Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Are there practical applications in our forms???

Funakoshi demonstrating a throw.
This is from a Japanese source so
look at it from right to left:)
This is an application from Empi Kata
This question pops out time and time again. Go to any martial arts forum (martial talk, etc) and look at the discussion conserning poomsae/Hyung/Tul/Kata/forms and there should be several discussions centered around this question or theme. Even within several discussions that does not start out with this question you will probably get someone who raises the question. This is a trend that has been going on since we first got martial arts that had forms in them. The same discussions are being held in all the JMA (Japanese martial arts), CMA (Chinese martial arts), OMA (Okinawan martial arts) that employ forms. Its just that before the work of people like Iain Abernethy, Bill Burgar, Chris Wilder, Victor Smith, Patric Mcharthy etc the question was slightly different, but the theme of practical usage of the forms or the movements therein was still there.

Today however I think we can with we can with a great deal of confidence say that the older forms of CMA origin (including some JMA and OMA) have practical usages. The older forms of Taekwondo (Pyonghan, Kongsukon, Balsaek, Chulgi etc) were directly or almost entirely imported from the original Taekwondo founders base arts (usually Shotokan Karate) and so they too have practical applications in them. But what about the newer Korean form? I am now talking about the Chang Hon, Palgwe, Taegeuk, etc forms that the Koreans made and that are fairly new. Are there any practical applications to be derived from them?

The first thing to consider is this: Did the Taekwondo founders know what their original forms were for? If so did they teach this to their students? And did their students make their new forms based on these practical applications? I might write a more indepth post about this bit another time but for the time being I will only say this: I do not care about any of the questions about the knowledge the founders of Taekwondo had. I have chosen to study "traditional" Kukkiwon Taekwondo and so I have been given a set of forms to center my studies around. The Chang Hon set that I have seen and experinced (although I will gladly point out that my experience with them are limited) seems to be restructured Karate Kata, and so practical applications will be there and can be found by cross referencing the Tul/Hyung with its Karate Kata counterpart. This is also true to some extent about the Palgwe set. But The Taegeuk and black belt set that we practise today?

What are a martial arts form made of? The answer is easy: It is made of basic motions. Where did the basic motions in Taegeuk and black belt poomsae come from? They came from the founders base arts (again mostly Shotokan Karate). The techniqes in those base arts are practical and contains practical usages in the earlier forms and so the techniques of our poomsae must be practical as well?

I for once do not have any trouble finding practical applications in the poomsae I study. Maybe the founders knew what they were doing, maybe they did not. Maybe the poomsae were made with practical applications in mind, maybe they were not. Maybe I see things in the poomsae that was not in there originally, or maybe I see just what I was supposed to see? No matter what the answer is, to me the patterns contain a wealth of material to be used in combat and self defense. It is not the knowledge of the founders and pioneers we should be focusing on. We should be focusing on our personal goals and to get as much out of our art as possible.

The history of Taekwondo and its evolotion is indeed wery interesting (at least to me) but discussing the question of wether there are any practical usages to our forms or not is not time well spendt if you are going to keep practising them anyway. If you want the "easy" way out you can always start studying a single or wery few outside forms from e.g. karate that are allready analysed and intrepreted. Or you can choose a form that you "know" contain combat methods and try to figure it out yourself. Or you can try to (re)intrepret your own forms that you have been given. The basic parts of the forms being CMA, OMA, JMA, KMA (korean martial arts) namely the basic motions are very much the same accross the borders and so practical usages should be there no matter where you chose to look:) I have studdied Chulgi (also known as Tekki Shodan, Naihanchi, Naifanchi) to better understand the forms I have today. I know I learned a lot and I recomend others to do the same. Do not look for differences, look for simularities instead and the rewards will be greater:)

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