INTRODUCTION TO FORMS
All Oriental martial arts systems have a series of formal exercises; in Korean the term is "PumSe" (Poom Say) or "Hyung"; in Japanese the term is "Kata". In many systems these "forms" represent a catalogue of the styles' techniques.
Forms are a ritualized series of movements that are designed to simulate a combative situation (attack and defense) against more than one opponent. In TaeKwonDo, Karate, and KungFu, they are typically performed solo with the student imagining their opponents. Most other martial arts (Judo, Kendo, Aikido) practice Kata with a partner. Generally speaking, kata are designed developmentally and as such, are inherently tied in with the ranking system of an art.
Historically, these formal exercises were used during periods of oppression where the study of martial arts was forbidden. Instructors would teach forms to their students on their rare encounters and this would give the student an avenue of self-learning and a way to practice the techniques within a given system.
Forms teach a student basic skills such as: balance, coordination, focus, mobility, stance integrity, accuracy, power generation, concentration, explosiveness, endurance, discipline, and patience.
The American MooDukKwan Society teaches ten (10) forms under black belt which corresponds to the 10 Kups (grades) in the ranking profile [see chart 1.]. Students should take the study of forms seriously and work diligently towards perfecting them. The American MooDukKwan Society (AMS) requires that all students gain proficiency in all areas of training: Art, Sport, and Self-defense in order to facilitate the development of a well-rounded, proficient, and competent martial artist.
Conceptually, Forms are the practice of combat in an "ideal" state. Forms transmit technical understanding in a pristine manner, thereby teaching strong fundamentals that will form the basis of the student's training.
Forms are designed around a floor pattern. The beginning forms follow a basic "I" or "H" pattern. Forms basically begin and end in the same place (evolving from the philosophy of the circle/cycle). The beginning forms incorporate the four (4) basic Cardinal Points or directions. Intermediate and advanced forms utilize different angles and more complicated floor patterns. The following terms are commonly used to describe directional movements in forms.
Compass points: Used as references for changing directions. All forms start with the student facing a conceptual North, South is behind, East is right, and West is left.
Clock Face: Also used as references for changing directions. All forms start with the student facing a conceptual 12:00. 6:00 is behind, 3:00 is right, 9:00 is left.