Many changes have happened to Kung Fu schools over the years. The one we will discuss to day is the proliferation of forms for demonstration purposes and the loss of the true fighting application and methodology behind using forms for fighting.
If you attend a kung fu school and spend a lot of time practicing kung fu forms, but when it come time to spar you strap on some boxing gloves and fight like kick boxers, then something is seriously wrong.
unless…..your reason for training kung fu is to engage in performance style tournaments, and your forms are practiced to be used in that setting.
If you are looking for traditional kung fu, and an understanding of how and why forms are constructed and used as they are, then you should be engaging in sparring and drills using the techniques from the form exactly as they are performed in the form. Otherwise you are wasting a massive proportion of your training time learning choreographed dance moves.
How do I know this?
Because I spent many years doing this myself. All the while wondering why I was learning forms if we did not use them when it came to fighting. Sure we may use the odd technique as it was in a form, but the majority of techniques were no different than the basics of any kickboxing school. We even used a roundhouse kick as the predominant kicking technique, yet it did not feature once in any of the traditional system.
Now this is not a comment on the effectiveness of a roundhouse kick, we can argue about that one later.
What I am saying is; Evaluate the time you are putting into your training against the goals of your training. If you are at a kung fu school and learning forms but fighting like a kickboxer. Just practice the kickboxing! You will get better at that much faster.
Traditionally Kung Fu forms were used to teach a student all of the techniques of a system. They teach a martial artist foundation (strong stances), fitness, strength, chi kung, discipline, concentration, power, speed, agility, flexibility, mobility and above all they teach the recipe of a system. By recipe I mean why and how the ingredients (the techniques) are sequenced or put together as they are.
The recipe forms the blueprint that is practiced repeatedly by the student. Kung Fu Forms present all the possible combinations of the ingredients into a cohesive system of knowledge and understanding as viewed by the founder or creator of that style.
At Head Academy Kung Fu in Sydney we teach Jow Gar (Jow Ga, Chow Ka) forms as they were intended to be taught. Every move of every form has an application or purpose. Furthermore, every forms techniques are practiced in sequence, as they are executed in the forms.
As a side note, all techniques and sequences upon further training and study have many more than one application. I am talking about the base level execution of a technique, as it is performed and trained in a form. For it is a simple contradiction. If you train a technique repetitively and then have to output it in a different way for it to work, why not train the effective technique from the start?
And this is where we run into the another style of Kung Fu school. The “No Forms, Just the effective techniques”, Kung Fu school.