Apr 12

Forms Training for Tournament Competition

Last night’s advanced class featured one of my favorite drills for competition training – drilling one form 16 times in four different ways.

It’s very tiring when done right, but I know it can lead to improved tournament preparation. I credit this drill – along with regular practice and instruction – for the numerous 1st-place trophies I’ve accrued at martial arts tournaments.

Mr. Bockler competes at the 2009 Metamora Martial Arts Open Tournament

Mr. Bockler competes at the 2009 Metamora Martial Arts Open Tournament

You’ve picked two forms – your primary form and your back-up form. You know you need to spice up the form for competition, so you’re not necessarily concerned about practical application. Knowing the difference between practical application and competition is crucial.

For competition, we emphasize the “art” of martial arts. We want the form to look good. We still want to know the application, and we still want to show intent of destroying opponents, but everyone should acknowledge that a competition form may not be the same as a practical form.

For example, competition forms may feature kicks to the head, slow, tense breathing techniques, elongated stances, and more graceful motions than we might use in a real fight.

In reality, for self-defense, we would keep the kicks low, perform our moves quickly, and keep a higher stance for protection and ease of movement.

Know that we know a little bit about the differences between the types of forms we can do, practice this drill with any of your karate forms, tae kwon do forms, kung fu forms and the list goes on.

I don’t have a name for the drill (yet), but let me explain it.

Four Times for Power

Facing a direction, perform your form four times for pure power. Don’t worry about how fast you go through; every move should break a board. That includes blocks, punches, kicks, and even the bow and the mudra.

These forms are all about destruction.

Four Times for Speed

Turn 90 degrees clockwise so you’re facing a different direction. Then, practice your form four times for speed. Make sure your attacks still have a focus and that you’re not just flailing your arms and legs out there.

You’ll probably notice your stances are a little higher up than usual. Your techniques will be sloppier, but we’ll take care of that in a minute.

Again, even the bow and the mudra should be done quickly.

Four Times for Grace

Turn 90 degrees clockwise again.

Now, practice your form for grace. This is where precision techniques and elongated stances come into play. Your muscles will probably be very sore after this if you aren’t using to working deep horse stances or deep front stances very often.

The movements should not be tense. In fact, you should be very relaxed. Focus on breathing and targeting.

Four Times Together

Turn 90 degrees clockwise one more time, and combine what you’ve learned.

To best demonstrate this, I’ll share with you how I’m preparing my form.

I open with a series of blocks. I do them with grace, and also with tension (advanced ranks will be working more with tension and breathing). On my last block, I do it very quickly, then explode with a series of powerful punches. Within 10 seconds, I have demonstrated all of the elements of a good karate tournament kata.

This is where you can mix it up. Maybe you would perform those blocks quickly, do a graceful final block, and then explode into your power.

As I explained to the students last night – think of your kata like the alphabet. There are certain ways for movements to fit together, just like there are certain ways for letters to fit together. Everybody has different handwriting. And most everybody will perform their form just a little bit different than everybody else.

Use this drill to make your kata unique to you.

Support Metamora Martial Arts as we compete at the North American Grand Nationals in Rockford on May 5!

Adam Bockler

Sensei Adam Bockler is a 2nd-degree black belt in karate and the owner of Metamora Martial Arts. He's been in the martial arts since 2003, and has received instruction in tai chi chuan, Hsing-i chuan, judo, tae kwon do and XMA. Sensei Bockler was inducted into the 2014 USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Karate Black Belt of the Year. He is the communications manager for Float Mobile Learning.

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