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Thread: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

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    Default Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Iíve been watching a lot of Web based examples of Kenpo forms in recent weeks. They are fast and fluid, there is upper body power and in the best of the forms good targeting. What I donít see is good lower body execution of the forms. Mr. Parker moved with great power and even in 50s (perhaps especially in later life) he always moved with his whole body. He showed grace, power and speed but never moved faster with his upper body than his lower body could support the movement. We are fortunate because he left us with a series of forms to help us learn to move more like he did.

    Now a brief history of my Kenpo forms. I started Kenpo in April 1997 with Steve Hatfield a student of Mr. Lee Wedlake. I dutifully did the forms since they were requirements but in reality just went through the motions. They bored me and I couldnít see their purpose. This was my fault, not Mr. Hatfieldís, the techniques and sparring were fun, Forms were not. I got my first black in June 2002 and virtually went into a Kenpo coma. I resisted learning anything new, I went through the motions but Iím sure Mr. Hatfield regretted giving me my black. Over the next two years I regained my interest but I just barely learned form 5 for my second Black in June 2005. Iíve been to seminars with multiple lineages and can competently do the techniques with my fellow Black belts but I still hated forms.

    Mr. Wedlake did a seminar the day after I tested for Black II and started by warming up with Forms 1 to 4. It felt as if he was moving like lightening throughout the forms and yet when I reviewed the forms on video I noticed that he never hurried and never really moved with lightening speed. Every movement however was precise, his targeting was focused and I would swear that you could see a virtual opponent with every move. It was beautiful. This started my mind thinking about forms and while it didnít change me immediately it started an evolution in thought for me which culminated when he returned in June 2006 and spent 2 hours going through Form 4. During this same period I was reading Dr. Chapels rants on the importance of indexing positions and learning precision not just in targets but in the entire coordinated movement of the body. Iíve also read a lot on the bodyís response to stress and the loss of fine motor control and reversion to more primal movement in times of stress. But there is also evidence that people can learn with repetition new responses when stressed but that itís a slow process and not quickly engrained. When I was little I could not ride a bicycle but after a childhood of riding I can still at 50 get on a bike with minimal thought and just ride. Iíve come to realize that forms are my opportunity to learn how to move effectively with total body coordination. Forms allow me to learn without the distraction of another body, I can move as slowly or quickly as I wish but no quicker than I can retain that coordination. Forms are my opportunity to engrain fully coordinated motions without the shortcuts that people add when dealing with competition. Yes you can strike hard with the rear hand without a full change to a forward bow, thousands of boxers have demonstrated that, but Kenpo allows you to learn how to continue to do so long after your youth and physical prowess begin to fail you and shortcuts are no longer an option.

    When I watch the competition forms posted on the net these young men are good athletes. They are quicker and smoother than I have ever been. I admire their skill. Iím sure that they are doing what is required to win a competition but perhaps this just means that even Kenpo competitions need to divide into classic and extreme sections for forms. The stances are shortcut, I see horse stances with the toes pointing out, neutral bows with the rear foot pointed to 3:00, forward bows with heels up and pointed to 1:30. The hand movements are very quick but even in the best are not quite coordinated with the lower body. Frequently the hand motions are so fast that the (imaginary) opponent could not have had time to be properly positioned for the follow up move. The head bounces with movement and the stances are higher than I would say is ideal. The Flash is there but these are not really Kenpo forms, there is Bling but the substance is lost. I am reminded of a story I once heard about Mr. Wedlake performing Form 6 (in the early Ď80s I believe.) He finished and was not scored particularly well. When he came to the side Mr. Parker said, ďThat was the best Iíve ever seen that form done.Ē Whether this story is real or apocryphal is perhaps not important but maybe we should be judging Kenpo forms in Kenpo competitions by Mr. Parkerís standards and using them to learn what he meant for us to learn.

