Monday, July 6, 2009

The story in the form


I recently asked my wife, "Am I weird because I like to compare karate forms?" She said that I shouldn't base the determination of my sanity on such a narrow spectrum of behavior. I'm not completely sure if she was complimenting me, or avoiding the subject.

There are two hyung (forms / kata / patterns) that I enjoy watching, comparing, and contrasting. The first is Pal Che So, the form of the snake, sometimes referred to as the lesser collection of the best (Pal Che Dai being the greater collection). Pal Che So is the first form (and as a fourth degree Black Belt the only one I know of) where the practitioner is not support to pick up their feet as they step through the moves. From the first hyung we teach, motion #1, through Yellow, Orange, and Green Belts we stress over and over to pick up your feet; don't trip over fallen opponents or ground clutter.

Once the students obtain their first Red Belt, we throw them a number of curve balls one of which is the form Pal Che So where they have to move like a snake. Now their feet slide / slither from move to move, and they must build up energy like a recoiling snake, and explode through each technique. They must think like a snake. Unlike the previous hynug their progression through the form is either directly forward or directly backward, again, in imitation of a snake (even the famous sidewinder doesn't move side-to-side). The movements of Pal Che So are fast; attack, retreat, recoil, strike, slither.

Compare this with our Kyma Hyung, another of my favorites. The Kyma forms (Kyma Hyung Cho Dan, E Dan, Sam Dan, or #1, #2, #3), are the forms of the horse. Horses do not slither, they do not recoil and strike. Horses are very deliberate, and if you watch them in confrontation they actually do move side-to-side. The Kyma Hyung, in fact, have no forward or backward movement. They are performed entirely as if on a plank of wood. The Kyma Hyung are composed of obvious thundering stomps and strong simple movements. The only thing missing in our interpretation of "the form of the horse" is a back-kick, which seems to be a miss.



As you progress through your martial arts training, pay close attention to the differences in the hyung. Try to understand each form as more than a unique set of moves, and more like a story with a unique message.

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