The Beauty of Form

It was a stormy winter day with snow drifting up to the windows. A young woman approached her teacher with a concern. She was a gentle girl, polite and kind. She would never wish to hurt anyone or anything.

“Dear teacher, I am afraid I will hurt someone or someone will hurt me when we practice our combat free-forms together. I find myself holding back and letting the others come at me. I can’t seem to stand up to their power, especially the energy of the young men. As a young child, I was taught that fighting was wrong and the martial arts are violent. I have found out that this is not true, and I have discovered that the martial arts can open the way to gentleness. But when I practice free forms, I am fearful. What can I do?”

The chief instructor paused a long time before answering.

“Student, I understand your concern. I too felt as you do when I was young. The key is to give full power to what you do by forgetting who you think you are. I can only show you this by demonstration.

The pair walked over to the practice wall where the bags, which were dark and stained from thousands of poundings over the years, were hanging. The girl had used them before, but only half-heartedly, afraid of being too aggressive.

“Now, stand in front of this one here,” the teacher instructed. “Concentrate only on your form. Do not think about hitting the target. Move slowly, aware of every movement. Watch your hips; don’t extend too far. Focus on the point of impact and then immediately release.

Just concentrate on the form! Don’t worry about the target. Just your form!”

The student repeated the movement over and over, each time performing it better and faster. The movement began to happen naturally. She didn’t notice the bag, her targeted goal in front of her. Her attention was fully placed on the form, nothing else.

“Faster, faster, watch your form! Don’t leave the form! Concentrate! Faster,” the teacher urged her student.

The movements were sharp, powerful and explosive. Each strike was free of any restraint, each movement perfectly timed.

Wham! Wham! Wham! The girl’s fist struck the soiled bag again and again. Harder and harder she hit until the impact could be heard outside by students passing by. Wham! Wham! Her body was coordinated to the rhythm of the cadence. Suddenly she became aware of the power of her strikes as she pounded the bag. She was thoroughly caught up in movement and was at that point beyond herself-beyond fear, beyond aggression, and beyond violence. There was only the beauty of the form. Nothing else!