On The Varieties of Form

Friday, December 03, 2004

On The Varieties of Form

Two Perspectives In this article, I discuss two perspectives on form, and the implications of this for training using my Optimal Core Integration Strength (OCIS) approach, and how it relates to my personal art, Kawayan Pangamut.I want to consider form from two perspectives:

1 – The effect on the target
2 – The bio-mechanics used to generate the force.

The effect on the target

This is view of the interface, the effect of the technique. From this perspective, the tactical, we are concerned only with the size, direction and placement of the forces, over time.

Assuming that there is some workable technique that can be described in the language of physics, there are three levels that I want to consider:

1 – basic form: you can apply the appropriate physical forces at the right time and the right places and directions, when the attacker is predictable and uses a stereotypical motion
2 – ability to accommodate some variation: you can still make the technique work when the attacker varies some of the parameters such as the timing or the direction of the attack.
3 – ability to adapt to counters: you can either make the technique work or switch to a more appropriate one, on the fly, when the attacker attempts to counter your original defence.

Note that from this perspective, it is irrelevant how the forces are generated. As long as the placement, magnitude, and direction are correct, at all times throughout the motion, the technique is fine. The forces could come from someone with great bio-mechanics, or someone with a powerful body and less refined coordination. The forces could just as easily be delivered by an octopus or an android, and this analysis would still hold.

The bio-mechanics used to generate the force

This is a view of the body in motion, what we usually mean by form. It supports the first, the tactical, perspective, but there are many possible ways of moving that all support the first perspective for any particular technique. Some bio-mechanical approaches may work better than others.

Assuming that you have stabilized on a good form, there are three levels that I want to consider:

1 – Basic motion: you move more or less in the correct fashion, with the correct motion of the limbs and torso. There are no gross flaws.
2 – Refined alignment: the joint angles are all correct, in subtle ways, for instance, the shoulder blades are flattened, the hips are turned to generate power, and so on.
3 – Optimized muscle tension: at each point in time, the usage of muscle tension is optimized. Each muscle is tensed and relaxed to the appropriate degree at each moment in time. There is no excess use of energy, and no inappropriate tension. All muscles that should be used, are used. Any muscle that should not be used, is not used. This is the most refined level of skill.

The goal of OCIS training is to provide a meta-level of skill for helping to develop this sort of optimized motion. Certain exercises teach the body to move in a generalized well-integrated fashion. Then further exercises on the tactical forms must be done to specialize the motions. After the basic motions are sound, you must make sure that the joint alignments are correct at all times, and work on refining away unnecessary muscle tension. At some point in the training, you must apply the form to a partner who presents increasingly more difficult situations. For the most refined form, you must be able to accommodate an actively countering partner (or an opponent), while keeping as close as possible to optimized body integration. Getting to the highest levels in this enterprise is a multi-year study, but getting to a good level of skill should take much less time, given proper instruction, and dedicated practice.

The OCIS system develops power through the following approaches:

  1. Static held postures, using correct alignment and tension balancing throughout the body. The static postures are derived from fundamental Balintawak Eskrima forms. They were inspired by the “held postures” of Taijiquan.
  2. Dynamic abstract repetitive exercises for stick and empty hand, emphasing smooth power delivery at all phases of the motion, correct alignment, and correctly balanced tension. The repetitive exercises are designed to develop both ballistic, high kinetic energy motions, and external load bearing motions.
  3. Resistance training, using cables, poles, weights, and other sources of resistance
  4. Practice of my personal form, the Kawayan form, with attention to proper OCIS motion.
  5. Everyday integration practice, so that well integrated motions are used at all times, e.g., opening doors, lifting objects, pushing shopping carts, working on manual jobs of all sorts.

The methods of the OCIS system are combined with the tactical aspects of Dom Lopez’s Pangamut system, to create my personal system, Kawayan Pangamut.