Last Saturday we (Island Warrior Martial Arts NSI808 ) took part in part II of a local production about the Filipino Martial Arts in Hawaii. Part one was recorded in September of 2010 and consisted of the following schools Tobosa School of Kali & Escrima, Del Mar School of Filipino Martial Arts, Escrima Academy of Hawaii, Bandalan Doce Pares, Dog Brothers Hawaii Clan led by Guro and DBMA Elder Mike Tibbitts, Island Warrior Martial Arts NSI808 and Descendents of the Pulahans led by Tuhan Marc Behic who is also the mastermind behind the project. Part two consisted of a most of the schools listed above and included the Sunda Silat school.
Form follows function is a principle that states that the shape (form) that something takes should be chosen based on its intended purpose and function.
The subject matter for the demo was an easy choice for me and can be a subject of spirited debate among my fellow Jeet Kune Do practitioners. Bruce Lee said the following:
Too much horsing around with unrealistic stances and classic forms and rituals is just too artificial and mechanical, and doesn’t really prepare the student for actual combat. A guy could get clobbered while getting into this classical mess. Classical methods like these, which I consider a form of paralysis, only solidify and constrain what was once fluid. Their practitioners are merely blindly rehearsing routines and stunts that will lead nowhere. I believe that the only way to teach anyone proper self-defence is to approach each individual personally. Each one of us is different and each one of us should be taught the correct form. By correct form I mean the most useful techniques the person is inclined toward. Find his ability and then develop these techniques. I don’t think it is important whether a side kick is performed with the heel higher than the toes, as long as the fundamental principle is not violated. Most classical martial arts training is a mere imitative repetition – a product – and individuality is lost.
When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form. It is like ice dissolving in water. When one has no form, one can be all forms; when one has no style, he can fit in with any style.
I agree and disagree with some what Bruce is saying. I agree that yes
- To teach anyone proper self-defence is to approach each individual personally.
- Each one of us is different
- When one has reached maturity in the art, one will have a formless form.
However I disagree that “form” is just “horsing around with unrealistic stances,” “too artificial and mechanical” and “Their practitioners are merely blindly rehearsing routines and stunts that will lead nowhere.” I don’t know if Bruce was specifically targeting a specific system or it was a comment about the state of the Martial Arts community at the time. Personally I lean towards the latter.
Normally one of the first things we learn as beginners is the V stepping based on the Male and Female triangles. The female triangle is associated with evasion while moving forward, conceptually its kind of difficult to imagine but when you physically perform the action it becomes simple and clear. However when we learn this basic movement we are utilizing same side stepping and hitting blocking. This movement is not completely natural and takes some coordination and so we practice that movement either alone or with a partner and in essence we are working on form among other things but when we practice alone and without any other training aide we can only focus on form. Same thing when we shadow box, we practice form to work on our mechanics so that we can deliver the most power and when we add footwork to the mix we add evasion and even more power. So one of the methods I choose to use to help the student put it all together is FORM.
So how can form be useful to the beginner?
Well as stated before the basic footwork starts off with the V pattern but when we practice the V we usually do it in from a stationary point because we are reacting to the strike and practicing stepping offline and out of the arc of power. I relate that kind of practice to a basic self defense scenario. Eventually the student will start sparing and then the static form becomes dynamic as we introduce sparring. When a friend and I first started training we decided to attend the sparring sessions held on Friday’s. Needless to say the sparring sessions did go to well but it didn’t go too bad either. It’s just takes persistence and good training partners who want you to grow rather than use you as a human training dummy. So one day my friend asked “How do you spar?” It seems like such a simple question but it also seems complex. Some people have that natural fighting instinct some people don’t but it can be progressively developed until it finally “clicks” and I think form is one way of helping a student develop their game up until the point a free flow i.e. we start off with structure and evolve from the structure into our or personal expression.
Now before we take a look at the form we have to take a brief look at the numbering system used to teach the strikes. The first 5 strikes are as follows.
- #1 – Forehand strike to the left temple.
- #2 – Backhand strike to the right temple.
- (Strikes #1 & 2 are delivered in angular motion, if you were to do this while facing a mirror you would be creating an imaginary X while delivering your strikes.)
- #3 – Forehand strike to the left elbow
- #4 – Backhand strike to the right elbow
- (Strikes #3 & #4 are delivered on a horizontal plane, if you were to do this while facing a mirror you could imagine cutting someone in half on a horizontal plane.)
- #5 – Thrust to midsection.
So now that have an idea of the numbering strikes and the angles that they are delivered at Modern Arnis‘ Solo Baston Anyo Isa and examine why “form follows function” but first before we begin I have to help you visualize a the form since I do not have an accompanying video of my own (yet)
1) Begin in a neutral stance. Step forward with the right leg and deliver a #2 strike.
2) Step forward with the left leg and deliver a #1 strike.
3) Step forward with the right leg and deliver a #4 to the head.
4) Step back with the right leg and deliver a #2 strike
5) Step back with the left leg and deliver a #1 strike.
6) Step forward with the left leg and perform a supported block to the right (imagine you are blocking a #2 strike)
7) Step forward with the right leg and perform a supported block to the left (imagine you are blocking a #1 strike)
8) Step back with the right leg and a roof block, imagine an blocking a #12 (downward strike to the top of the head)
9) Step back with left leg, with an umbrella, again imagine an blocking a #12 (downward strike to the top of the head)
10) Twirl over the head and then deliver a #1 strike.
11) Step back with right leg and deliver a #2 strike.
12 ) Step back into a neutral stance.
Seems pretty simple eh? Well it is but we can also turn something simple into something complex yet functional while keeping it simple. One of the things I find so interesting about the Filipino Martial Arts it’s easy to learn but difficult to master. So how can we extract functional techniques out of these simple movements and develop our personal expression? Well we are going to start from the beginning of course and look at it from the beginners perspective.
Part Two coming soon, I feel it will be easier for me to present via video clip vs written form.