    Now for what I learned watching Mr. Wedlake do his forms. His stances are low but not forced; his power comes from his legs but is transmitted efficiently and fluidly through his body. His footwork is precise. No extra foot movements. He completes each positional change more quickly than I do because he just does it once without the adjustments that have crept into my Kenpo. His stances are textbook with no excuses for increased speed or depth of stance. His head floats through the air as if suspended from the ceiling. Head height changes only occur purposefully with marriage of gravity moves. His speed comes from efficiency not from forcing speed. You can visualize an opponent at all times and they are normal sized. He seems to be aware of where his entire body and balance is at all times and not just the flourish called for by each technique. He is relaxed where he can be but shows power and strength where indicated. He is fluid and continuous but has half beats and quarter beats and syncopations as appropriate. He can vary those syncopations appropriately when he wishes.

    When I watch Lee Wedlake I realize that faster is not better but that fluid efficient control is wonderful. I finally realize that the forms have been given to me as a way to learn at least partially some of that efficiency and control. I donít believe that you can be a good martial artist unless you practice at least some on other bodies. Imaginary people are just too easy to control. At the same time short cuts to control other people before we learn proper mechanics can lead to bad habits that serve us well when we are young flexible and strong but which will fail us as we age.

    respectfullly.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant



    Thank you so much for making so many excellent points. Your rant is so well thought out. It came at a most opportune moment for me. I am grateful for you in posting your thoughts. Thank you.

    - Ceicei
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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    I understand Mr. Wedlake will be in Florida in Feb., so I look forward to seeing him for myself.

    Both you and jfarnsworth speak very well of him and his ability to do forms and I'm looking forward to seeing it myself.

    I made a post on another thread about the importance of getting both the upper body and lower body in sync. It's always poetry when it's done well. Doesn't matter what the form is.

    --Amy
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    Smile Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Thanks for your post on forms. Coordinating my upper and lower body when I practice my forms is the most difficult part for me as well. I have a strong upper body, but weak legs and stances -- I really need to work on them. I found that the little training I've done in Tai Chi has helped coordinate the upper and lower body movement, but I struggle with it even at Tai Chi speed.

    It is amazing to watch Mr. Wedlake do the forms. The movement is precise, but what I like most is the silent, but determined intensity he has in his performance. When I got back to Kenpo a couple of months ago, I ordered his DVD of forms 1-3 (long and short). He does not narrate the forms, but says they are a reference point for someone already working with a qualified instructor. He does each form 4 times with 4 different camera angles (12:00, 3:00, 6:00, 9:00). It is great to watch his consistency and gives a good visual if you are trying to jog your memory.

    By the way, I get no commission and have only met him at a couple of seminars, so I have no personal stake in this -- just a good experience.

    Here is the link for his online store:
    http://lwkarate.com/on_line_store.htm
    "Let the wookie win."

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    Without a doubt, he is awesome to watch.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    I have only seen clips of Mr. Wedlake on the net, I have yet to meet the man, but I am anxiously awaiting that day.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Jeff,

    Give us another rant please regarding a different aspect about forms! I love how you think and write!

    - Ceicei
    Studying martial arts is for life, not for the color of the belt.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    I'm not sure there's much left to say. Jeff is quite an elaborate writer. In that session I was more than pleased to be beside him and slightly behind on his right flank to see everything he was doing. Even when I didn't see I asked questions about how he moved. I had so much fun in that class I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. Well, almost anything.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Great points. I'm looking forward to meeting with Mr Wedlake when he is promoted to 9th black. I've only have some converstations with him via email and he was very friendly and helpful. I look forward to training with him at this seminar in 2 weeks.
    "Fear is the true opiate of combat."

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceicei View Post
    Jeff,

    Give us another rant please regarding a different aspect about forms! I love how you think and write!

