personally, I rather have control over all aspects of my life. There are ways out there and I will learn it. Martial arts are a good start. Thats what I'm in martial arts for.

Thanks for sharing Whitmcc, may I ask which branch of Mantis are you from? I'm impressed with your MA background. Your experince certainly said a lot about the modern day MA scenes.

Pace to all


Contraria Sunt Complementa

06-16-2000, 12:56 AM

Thanks for the compliment! I started learning Wah Lum mantis when I was a wee lad, and have continued learning since then. From '94 to '99, I was an instructor in my Sifu's school in Houston. He broke away from Master Chan long ago for political reasons, and is now happily running one traditional school and two cardio schools, with another traditional school set to open in January. As a part of his organization, I got a lot of experience in teaching as well as exposure to several different arts. I'm teaching on my own now, but I continually explore different aspects of the martial arts.

Thanks for bringing up the mind-body connection. . .I didn't really mention it in my post, but it is a big part of martial arts that should never be neglected. Without some form of meditation or reflection, I feel that it's much more difficult, if not impossible, to achieve high levels in any martial art.


Whit ;-)

Michael Dasargo
06-16-2000, 04:07 AM
Hello all,

Excellent points made. Unfotunately, no matter what we preach, the misconception that forms are useless will survive until we shift our intentions back to the Martial Intentions.

I think the reason for the improper transmision of technique is the lack of critical thinking amounst most Martial Artist. Most people play their sets and understand only the surface physical aspects(position, angle, wieght dist. etc.). The reason, however, tends to be neglected. If the Theory behind certain movements are observed, then the spirit and intention of a single or sequence of postures can be concluded. Point: Always question. What? Why? How? Where? Speculate, study, and test.

I sometimes become more concerned with getting through the set that my fist loses it's intentions. Meaning that my movements become movements to play the set, as opposed to completing its objective. i.e., my fist comes out because that's where it's supposed to end up at the end of a movement VS. My fist comes out because I am going to blast my opponent.(thanks to an applied principal complimented by previous movements.)

-Blast. I have to get going. I hope I did not convey the wrong message with this last minute expression. I will continue my point at another time.

Until Then,

The Traditinal Kung Fu Academy
San Diego, CA.USA

bamboo_ leaf
06-16-2000, 04:39 AM
Wow some nice thoughts, When I play my sets
there are manytimes I can feel my teacher, still teaching me as long as I play
the sets.

enjoy life

bamboo leaf

laughing tiger
06-17-2000, 03:44 AM
...(passing out freshly-baked ginger snap cookies to all my very cool Mantis brothers and sisters). Nice to learn from you all :-)

06-17-2000, 12:32 PM
Well I'm drunk, so that means I'm gonna talk a lot. Excuse me for making my ignorance blatantly evident.
My theory on forms is that they teach you how to move. That includes the principles, which can be exemplified through the various applications. Weight distribution is important, as is the rhythm and feeling of the movements done at full power and speed.
Mantis, all lineages passed through shaolin temple at some point. Shaolin temple was a place of buddhism. Buddhism was created by a priveledged upper-class type person, who one day stepped out into the world and realized that he knew little of the true condition of humanity. In finding this condition of humanity he formulated a process by which one strove to escape the confines, limitations, and drawbacks of our human condition. These same principles, both in defining the method, as well as defining the goal, were applied to the martial arts. Viola, you've got Shaolin kung fu; which is a string of seemingly non-related processes culminating in the result of learning how to defend oneself, and reach "martial enlightenment". Think about what you would truly need in order to master an opponent:
speed, strength, power, body mechanics, coordination, balance, footwork, flexibility, rhythm, correct frame of mind, effective techniques, stamina, and proper breath control. How did the buddhist method of martial arts pass all of these attributes on? through forms. There are many training drills meant to supplement any one of these areas if one feels they are deficient in them, however it all goes back to the forms. The forms are how styles are passed down. Whether or not a fighter can fight on the ground, use throws, or strikes, is rather secondary when you look at the big picture. If you've got proper mastery of yourself and your opponent, the venue in which you fight really shouldn't matter.

Excuse me while I delve into my own past. In high school (6 years ago) for 2 years I learned forms under a pretty good teacher. Unfortunately, my advancement into kung fu was not his main concern. I too found myself "just moving my hand until it reached it's final destination". I realized once I started at my current school that I could do some pretty stuff, but I really had no clue as far as effective application and power generation with the knowledge I had been given. I kind of feel like I'm finally learning "real" kung fu now, or maybe I'm just finally realizing how to do it correctly. Keeping the correct mindset at all times is a major requirement for suceeding in kung fu. I've realized that this is just as much the sifu's responsibility as the students. Having cool 8 and 12 key words is very helpful in digesting what you've been taught; but I'm of the opinion that the focus, the goal, should be the proper digestion, and not only the tools that facilitate the digestion, of teachings being taught.

Sorry for my tirade, I hope it's not too nonsensical & contradictory, but hopefully it might help someone. Personally I like doing forms. As long as the above said attributes are in place, in relation to your opponent, and if your digestion of the info is adequate, then forms should be more than adequate to pass on to you enough information of your style to get a decent grasp and to defend yourself.