Why Learn Forms?

Forms are pre-choreographed sequences of movements containing stances, hand movements, and leg movements linked by steps, or leaps.  They are organized as a series of techniques.  A technique is a combination of a stance or step and one, or more, hand and leg movements that could include punches, kicks, throws, or sweeps and are designed to rapidly defeat an opponent.   Techniques are begun in one position, or posture.  This posture could be held without moving.  Then the practitioner will perform the technique and end in another position usually after stepping.  The ending position could also be held without moving.  These postures are often dramatic and are sometimes referred to as sign posts.  They show you  where the “road”, or form, changes directions.

Forms are both one of the primary training methods of Northern Shaolin Kung Fu and the main way that the techniques of the art are taught and remembered.  Forms vary greatly in length. The shortest forms are only 30, or 40, techniques in length.  The longest contain well over one hundred and occasionally over two hundred techniques.  Northern Shaolin is famous for its long complex forms and huge variety of techniques.   The forms of Northern Shaolin comprise a virtual encyclopedia of martial arts techniques.

Each form has specific techniques found only in that form and others that are common to many forms.  The movements that are common to many forms are usually more fundamental and basic techniques, such as a straight punch, or high heel kick.  Often these techniques will be found in many martial arts sharing a common heritage.  In the case of Northern Shaolin, many arts have borrowed movements from Northern Shaolin and put them in the forms of the new art.  Or  the techniques were used as a foundation and modified in accord with the style and feel of the new art.  One of the great things about learning this art is being able to see how other arts have diverged from, or modified, these  foundation techniques.

Forms are often designed to concentrate on one theme.  Forms often have a “lesson” they teach.  Forms often concentrate on certain skills.  For example, if one wanted to work on their kicking skills #1 Enter The Gate with its 40 kicks and sweeps would be perfect.  If one wanted to concentrate on their footwork and adjusting steps practicing #2 Following Steps would be very helpful.  Tam Teui the first form that beginners learn is great for learning the basic stances and coordinating the arms and legs with the waist.