21 Nov

The Four Stages of Forms

You are working on your current form. At the same time, you will still be working on Lian Huan Quan, trying to refine it, and to make it stronger and more beautiful. In fact, forms are something upon which you never stop working. Perfection can never be reached, but excellence is attainable.

Karate master Tatsuo Shimabuku taught that there are four stages of learning forms. To explain the stages more easily, he used the analogy of a sculptor carving a work of beauty out of a block of wood.

The first stage, “arakezuri” in Japanese (meaning “roughly shaped,”) describes the stage when a student first learns all the moves and can remember the proper sequence. The form is roughly shaped.

As the student practices the form, s/he enters the second stage “nakakezuri” or “intermediate stage.” There is more definition to the form and one technique flows into the next, but the form still lacks intent.

When student reaches the third stage, “hosokezuri” or “finely carved,” the small details of the form are refined. The student has achieved no-mindedness and no longer needs to contemplate the next move. The techniques are focused, and a viewer can “see” the attackers.

“Shiyage” or “finished” is the final stage in the development of a form. All details are completed, both physically and mentally. The student has achieved inner balance and power, his/her qi is aligned, and s/he has superb muscle control. The form is no longer a physical exercise; it has a become a work of art that enters a spiritual aspect.