Forms Training Objectives

Forms Training Objectives

For many kung fu styles and even a multitude of other martial arts, a large portion of the training is done through the learning and practicing of forms or routines. (Called katas in Japanese and poomsae in Korean).

In Chinese they are referred to as Taolu (martial arts set) and they can be trained as a group, with weapons, or even opposing a partner. Their function is to teach the practitioner how to use their techniques with some context, flowing to and from other techniques. Centuries ago, the majority of those practising martial arts were illiterate and so Masters would use the routines as a repository – a physical collection of techniques to be used like a manual.

In learning the sequences, the student by default develops many physical attributes such as:
• agility,
• strength,
• balance,
• stamina,
• co-ordination,
• cardiovascular improvement,
• fluidity of movement,
• flexibility,
• posture,
• breath control,
• use of energy and more.

Furthermore, they can be used to improve several non physical elements such as:
• focus,
• artistry,
• martial understanding,
• intention,
• meditation,
• brain activity
• stress response and more.

In my experience many students practice with the aim to simply recall the sequence from beginning to end. Perhaps if they know the form very well, they will focus on the details and nuances along the way. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach, it does reduce the potential of progression. I suggest continually changing the training objective to maximise growth. For example the practice and approach of visualising an opponent on every move is vastly different to focusing on long deep controlled breaths throughout the routine. And both have valid outcomes. Perhaps determining what area needs the most attention? Or switching objectives every so often?

Changing up the training focus also serves to keep your martial training somewhat fresh and purposeful, and prevents the dreaded going through the motions an instructor often sees. In a similar vein, I strive as a teacher to modify the manner in which a form is practiced. Some ideas I’ve used are:
• Fast speed
• Slow speed
• Low deep stances
• Eyes closed
• Constrained space
• Added weapon/s
• In reverse
• Uneven ground
• Mirrored
• Differing direction
• With a partner
• With a dui feng (attacker)
• Only arms (or legs)
• With weights
• With a mouthguard
• Joined with another form
• As an animal or element
• And many others

Each of these has a specific result on the execution and outcome of the routine. Again, these different approaches not only improve a certain objective, they also make the practice more interesting. If unsure what area needs work, ask your instructor and they’ll be happy to advise you.

One of Bruce Lee’s most quoted lines is “I fear not the man who has practiced 10000 kicks, but the man who has practiced one kick 10000 times!” This quote emphasises the importance of focused practice and refers to the high level of proficiency and ingrained ‘muscle memory’ that comes from diligent training. One of my favourite quotes is the following:

“An amateur practices till he gets it right. A professional practices until he can’t get it wrong!”