Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Form is a Form is a Form

In Kobudo class, we've just been taught Shuji no Kon Sho, which is an Okinawan bo form.  It's the second form we've been taught, after our organization's Bo Ichi.

Out of curiosity, I searched for other folks doing this form.

Wow, the variances are HUGE versus what I was just taught!  Here's just a few examples of this form:.

Click here if you can't see the video

Click here if you can't see the video.

Click here if you can't see the video.

+Martial Arts with Colman  also shared with me the version his group does, which I can't share with you here as embedding is disabled (but you can check it out here).

You can see that these are all the same basic form, but many of the little details are different - and these are three I picked relatively randomly.  None of these are identical to the version we have been taught in my class.  I don't have video of this - there isn't one online of someone doing it well, and I'm not about to upload a video of me screwing it up!

Hey, I just learned the basic moves - I'm haven't really even "learned" it yet.

A close approximation.

This got me thinking about forms.

In Modern Arnis, we have do forms, called anyos, We don't put the same emphasis on them that other martial arts styles do - in fact, some branches of our art don't bother with them at all.

We have tons of variance in how different groups do anyos, mainly because well, we don't necessarily require each of us to do it identically.  Our art is one that conforms itself to the player - so some of us do anyos in a more "hard" style, like karate or tae kwon do, but others do it in a "softer" style, like kung fu or tai chi.  That's why you can see five different people do "Anyo Isa" and you will see some very different interpretations - and that's okay by us.

The late Master Bob Quinn performing Baston Anyos 1-4.
This is the closest I've seen to how we do them in our school.
 Click here if you can't see the video.

But, I thought that the Japanese and Okinawan arts were far more conformist in this regard.  Yet, when you compare form to form you can see variances, some of them significant.

It just goes to show - no matter how we try, these changes are going to occur, naturally.  Maybe someone interprets bunkai differently than somebody else, so the move might change as a result.  Perhaps influences from other arts changes things. Perhaps, as I've written before (specifically here), it's a case of "The Telephone Game" changing things inadvertently.

As you guys know, I'm no fan of performance weapons (especially toothpick bo tricking), but even as someone learning "traditional" bo, I can't claim that the way I've been taught is indeed the most authentic or the most traditional.

I think we all have to be very careful when we start claiming our forms are "original" or "the most traditional".

What do you think?  If you're in a Japanese/Korean/Chinese (or other) art that uses forms, have you noticed these variances?  How do you cope with them?  Does it present a problem, or does anybody really care about these changes?  I'd love to know your experience!