by Stephen LaBounty (2011-04-20)

Kata's, Forms, Sets, drills, dances, etc, etc.

"Forms are a waste of time. They do not teach you to fight, nor were they meant to". This is the mantra of many a Kenpoist, even those who are teaching, practising them. I'm not going to argue this as they have their years of thought and experimentation with the forms and have come to a conclusion that all the forms really teach is "motion", principles and concepts, and a bevy of other related "motion" notions.

Yet, one could argue that the very argument against looking at forms being "motion" lessons solely, one must have to agree that this "motion" once put into... well, 'motion', lends to the students' ability to fight.

While that too may be true to some, for me who lives in a "everything matters at sometime" world, I cannot fault those who support the concept that the compact and preciseness of forms, gives the student a glimpse and eventually a convincing conclusion, that the eradication of unnecessary and useless movement is a definite plus when he/she has to put their art into real world practice application, or better put, to keep the student from being pounded into the creases of the cement. I know, I know, this possibility too is what many Kenpoists are teaching within my opening statement of this writing, or close to what they are trying to teach at least.

Forms as well as techniques to me are really just theories waiting to be put into actual combat where they are examined, re-done, discarded or improved on. One of the most favorite things I like to say about such things is "Theory only informs, actual reality in motion convinces". Be it the movement of an army of thousands or the army of one, the examination of the "battlefield" application is just that, and examination. The 'after action' discussion if one survives, is where the real act of creating a war time skill exists.

Now in re-reading my thoughts one may take my comments as unclear what I really think of forms. I like forms. I dislike very little in the system, though I do not practice some of the things that we are asked to learn, teach, do and not out of disrespect or arrogance either. I do not because it will not suit my training especially in my advanced age. I have only so many hours, months, years left, and I wish to spend them finding answers to many of the questions that have plagued me, haunted is even a better word, for 50 years. Now when I do forms, it usually is the Three's as they are the first foray into the contact penetration/manipulation ideas of American Kenpo. But I don't limit my students or this reader to their likes, dislikes or disagreements with forms, or my comments for that matter.

So, lets see: what about forms again? I think that they should be taught in toto, i.e. where they take, can take the student, and that for me is the total understanding of economy of 'motion', application of the "what if" principles., Most of all, the understanding that these "theories" must be put into real time, real world application with all the smells, fears, ugliness. How that is done? Each one of us must answer that with his or her actions and desire to excel in the gravest situation in their lives, that may, or may not happen. Ask HOW do I overcome the great fear, the sickness of the moment, the wondering if I've done enough, long enough. I say to you, ENGAGE in your forms! Go after the invisible opponent, penetrate and harm lest you be harmed. Forms? They do teach us a lot.. mostly about ourselves I think.