Tiger One, Elbow form, Hapki 2 and beyond, we are very familiar with the routine of learning a new form, drilling it, correcting a position here, sharpening a movement there, and drilling again; all in the pursuit of executing a perfect sequence with utmost precision, focus, and force. Forms represent our dedication, progression, and hurdles to the next belt. However, how often do we stop and consider their significance?
Upon reaching a plateau in my training, I pondered the significance of forms. I did a brief research on its history and was surprised to find that it is an ancient art - forms date beyond the Korean Poomsae (TaeKwonDo forms) and the ancient Chinese forms that influenced the Okinawan Kata (which would later give rise to Karate) in the 14th century.
Forms served as transmission of Master-proven techniques and philosophy to generations. Through choreographed memorization, forms succinctly communicated how and when to use each technique, as well as ingrain those techniques into muscle memory so they can be used instinctively in any situation. They also served as unified defense that exerted collective fortitude in times of turmoil and war. Imagine an enemy scout spying on a feuding kingdom and witnessing an army executing a form, with their battle cries (kyaps/kiai) reverberating powerfully across the fields - an intimidating display of immense physical and mental fortitude.
Although times have changed, forms are history, our lives, and the future of martial arts. When we practice our forms we are living decades, centuries of Masters discovering and perfecting the art. We are the inheritors and torch-carriers of a lifestyle, artform, and precious knowledge. Thus, with a humbler, awed, and renewed perspective, my ambitions on the mats are reignited - please join me for the millionth time, in our drills of Tiger 1, Dagger, whichever form it may be:)