Kenpo Karate, like many martial arts, teaches forms or katas which are pre-arranged sequences of techniques that are performed solo as a way to practice and refine techniques and movements. The number of forms taught in Kenpo Karate can vary depending on the specific school or instructor. Some Kenpo systems have a small number of forms, while others have dozens or even hundreds. The forms in Kenpo Karate can range from basic to advanced and they can include techniques such as strikes, kicks, blocks, joint locks, and throws.
It's important to note that forms in Kenpo are not only a way of practicing techniques but also a way to learn strategy, timing and develop coordination. They also help to improve focus, balance, and muscle memory. Kenpo forms can be seen as a way to condense the essence of the system into a set of movements that can be performed as a whole. As with the techniques, forms are also a dynamic aspect of the art and new forms can be developed and added to the curriculum.
A form is a set number of self-defense techniques or basic movements that are practiced in the air, this is done predominately without a training partner. This can be likened to shadow boxing whereby you are practicing basics whilst striking an imaginary opponent in the air.
The benefits of training like this are numerous, by practicing a form we learn the basic movement patterns that make up defensive as well as offensive techniques that are used throughout the system of Kenpo. Learning this way enables us to internalize basic movements into our subconscious mind. It is only by repeating a move over and over again that it will be internalized to the point where you do not have to think about it.
Forms enable the practitioner to practice the same principles of technique without the fear of being hit or injured and should be likened to shadow boxing where you spar in the air with an imaginary opponent and victoriously beat him every time.
When practicing a form it is important to visualize your imaginary opponent attacking you with full force and power. By imagining your opponent attacking you in this way, you will be able to place proper emphasis on the execution of your self-defense techniques whilst applying the correct timing, breathing, and settlement of your body weight.
All forms in American Kenpo are numbered to help identify each form at the relevant belt level. They are taught in a systematic logical order that helps a student’s retention and understanding of the form contains and teaches. Starting at number one, they progress through to number seven, although this may be added to in the future.
Short Form One is the first form to be taught as the name implies this is a short form and is the first form of the system. The next form to be taught is Long-Form One, at each number up to and including three there is a short form. Long-Form 4 is then taught through to Long Form 7.
Short forms are taught first, as they are the base form from which the long-form will expand from. You could say short forms are paragraphs of motion, whereas long forms become dictionaries of motion, all forms above and including long-form three are referenced as an encyclopedia of motion.
As an individual who trains in Kenpo, forms should be viewed as a way in which movement is indexed into our subconscious mind, this action continually reinforces the movements that are used in a real fight. Therefore if a logical and structured way of learning is used the retention of the information that is taught will be retained at a much greater rate.
Forms in American Kenpo are designed to be progressive. There is no point in trying to teach a beginner who is just starting to train in the art, a form far in advance of their abilities and understanding. For a student just starting to train, it is important to have an introduction to the basics of the system, which starts with Short Form One.
Your breathing should be synchronized with the settlement of your body weight. All your movements should flow effortlessly from one move to the next. There should be no jerky movements and worse still no slapping yourself. Your moves should be executed with precision and accuracy, whilst developing crisp clean movement executed with snap and torque.
You never see a boxer slapping themselves, do you? No, you don't! So use trampolining and rebound action to a minimum.
Remember weapons move from their point of origin. Because we have no fear of getting injured from a training partner when we practice a form, we can place the correct emphasis of movement where it should be. Timing of your hands and feet should change according to the situation if for example your opponent is viewed standing upright then greater emphasis may go to increasing your hand speed.
If however your opponent is viewed in a prone position, i.e. laying down on his side, then emphasis may go to pinning or restraining them. In all of these situations, you must have a base system to draw from, by learning forms you can alter the base moves to fit each situation accordingly. Which is why it is important to have an understanding of why you are practicing a form and the application of each technique it contains.
For most people, the idea of spending many hours on the development of forms has no appeal, as they would much prefer to spend that time sparring or performing drills on the heavy bags. If however they were taught the relationship between all areas of the arts, and that they all reinforce one another then you may be more willing to spend time developing your forms.
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