    - Ceicei
    Ceicei,

    If you can, get Mr. Wedlake's book Kenpo Karate 301 and his forms video. The book has a lot of information but is not light reading. I think that you will find it useful if you read it bit by bit as you review the forms Long and short 3. Also get his Forms DVD for Forms Long and Short 1 - 3. No Dialogue, just Mr. Wedlake going through the forms Facing 12:00, 9:00, 6:00, and 3:00 at a moderate and relaxed pace. I use it to watch all sorts of details and find that I have to watch each section multiple times looking first at the upper body, then at the lower body and with luck after awhile I can see the whole body interact.

    The book and DVD are found on his Web site.

    Thanks for the support,

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by jfarnsworth View Post
    I'm not sure there's much left to say. Jeff is quite an elaborate writer. In that session I was more than pleased to be beside him and slightly behind on his right flank to see everything he was doing. Even when I didn't see I asked questions about how he moved. I had so much fun in that class I wouldn't have traded the experience for anything. Well, almost anything.
    Just to be clear, Jason was behind and to the Right of Mr. Wedlake. The experience of following me in a form is far less impressive.

    Jeff

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpodoc View Post
    Just to be clear, Jason was behind and to the Right of Mr. Wedlake. The experience of following me in a form is far less impressive.

    Jeff
    Now that is funny....
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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by Kenpodoc View Post
    Ceicei,

    If you can, get Mr. Wedlake's book Kenpo Karate 301 and his forms video. The book has a lot of information but is not light reading. I think that you will find it useful if you read it bit by bit as you review the forms Long and short 3. Also get his Forms DVD for Forms Long and Short 1 - 3. No Dialogue, just Mr. Wedlake going through the forms Facing 12:00, 9:00, 6:00, and 3:00 at a moderate and relaxed pace. I use it to watch all sorts of details and find that I have to watch each section multiple times looking first at the upper body, then at the lower body and with luck after awhile I can see the whole body interact.

    The book and DVD are found on his Web site.

    Thanks for the support,

    Jeff
    Thank you. I will definitely check into these materials. The website you speak of is the same as the one mentioned by gardawamtu in post #4 of this thread, correct?

    - Ceicei
    Studying martial arts is for life, not for the color of the belt.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    It's probably one in the same. I tend to go to lwkarate.com then search around. His new book is on the front page.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by Ceicei View Post
    Now that is funny....
    Hey now. I love to do forms.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by jfarnsworth View Post
    Hey now. I love to do forms.
    Me too. I have found forms practice to be a very benficial practice in my training regimen.
    Quality outweighs quantity every time.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by jfarnsworth View Post
    Hey now. I love to do forms.
    It was funny that Jeff clarified that HIS were not impressive, not about you doing your forms.

    Forms Rock.

    Do some new video since I lost all my on my hard drive. (Kenpo videos, to clarify.) The other ones I can get from www.nakedkenpo.com for a $9.95 download.

    I'd like to see more people posting on the Members in Motion.

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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    I would post some stuff in the members section but 1) I lost all the clips I had, 2)Havent the space or time to really make any new once, 3)I wouldnt want to be arrested for torture for exposing you to that.
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    Default Re: Ed Parker Forms - a Personal Rant

    Quote Originally Posted by dubljay View Post
    I would post some stuff in the members section but 1) I lost all the clips I had, 2)Havent the space or time to really make any new once, 3)I wouldnt want to be arrested for torture for exposing you to that.

    I think we would appreciate seeing them if you get some new ones.

    I exposed you all to my black belt test (the first one) when I look slow and fat. If they withstood that, they can withstand anything.

    --Amy
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    Quote Originally Posted by amylong View Post
    It was funny that Jeff clarified that HIS were not impressive, not about you doing your forms.

    Forms Rock.

    Do some new video since I lost all my on my hard drive. (Kenpo videos, to clarify.) The other ones I can get from www.nakedkenpo.com for a $9.95 download.
    As soon as I get this form down well enough I'm going to put it on tape with all of the other forms and sets and such. Only for personal viewing not really for distribution to the masses.

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