Forms are Underrated!

by Peter D Sorce

Many, or most traditional martial arts have forms (pattern, kata, hyung, etc.)as part of their training. A form is a formalized pattern of movements (blocks, strikes, and kicks) that are performed against imaginary opponents. There are countless reasons for practicing forms. Just to name a few: art, beauty, and tradition, to learn proper technique, exercise, developing power, strength, and endurance. This article will only talk about the physical reasons.

There are many people in the martial arts, today, who make the claim that forms are useless and that there is no point in practicing them because they are useless in a fight. First of all people who make these comments obviously don’t truly understand the different martial arts and the reasoning behind practicing such things as forms. Yes, I have to agree that the forms, the way they are practiced today, are not applicable to a street situation because of their rigid structure. Also, the deep, exact, stances are completely impractical in a street situation. Although the techniques performed in the exact same manner as in the form are not feasible in a street situation, each technique and series of techniques do have a direct application for specific self-defense situations. The only difference is that they are put together as a formalized pattern with the stances being different than what would be done in a street situation. (some series of techniques are more or less practical then others, but that is only my opinion)

Forms are used to introduce new techniques to students as they advanced in rank, but they do much more than that. Forms are a discipline and are where the execution of the techniques are mastered. This is where students develop the proper coordination of their body for each block, strike, or kick. This is also where students develop their power, breath control, and body conditioning.

I spend more time on forms then most schools because of the all of the hard work and discipline it takes to be really good at them. To me, there is nothing more impressive than for a little 7-year-old kid doing a good form with proper stances, good technique, power, and concentration. There is no way he/she got to that point without a lot of hard concentrated effort on it. On the other hand, there’s the kid who wins first place in sparring who cannot demonstrate the basic stances, blocks or kicks. The kid won only because he/she was more aggressive, and not because of good techniques or a good sparring strategy.

There are many different Martial art schools out there, and each has there own ways of doing things. Some choose to incorporate forms, and some do not. If you do not believe in practicing forms, hopefully this has shed some light on why others choose to do so. We are all ultimately training for so same goal, so please remember that there are many paths to reach one goal, and one path is not better than another.