“If you have two fighters of equal skill, the one who knows his forms better will win.” – Master Tom Sullivan (Karate North).

This was told to me about 20 years ago while I was still part of Master Sullivan’s Karate North organization. At the time, Master Sullivan had stopped actively competing after several years of being in Karate Illustrated’s list of top 10 fighters.

Over the years, I have repeated this to students. Often, the concept is lost though when watching the tournament sparring (both the sport or point sparring and the Olympic style). While these athletes have outstanding techniques, they aren’t truly fighting. Its a game.

The real evidence shows is illustrated in watching warriors during “freestyle sparring” training. This is called “jiyu-waza” (random technique) in Japanese. This version has an attacker and a defender. The goal here isn’t to score points but to survive the attack (and usually demonstrate control over the attacker).

During this training, you’ll be able to see the combinations taken directly from the forms they’ve learned. Forms teach the concept of combining techniques that fit together that are bio-mechanically correct – they fit the way that the body moves. Once the student finds the connections between techniques, then they can become more effective and successful when protecting themselves.

This knowledge is an important factor in whether the student becomes a warrior (martial artist) or a martial athlete. Keep in mind, too, that there are several other things that forms teach. Never underestimate why you need to learn forms.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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