There is a growing debate of whether or not forms are a necessary component to the development of a martial arts practitioner. In American Kenpo, we have several forms as part of the standard curriculum.
Forms are a great reinforcement tool and can be used to learn, practice and internalize many things, including:
- Mental visualization – Visualizing multiple attackers and defending against their attacks
- Visual focus – Keeping your eyes up and looking before moving into the unknown
- Breathing – Learning to inhale and exhale at the appropriate times
- Attitude – Learning to project ones attitude which leads to greater self confidence
- Intensity – Allows the practitioner to regulate the speed, timing and power of their movements
- Continuity of motion – Your last move becomes the first move of the next sequence
- Emphasis – Exploration of which movements are “major moves” and which are “minor”
- Self confidence – Especially true when one starts competing in the forms division
- Self expression – Allows the practitioner to discover and express their own personal signature and style of motion
- Conditioning – Depending on how they are performed, can lead to greater stamina, coordination and balance
- And more
They can lead to greater understanding and expression of the art allowing practitioners to put what they know and understand to the edges of their hands and feet. In fact, you can tell a lot about what a practitioner knows and understands just by watching how they move.
In addition, you don’t have a training partner to execute; making it easier to practice anywhere. Forms are a great way to practice dozens of moves and sequences in a short period of time. They can even unlock your understanding of other areas of the art including transitions, filling the gap, closing the gap, dimensional stages of action and more.
There are so many benefits to forms training that the notion they aren’t useful is, to me, a ridiculous statement. Perhaps it’s the way these individuals have learned to perform their forms is the root cause of their sentiments. I don’t think the forms themselves are to blame.