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Forms and Racing

October 30, 2013

In martial arts, what is the purpose of forms training?  What’s the intent?  What’s its use?

Forms training builds your potential.  It builds your balance, your power, your speed, your endurance, your structure.  You learn what’s efficient, and what’s not, what’s effective, and what’s not, you build into your muscle memory the feeling of when your body is in alignment, connected, centered, and when it’s not.  It allows your body to operate in (and you to use your body in) an optimal manner – this is the potential.

Forms training is akin to building and tuning your car, using the apt analogy of auto racing.  Few would argue that if two cars are going to race, with the drivers relatively close in skill, that the one driving the Tesla Roadster is going to have a sizable advantage over the Ford Taurus driver.  Even if their skills are less matched, the Tesla’s got a chance of evening up the odds for the lesser driver against a more experienced driver in the Taurus.  And if their skills are very evenly matched, then the car’s going to play an even larger role.  Many a Formula 1 driver who was pretty smokin’ yet spending a year on a team with the not so great car has found themselves hard pressed.

To carry the analogy further, sparring forms and training drills are like test laps, where you learn about the car and develop your skill.  Free sparring is like qualifying laps against your teammates.

And then there’s race day, when your performance must come to the fore.  Your performance is the merging of your skill – your ability to race, your timing, your feel, your ways of driving – and your potential, and your way of using that potential to its fullest.

Vroom vroom!

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