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#107728 - 04/28/05 04:46 AM Form or Function ?

Im interested in peoples thoughts regarding training in traditional martial arts (I train in okinawan karate,.)

My expierience has identified roughly three different 'types' of martial artists -

1. FORM, those who are totally motivated to be technicaly correct often to the point of forgetting the 'practical' side of martial arts IMO

2. FUNCTION, those who steer the other way and are happy to cross train, personalise and change technique to ensure its effectivness. They may have a base art, but it must work under stress/pressure.

3. COMBINATION, those who train technically correct in kata, basics etc etc and then 'change' the technique to make it applicable and drill that as well.

Im not picking, each to their own. I would classify that im nearer the FORM group myself but my motivation for training isnt specifically self defense, I train for my personal journey and am confident that my art is effective, to a point and for what I expect it to be. However I have over 10 years of FUNCTION training behind me!

For me any art that needs changing to be effective in reality is not a functioning martial art anyway, and should be called something different.

And whilst I have met a few superb function driven martial artists, their motivation for training is often different from mine, ie they train specifically for self defense or maybee tournaments etc etc.

Just wanted to see what you guys and gals thought, and your motivations for training in what we do

[This message has been edited by UKshorinryu (edited 04-28-2005).]

[This message has been edited by UKshorinryu (edited 04-28-2005).]

#107729 - 04/28/05 10:42 AM Re: Form or Function ?
Alejandro Offline

Registered: 05/02/02
Posts: 940
Loc: Las Cruces, NM USA
Very good topic.

To me, form and function do not exist without each other. The form exists for the function it serves. Example is zenkutsu dachi. The form of the dachi is learned to better apply power in linear techniques.

I think those "combination" cats you described "change" the kata movements to make way for funcion because they lack understanding of form itself or practice watered down tournament kata.

I likely fall under combination, but a different combination than the one described. I practice kata in their unaltered form, with knowledge of the function that the form is serving. The analytical process to discover the function is referred to as "bunkai", when in actuality, the function preceded the form, thus bunkai originally never existed. The most accepted theory of kata development is as a mnemonic device to emphasize principles already learned. So there is merit in learning the basic funcion/application immediately after becoming comfortable with the form.

How true it is that we aren't all concerned with function. Preserving the art that is consistently and graciously passed on to me is a huge factor in my training. However, it is important not to lose sight of the original intent of karate and its methods; one may reach a point where he is no longer practicing karate at all.

Again, good topic!


#107730 - 04/28/05 10:50 AM Re: Form or Function ?

nice response Alejandro,

you said -

I think those "combination" cats you described "change" the kata movements to make way for funcion because they lack understanding of form itself or practice watered down tournament kata.

How true that is.

Whilst my early training wasnt as poor as many clubs I see it certainly lacked 'understanding' (it made up for this in spirit and ferocity!), my training now is highlighting many principles and 'bunkai' that I just didnt see before. Im sure this has something to do with getting older and being more expierienced.

The truth is that FUNCTINALITY exisits in traditional martial arts, its all about understanding,application and training methods (ie conditioning etc etc).

Im amazed at how effective the basic body mechanics of good okinawan karate actually are, jus twanted to know im not alone!

[This message has been edited by UKshorinryu (edited 04-28-2005).]

#107731 - 04/28/05 11:23 AM Re: Form or Function ?
cxt Offline
Professional Poster

Registered: 09/11/03
Posts: 5844
Loc: USA

In a very real way "good form" is simply doing things in a way that allows speed, power and accuaracy to be applied.
Guess what I am trying to say is that "good form" is the very foundation FOR "function."

(or perhaps "should" be)

If you go into a boxing gym you will generally find that a good trainer is a fanatic about "proper form" for everything from throwing a uppercut to footwork.
You learn specifc and detaled methods for EVERYTHING a boxer does--then as you gain skill and experience you "change" things to fit you and your oppnt.

So I would argue that "all" arts require "changing" if nothing else, given the differences between people, "I" being "my" height and weight am NOT going to be using the techinues the same way that someone taller or shorter or larger is going to do.
We may "learn " it the same way--but we are going to HAVE to apply it somewhat differently.

Look at the UFC--in VERY GENERAL TERMS "Tank" Abbot would be an example of your "function" kind of guy.
Yet he was repeatdly beaten by guys that had exceptional "form" skills--they did the tech with exceptional percision--you have to be able to do it right in that kind of situation.

The Gracies were tough, tough, tough guys--but they were also exceptional and exacting technitions (sp)

[This message has been edited by cxt (edited 04-28-2005).]

[This message has been edited by cxt (edited 04-28-2005).]

#107732 - 04/28/05 01:07 PM Re: Form or Function ?


thankyou for your thoughts, some very good points.

I guess it boils down to our individual motivation for training and how we train really.

What annoys me is seeing sport karate advertise as , self defense classes etc etc.

still its only karate afterall, I shouldnt be so serious!


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