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Exploring forms: An overview

form chart
form chart
Edited by George Frederick

In general, forms are strings of techniques woven together for a number of different reasons; however, this can depend on the style of martial arts you practice. Some forms are libraries of techniques for one style so that the creator of the style was able to keep track of all his/her techniques. In other styles, forms are divided up to catalog specific strategies and contain techniques unique to the specific goal of the form. For example, there might be a form you learn with all grasping and locking techniques or a form with only blocks. Whatever form you are practicing in whatever style of martial arts, there are some important things to take into consideration.

First is the physical part of the form which includes every part of your body and how it functions during any specific technique or transition. After you get the basic coordination down for the form you are studying, then you can begin to focus on excelling each individual component of the form. For example, if you want to improve your footwork, you can practice only the footwork from the form or create a drill for the transitions and do the movement repeatedly.

Fine tuning and strengthening the technique are the two main goals you can look at when practicing the physical aspect of your form by drilling. When you are fine tuning any technique, it is helpful to practice it at different speeds. Practicing the technique slower than normal will help smooth out the movement and actually allow you to perform it faster when you are going for speed. When practicing it quickly, you should try and go so fast it becomes hard to perform the technique: this forces your mind and body to become used to the speed. It is also quite helpful to practice all of your techniques on both sides, even if you did not learn it that way: so, if you do a technique with your left hand, it is helpful to practice it with your right. It is important when drilling techniques or transitions from forms to try and make each repetition or set better than the last. Sometimes doing this is hard because your muscles become tired after all of the repetition. If you want to increase your endurance and power using the technique you are drilling, you will need to do some strengthening exercises.

Getting the proper movement only goes so far in adding power. After that, the only thing to do is strengthen the muscles and tendons involved in the technique. Two of the ways you can strengthen techniques are adding isometric tension and simply working out the specific muscles involved. Adding isometric tension to the muscles used in the technique while performing it will force them to work harder than usual. Over time, practicing in this way will build your fighting endurance. The other way to increase the strength of your techniques is to work out the muscles involved. You can do simple body weight exercises or use dumbbells. If you choose to use weights, always use proper technique when lifting to make sure you do not get injured.

Aside from just physically being able to do the form, you must also know the reason you are doing the techniques in the form. Of course, your mind can only focus on so much. If you are trying to improve the physical aspect during the time you choose to train, you should focus on that. On the other hand, if you are trying to visualize the applications of the form you are practicing; your mind should be focused purely on those applications. Once proper technique is achieved and your muscle memory is able to perform the technique without really thinking about it, practicing applications to the techniques as you do your form will become easier. In general, when you are training forms, it is important to mix things up. By mixing it up, you will not get injured by repeating the same technique too many times and you will not get bored. Falling into a rhythm of repetition without thought is the worst thing that can happen when practicing forms and is easily avoided by varying the way you practice.

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  • Jim Lindsay - Knoxville Gourmet Food Examiner 5 years ago

    Nice first article, George! This has lots of great information and looks really well put-together. I look forward to seeing more from you... subscribing!

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