By David Peterson
In the last decade or two, there has been a big shift away from the practice of forms in the martial arts, with many believing that such traditional methods have little or no bearing on modern training. In some ways, this shift in attitude could be considered a legacy of Bruce Lee
and the Jeet Kune Do
philosophy that he brought to modern martial arts.
Lee famously said that his view of much of what was practised in the traditional Chinese martial arts systems amounted to little more than a “classical mess” and referred to it as “land swimming” and therefore, in his opinion, of no direct value in preparing for combat. Many people have embraced this attitude without really looking at the full implication of it.
What most fail to appreciate, including many die-hard Jeet Kune Do devotees, is that Lee was able to arrive at this position only after himself having trained extensively in traditional forms, namely the basic forms of the Wing Chun system. It is my view that what he was really trying to get across was NOT that forms were irrelevant per se, but that at a certain point in one’s personal development, forms became LESS important than perhaps other aspects of training.
Like the foundations and the framework of a building, the forms of Wing Chun provide the structures that support everything else that will come to make the complete “package” that is the Wing Chun fighter. If the forms are overlooked, not practised rigorously and understood completely, weaknesses will be present that will prevent the Wing Chun practitioner from fully reaching their potential in the system, possibly also leading to defeat under pressure.