Monday, April 11, 2016

Form Follies

I am not a huge fan of forms (kata, poomsae, anyo, whatever word your art uses).

Oh, I understand the value of forms.  No argument there - they are useful, especially if your organization does a good job in explaining what's going on in the form (aka, the bunkai).  I'm not saying that they aren't a good thing.  I actually enjoy watching people who are really good at forms do them, especially really good weapons forms.

I just don't enjoy doing them, versus other stuff in the martial arts I could be doing.

Right now I'm struggling hard with two forms.

One is Naihanchi Shodan, which I'm studying as part of my Ryukyu Kempo study.

My Naihanchi form is going very slow and choppy, as I work on each move in the form and perfect it.  The person who is helping me study here in DFW, Sensei Oliver, is the one who is teaching this form to me.  If you saw him do it, you'd be impressed by how well he does this form - strong and smooth and so well done.  If you saw me do it, well...

I look like a video of a very clumsy person that's been very badly edited.

Like this, but with punching.
The other is a form our Kobudo organization created (called "Namae No Ni"), which is a tonfa form that is derived from one of their tae kwon do forms, I've been told.  I don't do tae kwon do myself, and while I do know a few TKD forms, I don't know the one this one is apparently based on, so it does't help me learn the form.

For some reason, this is the most difficult form I've had to cope with in kobudo so far.  Maybe it's because I don't have the TKD background, so I don't have the empty hand form to relate to as I learn the tonfa version. Nothing in kobudo study has stymied me more than this particular form.  It's just so... annoying... especially when the other stuff we're doing is coming to me relatively easily enough.  Ask me to hit stuff? I'm all over it.  Namae No Ni?  I'm all over the place and flustered.

Compounding the amount of forms I seem to be doing lately, at both Hidden Sword and at our school, Mid-Cities Arnis, we've been working on Baston Anyo Isa, Baston Anyo Dalawa, and empty hand Anyo Isa.  I've been working with a lot of students on these forms lately.

So I've been spending a lot of time in my least favorite martial arts activity.

Sure, it's good for me, I guess. 

But I don't have to like it!

And a "nyah" for good measure.
One of my original teachers, Darrell Kellner, taught me these two tricks to help me work on my forms.  One of them has been particularly helpful and the other I can't do yet as I don't have either form I'm working on "down" all the way through.

One of them is to do the form footwork only.  Just work through it moving your feet and hips, and think about what's going on without worry about your hands.  Since footwork is pretty much the key to everything in the martial arts, this focus does make the form work a lot better.  My students learning anyos have been using this technique with great results.

The second is to do it backwards.  This is the one I can't get to yet but I am looking forward to trying it once I can get through all of Naihanchi or Nami Noni without cursing and starting over.

Here's where I want your tips.

For those of you who do forms - what are YOUR tips to do them better?  What helps you learn them? What are your "best practice" when learning or practicing forms?  I want to know the tricks of your trade - maybe one of your ideas will help me suck less at Naihanchi!

Let us know in the comments, please!