When the student approached the instructor his brow was furrowed. He had a question, and there was only one person who could answer it.


The instructor gave his full attention to the student.

“You can do so many things, your art is so incredible, how do you do it? I mean, is there some secret? I know you don’t have an instructor, so how do you learn? Where do you go for your lessons? Is there some secret that none of us know about?”

A slight smile creased the instructor’s lips, and he remembered asking a similar question of his instructor. And he knew, from his current vantage point, that this question had been asked of many instructors by many students....and there was only one answer.

“Forms,” said the instructor. 

The conversation, unfortunately, usually ends about here. This is because most instructors don’t fully comprehend (in more than logical terms) why Forms are so important.

There are the usual (logical) reasons: forms are a way of remembering techniques. Forms are a great work out. Forms are a way of practicing when one doesn’t have a workout partner.

But this is not full comprehension, and the purpose of this article is to bring you, the reader, to full comprehension of why Forms are so important.

This will be done first by exploring the logic of forms, and then developing that data into an intuitive understanding of forms.

The logic of forms is simple and can be understood by anybody who has gone to the altar of Webster. I am speaking of Daniel Webster.

In my dictionary there are nearly fifty definitions for the word form, and it is shocking how many relate directly to the martial arts. There is the form that is a pattern. There is the form that is the body. There is construction and shape and mold and so on and so on.

One particular definition, however, that seems to grab the art entire, is that a form is ‘the structure, pattern, organization, or essential nature of anything.’

And a form is the essential nature of karate.

So what is the essential nature of karate?

Is it fighting? Moving meditation? Having good health?

Well, the truth of the matter is that karate is all of those, and more, and...something else.

It is this something else that, should we wish to master the art, we must inquire after.

And, not to be circular in my logic, the answer is in the forms.

Unfortunately, as indicated previously in this article, the answer is not to be found after a year or two. But, instead of leaving you wrapped in the conundrum of ‘do the forms for thirty years and you’ll find out,’ here is the answer:

You must do the forms until the forms speak to you.

You must do the art...until the art does you.

On the surface, this sounds like gibberish, but, to be truthful, it is the hardest science this writer has ever experienced.

Logically, one does a form, examines it for techniques, and then practices the techniques until a certain intuition concerning the techniques is formed.

At this point most people are awarded their black belts, and, at this point, most people leave off their study of karate.

After all, there are new things to be learned in kung fu, and there has always been that yen for more reality based training, and Aikido has always looked so darned graceful....

Now there is nothing wrong with other arts, and, indeed, there should definitely be a bit, maybe even a large bit, of cross training. After all, karate throws can better be understood through a course of jujitsu, and one can perceive flows better after studying Aikido.

But, and this is a big ‘but,’ one should not believe that karate has ended.

The fact of the matter is that most people, after three or four, or ten or a dozen, years of training, have only started to scratch the surface.

They are looking at the rind, and have never tasted the fruit.

This writer speaks only after thirty years practice, and only after tasting of his own rind (experiencing his own stupidity) for so many years.

Listen, there is an intuition beyond the surface intuition of smooth techniques.

Making the muscles work in orchestra is only the start.

Achieving the singular coordination of a body working as one unit is only the beginning.

What is after the beginning is...out there.

It is outside your body.

It is whether the lights are all green when you drive to work.

It is whether it rains on the day you have vacation, or not.

Not to be mystical, but does your life work smoothly? Does it work as smoothly as a well oiled form?

You see, the technique is only the piece, and one must not look at the pieces and believe they are the whole. One must look at the whole, and believe that there is something else.

This all being said, let this writer lay out a certain set of principles you should live by, should you wish to enjoy this intuition beyond intuition.

1) Do the forms daily.

2) Set aside a specific time for doing your forms, and resist all the attempts of life to have you change this time.

3) Practice relaxing when you do the forms.

4) Practice not having any thought but the forms (or form specific thoughts), when doing forms.

5) Practice the forms with a specific thought in mind. (i. e. breathing correctly through each movement of the form, grounding your weight correctly on each movement of the form, and so on.)

6) Show (teach) somebody the forms.

7) Examine the forms with an eye for new techniques daily.

8) When doing the forms, make each move as if it was the one movement upon which the remainder of your life hinged.

9) Have somebody ‘test’ your forms daily. (Have your partner push and pull gently on each technique, in the direction or against the direction of the technique.)

10) Be polite.

Okay, so you emblazon these principles upon your soul, you cast all extraneous thoughts aside, and you delve into the what should you expect?

A different viewpoint.

To understand this viewpoint, consider the progression of a normal martial artist.

After doing the forms for three or four years you get pretty good. Your body starts moving as one unit (this writer has always referred to this phenomena as CBM, ‘Coordinated Body Motion.’) which makes you fast, snappy, and pretty darned hard to beat in freestyle.

After doing the forms for ten or twelve years, however, you begin the master the art, and this really puts you a cut above other people. You have pretty much lost your reaction time (which is the first step of the mystical concept of ‘no time,’ and your confidence has pretty well permeated the other parts of your life.

Being an instructor has certainly helped your progress; this has given you the exterior viewpoint of technique, outside both the attacker’s and the defender’s viewpoint, and your understanding of the art is really incredible.

The best is yet to come.

After thirty years you don’t walk, you...float. You still have feet, but your perception is not rooted through your body. You have become so used to using intuition are intuition.

When you move, you don’t think contract muscle, launch body, find a stance. Instead, you are in one spot, and then, fluidly, you are in another spot.

It’s almost like you’re not thinking from inside your head any longer.

And you don’t have to think of your form are the form.

You are the essential nature of an art.

You aren’t an are the art.

And when you move, it is as if something else is moving you. Something big and grand and totally fine, and when this something sighs your body moves as if it is shot out of a cannon. And when this something decides to take a hand in your affairs, you just relax, and watch in childlike wonder as the art happens.

It is you, and you are far bigger than your body.

And the form becomes not a stricture which binds you and limits you, but a device for loosing you, for letting you wander freely.

And the energy shoots through your body in whatever forms you wish it to take.

And the intention shoots from your fingertips, and a throw is completed with the point of a digit.

And all the lying science of a junk food world is reduced to the ruins of undisciplined people.

You are the art, and the art does you.


Not to belabor the point, or to rob this fine piece of prose of it’s exclamation point, let this writer say that the forms were not created, they were evolved, through first the techniques of men that survived, and then through the breaths of old men that truly experienced life for the first time.

When you do the form you are not just doing tricks, you are duplicating the entire evolution of an incredibly long line of masters, and they speak...they speak.

Monster Martial Arts