My arguments for our WingTsun forms
I am probably the last person from whom you would expect arguments in favour of the WingTsun forms.
Only a few years I pronounced against handed-down solo forms, and only taught partner exercises (but not choreographed partner forms). As a self-defence teacher who bases himself on reality and principles, I could see no advantages that a student might gain from practicing forms. After all, a fight is not a single-handed affair but involves at least two, so what good is practicing forms where somebody describes a fixed sequence of prescribed and detailed movements (techniques) in the air with his arms and legs. Western boxing and wrestling, two highly effective fighting styles, have no such form of training either.
It is thanks to my intensive research into the inner systems that I have gradually come to revise and completely change my view on this.
First of all I began to accept the idea that it is the individual movements in the forms (“techniques”) that finally teach the gifted student the principles.
Then I realised that saturating ourselves with positions and movements can expand our consciousness.
Still later it became clear to me that the primary aim of an inner martial art is awareness, concentration and finally the development of a mobile mindfulness. Ideally such a differentiating mindfulness is about initially very simple movements. Those suitable would be breathing movements and hand movements that must already be totally natural to us beforehand. The hand is so suitable because we are so familiar with it that we even have a mental image of it (motoric vision) when we close our eyes and very, very slowly practice the 3rd set of the Siu Nim Tau.
In this respect, practicing the 1st form is primarily practicing our mindfulness, and not yet practicing fighting techniques.
The idea of directing one’s attention to more combat-relevant movements rather than movements used in day-to-day life (inherited coordinations) would have been perfectly obvious to our practically inclined WingTsun forebears.
Unfortunately this idea of the 2nd use appears to have been considered more important, and it displaced the original, Buddhist idea of developing mindfulness.
The second major idea behind practicing forms is the development of structure: moving effortlessly in harmony with gravity, and not tensing up unnecessarily.
Development of the right energies during the relevant movements is the third important idea to be considered when practicing the forms.
In our approach I have not given primary consideration to the learning by rote of techniques that can be used in combat.
Yet to a certain extent that is what we do: we fight “using” the movements in the forms, though not by “applying” them.
Ideally our form-compliant, self-consistent and inter-related movements on all 3 planes, in 6 directions, in 3 dimensions etc. should develop a gyroscope-like space or sphere which is in itself able to “absorb” everything or “adapt” to anything that the opponent presents to us as a problem.
In this respect all the movements in the forms should already contain the DNA of WingTsun, so that practicing the forms creates some form of protective shield around us.
It is however necessary to develop and achieve this form of movement for oneself. Because at first it has nothing to do with any opponent, but only with how we move through mapped space in perfect balance, initially only with the arms and then with the whole body.
In other words, we achieve unity with ourselves through correct practice of the forms. And ideally we will bring our thus united body (and mind) along with us to the partner training.
It is only when we have completed this self-unification process reasonably well that we should advance to special exercises that unify us with an opponent.
A student who begins specific and intensive partner training too early only initially has advantages over another who practices the forms under “proper” instruction – later the latter will inexorably and permanently overtake him.
While the former is building on his “inner WT machine”, which Prof. Tiwald called the “Function according to Frege”, the latter omits the form training and immediately begins by always and exclusively reacting to an opponent. For example, his balance literally relies on the “support” of his opponent, against whom he counter-balances himself. He therefore develops reaction-based behaviour: he has no protective shield, and must replace it with hectic defences or by constantly launching sustained attacks (e.g. chainpunches). Because as soon as he stops attacking, he is unprotected.
In the course of the years such a student becomes increasingly nervous and aggressive, which in turn affects his health and his relationship with others.
In the art of self-defence we must therefore first learn to become one with ourselves before subjecting ourselves to the stress of a training partner, so that the resulting unity is also strong enough to retain its structure and energy against an opponent.
This is what I consider to be the important role of form training.
Keith R. Kernspecht