I really enjoy the forms of the American Taekwondo Association. The white belt form has 18 moves and you work yourself up to 81 moves for the first degree black belt form. White belt starts with some very basic moves, punch, front and side kicks, low, high, and middle blocks, and a knifehand strike (karate chop). Each form thereafter introduces a new move or combination move with some extra turns, and so on.
I’m certainly not going to disrespect other styles of taekwondo to other martial art styles because I’ve seen some talented people do some amazing things. I will, however mention that I attended a tournament in Keokuk last year that was open to all styles. I don’t know how the judges decided who was better when they saw so many different forms. Kung Fu, karate, taekwondo, etc. One thing I noticed was that though many of the forms were intricate, not many had very many kicks. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m just saying that the ATA forms have a lot of kicks, especially the higher in rank you go.
My form, the Fifth Degree Black Belt form, for example has 95 moves. Now, like the other forms, many of the moves are repeated. (Left punch in one section and right punch in another, for example). However, I have front kicks, round kicks, hook kicks, jump spin kicks, wheel kicks, jump outer and inner crescent kicks throughout. With the number of kicks and types of kicks I do, I’m constantly working to improve the quality of them. Ditto with the hand techniques.
Kicks can be intricate. Lately, I’ve been working on a combination side-hook-round kick and having balance issues. So I keep working, practicing, breaking down each kick to it’s smallest components to figure out the problem. I work on the technique.
Maybe I’ll take a section of the form and concentrate on the flow or timing. The entire workout could consist of only five moves, but I’m doing them over and over, looking for the best technique I can get.
One of my instructor’s favorite challenges focuses on stamina, both mental and physical. The challenge is to do the form seven times in a row, full power. Remember, my form has 95 moves, including all those kicks. So, I begin, I complete 95 moves, I go back to the ready stance, and begin again. Seven times. Somewhere around the fourth time, the body may be used to it, but the mind is saying, “Three more. Arg!) So it becomes a mental game to strive to keep up the energy.
Of course, you can’t just go out and rip out seven in a row first time. I had to work up to it. Three times one session, four times, the next, and so on. I don’t do the seven in a row all the time, but everynow and then I’ll do it, just to sweat and keep up the stamina.
Even so, during those seven times, I look at technique. I may go back and do something again if I don’t like it, just to stay honest. Sure I could whip out seven times but if the quality isn’t there, what’s the point? I’ve lost the integrity of practice.
How does this relate to writing? We’re always learning and honing the craft of writing. Following the rules, breaking the rules, changing the rules to suit our story. Some of the areas of writing to help are challenges. In my Thursday night writers’ group we have a weekly challenge for those who might need some inspiration in between bouts with the work in progress. Maybe the challenge will focus on point of view, or certain words, or scene, or developing character. Some nights, all of the writers may be having the same general problem, so the challenge for the next week is to explore that area and improve upon it. Many of the hot-to writing books will have challenges to try.
Other areas of practice are blogs. Such as the wonderful one you’re currently reading. Writers can work on the rules of writing, the craft of writing by pumping out a weekly blog. Again, I don’t want to put down other blogs, but some I’ve read, well, I don’t feel they’re as much a blog as they are a lengthy Facebook post.
Letters (remember those?) can also be a way to practice writing. News articles, too.
One of the ways a friend of mine tried was to open a favorite book and start writing it. Longhand, write the book as the author wrote it. By doing this, one might be ale to see the ‘how’ of the writing. The reasons paragraphs were formed in such a way, how dialogue flows, etc.
You’re working on technique.
In the final installment of this series, we’ll look at motive. Stay tuned!