© Chinese Martial Arts and Health Centre Australia 2017. ABN 12 792 347 015
Before I launch into this brief article, I may need to explain a bit about what a form is to ensure that my readers are all on the same page, so to speak. A form is a sequence of movements generally practised in a traditional martial art to refine and develop fighting technique and response. The word ‘Kata’ is probably more familiar to Western audiences because of the overwhelming popularity of Japanese systems of martial arts. A form is basically a ‘Kata’.
Before anyone gets the wrong idea, I am not a forms historian. Although I know something of the history of our forms, I am not as educated as some of my colleagues in the system. What I have always enjoyed, however, is learning a new form and understanding what the intent of the original developer was and what he or she used as their ‘raw materials’ or ‘building blocks’ out of which they constructed their form.
An example which most of our students would be familiar with is Pan Long Gwun, the Dragon Twirling Staff form. Pan Long Gwun is part of our Hong Chuan or Southern Hong Family Fist system. This form was developed around a commonly-available weapon, the pole or staff. In the South of China these poles would have evolved from the very same poles used to manoeuvre small boats or pontoons through waterways. Most people in that part of the world at that time would have been very familiar with the movements associated with poling a boat along.
If these movements were taken and weaponized, there would not be much refinement that would have to be learned by the student in order to turn them to the task of effective self-defence. And indeed, when the movements in Pan Long Gwun are carefully analysed, it can clearly be seen that some of the self-same movements that a person may use to manoeuvre a boat have been taken and applied as deflections or attacks.
For me, this is fascinating. This is living history. The very same movement that someone used to pole their boat down a river several hundred years ago has survived to our present day, albeit with some evolutionary changes. One could even say that without martial arts, this movement may not have survived. It may have been lost in the mists of time. In some strange way, weaponizing this movement has added enough relevance to it to preserve it from oblivion, to give it a life of its own.
I have often thought about what these ancient martial arts masters might have adapted from our present way of life. What would they have weaponized from our modern culture?
What could be given that relevance to preserve it against the onslaught of time?
It would have to be a movement or series of movements that we are all intimately familiar with. Now most of us don’t pole boats down a river every day, so that’s out. I feel that there is one sequence of movements that deserves special attention because of the ease with which they can be weaponized and because their days are numbered. And that sequence of movements is the sequence associated with driving a manual stick-shift automobile.
With advances in technology, driverless cars are not too far off. Even without considering the advent of that particular technology, automatic vehicles are dominating the market. It’s only a matter of time before the manual stick-shift automobile becomes extinct.
When you have been driving a manual for a long enough period of time, the movements are so innate, so instinctive, that you no longer have to engage conscious thought to perform them. In fact, when you drive a car, the movements are so familiar to you that you ‘become’ the car. These types of movements are precisely the types that are useful in martial arts because self defence techniques that you have to think about are not terribly effective in real-world self-defence situations.
So here is my attempt to add relevance to a sequence of movements which is going to become redundant soon. Please note, this does not form part of our traditional syllabus. It is with tongue firmly in cheek that I present my Manual Stick-Shift Automobile Form. It’s a bit of a laugh, but can still seriously be used as a combat system. I have kept it quite short and simple, but it can certainly be expanded and embellished. I have also demonstrated some of the combat applications that it might be used for. Thanks to my very dedicated partner Sherrilyn Walters for helping to demonstrate these applications.
As you can see, it is characterised by the use of stable, static stances to simulate the seated position in a vehicle. Mobility is very limited since the driver of a vehicle is generally static. The movements from this form could be applied where the self-defence situation precludes much movement. The stance could be likened to a Mabu or Si Ping Ma. I would probably categorise the form as Southern because of the preponderance of arm and hand techniques over legs and springing movement.
The signature movements are:
I hope you enjoy it.