The Empty Hand Solo Forms

As I said in the previous chapter, there is a tendency among modern martial artists to assume that the forms, due to their difficulty and complexity, are the more advanced ways of training. In many schools, basic training tends to be glossed over in favour of focusing on learning and practising a variety of forms. It is worth repeating that the essence of bagua lies as much in regular and attentive practice of walking the circle by yourself as in the various forms and training methods. The latter are recipes for nourishing food; the former is the garden where you grow all the ingredients for those recipes.

As to forms practice for the sake of knowing another form, I remember seeing a television documentary on the martial arts a few years ago. They were interviewing one well-respected long-term karate expert, Shihan John Bluming. He was asked why so many modern martial arts schools seemed to focus on forms. His answer was short and profound (you will have to imagine the heavy Dutch accent), "Instructors love teaching forms; the hours go by, and the money rolls in____"

Cynical, perhaps, but there is an unfortunate tendency in modern commercial schools to focus on teaching those things that require less one-on-one supervision, rather than repeating the basics of solo and fighting practice. Plus, modern students quickly get bored if told to "hold that stance" or "walk the circle" class after class—and they might take their fees to another school!

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