A Response to “Forms” by Master Russ Mahan
Kennedy made the remark that: “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” Is this true of martial arts? I think some of it is, depending on your point of view.
Palgue forms came around about the time of the Vietnam war with the last two being developed in the early 70’s. The Pinan forms were developed at about the time the Wright brothers flew for the first time and Harley-Davidson made its first motorcycle.
While we still have airplanes and motorcycles they are much different because the science and knowledge about those things improved over time because people built upon foundation that was laid.
I agree with you that because something is new does not mean its better. Why develop new forms on top of new forms? I never understood that. What I learn from research was that angle and direction for attacks and where they used angle direction are important and significant. There is no doubt in my mind today that there are certain forms that allow us to know this angle, direction and where they should be applied; while other forms were developed by well meaning teachers who did not understand. They were messing around with true works of art when they changed a form, or created their own, being ignorant that there was a deeper purpose to the form. They were not simple, random movements.
I think today with all the ways we have of recording information there is no real need for the forms except that it is art. And the ones that should remain are those whose meanings existed to keep what was important documented by way of movements.
They are like a valuable painting done by a famous artist. Those forms composed by those who documented angle and direction for the purpose to have a record of what they uncovered or discovered – so that it could exist beyond their lifetime; passed on for others who would understand their meaning and enjoy – this is what we should treasure. Can you imagine if the Wright brothers or Harley and Davidson did not document via drawings and make notes so they could remember what they had tried?
You cannot change the laws of nature just as with flight. The mathematical formula is the same as it was for the Wright brothers though we understand it much better than they did and have improved on how to utilize it to our advantage. But the basic law has not changed.
I think for some, they enjoy art – and there are plenty to choose from. Others would rather learn something like Krav Magra in order to learn to protect them selves from guns, knives. How to throw a punch and kick, execute a take down and not have to worry about belts, uniforms and the formality of it all. They don’t want to be tied down to decades of learning. They just want to get to the point.
Others like the competition and would rather compete in fighting and kata competitions. There is little art there other than the competition. Originally, the art was not developed to be used against another who was trained in the same art. It later became that way in war and then in sport.
Paint ball is a good analogy to that. The idea was to have a better weapon to defeat the enemy, then the enemy usually figures out how to get your weapon and use them to defeat you, then strategies give the edge. Today, we have paintball teams using same equipment but using strategies to win the sport – everybody goes home alive.