Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Hacking Forms

I'm not a huge fan of forms.

Oh, I agree that they are useful and necessary, especially in traditional weapons arts, as much as it is not my very most favorite thing to do.

Me teaching empty hand Anyo Isa, form one.

I spend a lot of time learning and performing forms.

Think about it - between working on and teaching anyos in Arnis, learning and practicing the kata I have to learn in kobudo, and the kata I'm working on in Karate (currently, Pinan Nidan)... my martial arts life is often very forms-heavy.

However, I think some of us emphasize forms a little too much.  They don't move beyond the basics of the form itself - they do the forms in the air, but they don't apply what is found there into realistic situations or against resisting opponents.  This is incredibly common in weapons forms - they are often done as if the people doing them have never actually hit anything with the weapon in their lives.

There's no point to forms, other than dancing or performance, if you don't move beyond movements in the air to application.

Some of us don't even bother with forms, and that's okay, too.

However, there's a trick with forms that I think is really useful and challenging that you miss out on if you don't do any forms at all.  Again, this depends on you using forms as a foundation to practice real techniques intended to be used on real people.

As y'all know, I'm in the middle of working on the basics of learning nunchaku.  The other day at Arnis, we were talking about this, and how it relates to what I've learned in Arnis.

Somehow, we got into discussing doing one of our baston (or sword) anyos with nunchaku.  It started with our first form, Baston Anyo Isa, but then I thought about our fourth form, Anyo Apat...

And the wheels started turning.

Here's Anyo Apat.  To skip ahead directly to the form, go to 1:20 in the video.


Okay, so... imagine this form done with nunchaku.  How do I have to change the form (and the goal for me is to do so as little as possible)?  How do the movements change?  What about footwork?

It's an interesting intellectual challenge, and it's one that I think I'm going to play with once I get a little breathing room in my schedule.

Baston Anyo Apat is not a nunchaku form.  It's not even a stick form, really (although there is a stick interpretation of it).  But it could be.  It can be espada y daga (sword/stick and knife), for that matter, or even empty hand.  But how much would it change if I converted it using tonfa?  What about bo? Would it look like Baston Anyo Apat?

I don't know - I haven't tried it.  Yet.

This hack of forms gives you a lot more material in a single form than you might imagine.

Take the empty hand karate form I'm learning, Pinan Nidan.  This is very similar to what I'm working on.


Now put a knife in the right hand, in saber (traditional) grip.  How does this form change?  Now try reverse (or "icepick") grip - how does THAT change things?

What if my imaginary opponent(s) in this form are armed with a knife?  What about a more powerful weapon than what you have?

What if you put the knife in your weak hand?

Exactly.

Now what happens if I convert it to, say, tonfa?  Or Bo?

Think about a form you know.  It doesn't matter which it is, and it doesn't matter if it's for weapons or not.

If it is a weapon form - convert it to a very different weapon (say, from bo to nunchaku).  Or to empty hand.  Or if it's primarily on the "right", move it to the "left" in mirror image.

If it's empty hand, convert it to a weapon.  Now try a different weapon.  Try it in your strong hand (usually the right),and try it in the weak hand (usually the left).

Try this against unarmed and armed opponents.

What works?  What doesn't?  What has to change?  How can you keep within the constraints of the form?  Or does it not work at all?

You see? There's a lot more material there than you might think!

How do you "hack" forms to make them useful to you?  Let us know in the comments!