Form or Function?
Browsing on the internet for martial arts we are bombarded with so many things, do this course and it will give you results in 10 days or you will become an instructor of this style in only two weeks of training.
You can loose weight with this new pill and still eat as much as you want. People can be swayed and transfixed by a new style or system or just wanting to find an easy way to do something.
Some times people and styles have millions of followers because their marketing is just so good and they pander to peoples lack of commitment and willingness to invest time and effort into those things worthwhile.
Like magpies we are all attracted to shinny new things. Martial arts are no different with so many styles and instructors all claiming to all have the perfect system or style. My budgie is now doing MMA he says it helps when getting food from the other birds. Ha Ha
Many of you know I have a strong background in Shotokan karate. A style that I still love to this day although I don’t practice it now I still have fond memories of the times doing it . The funny thing is that a lot of the things that I used to do in karate and my old training methods were not functional. Meaning it was not functional for fighting. It was very much based on forms and shapes. We used to do many low stances, elaborate forms and movements, this was very much based on the form part of the art.
Did this help me with what I am doing today? I would have to say some parts have helped and some parts have not. Posture is a massive part of karate and I think that by doing all the many katas or forms for that many years it has given me good posture. (modesty aside)
Another important aspect through correct martial arts practice is that a person will forge an indomitable spirit (tamashii). Spirit (seishin) and the ‘never give up’ mindset that combined with good martial arts practice is vital to not only for self defence but for life in general.
I believe Seishin (spirit training) to be one of the most important aspects of martial arts practice. Techniques and methods are also important, but if someone has no spirit then their martial arts will just look like a dance and it does not matter how good their technique is, if there is no spirit, there is no martial arts!
Many of the martial arts today have these large and grandioso movements which are very much based in a tradition and not a function. So the question is should we still do these form based things?
I guess it depends why you are doing your martial arts for and what your aims are, is it to study an art or is it to defend yourself?
Can we have the both things in one style or system?
In Shōrin-ryū karate the stances are high and more natural compared to Shotokan which favour long and deeper stances. Which is correct? Why do some styles of martial arts make things so complicated that they loose all traces of functionality?
Boxing has only slightly changed in the hundreds years why is this? Well it remains fully in the function camp and you do not learn long stances and moves that are superfluous to the aim.
Hit and not get hit.
What has changed in boxing though are the training methods and knowledge to reach that optimal level of fitness and endurance. This then makes you quicker, sharper and ready to do business.
What I would say is check what you are doing in your martial training and make any the adjustments necessary to reach your desired aim.
“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.” Shunryu Suzuki
Stay safe everyone