Solo Form


Solo form is distinctive to Chinese martial art. Generally, a form can be done alone, with a partner or with one (or more) weapon on hands. Each movement is created and executed based on the martial art's offensive and defensive meanings.

The development of a solo form is the result of many generations of practical and training experiences. A good solo form has many effective martial art techniques, application and variations as well as tactics. Therefore, it is kept secret and not revealed to the public. There are some solo form emphasized on strong and powerful techniques, and there are others emphasized on soft and yielding techniques.

  1. The solo form techniques
    Martial art's solo forms have two major characteristics. It is function as a performance art as well as training martial art fundamental. It was created based on the martial art's offensive and defensive tactics, static and dynamic movements, empty and full body weights, hard and soft power, fast and slow speed. To compose a solo form that has competitive, health maintenance exercise and performance art characteristics is not an easy task. A good solo form has contribution from practitioners in many generations.

    A performance art generally has technical elements and mechanical elements. Mechanical element divided into composition technique, segment technique and complete sequence technique. The relationship among them is that they are independence, connecting and relating to each other.

    1. Technical element
      The technical element is referring to the different components of fundamental technique in martial art. It has technique involving such as hand, weapon, stance, step, body position and eyes movements. The technical element must combine the information available and input from the intent, spirit, breathing, power and rhythm in each movement's execution so it is powerful.
      1. Hand
        It is referring to the hand is completing all the bare hand and weapon forms technique and position.
      2. Step
        It is referring to the feet is completing all the position and the technique in motion.
      3. Leg
        It is referring to the leg is completing all the lower body technique and position.
      4. Body position
        It is referring to the position of the torso and the different positions of the torso in motion.
      5. Eye
        It is referring to the eyes' movement in coordination with the body's and hands' movements.
      6. Intent
        It is referring to the controller or coordinator of all the conscious activity.
      7. Spirit
        It is referring to the internal expression of the movement generally project outward by the eye.
      8. Breathing
        It is referring to the breathing and breathing method apply in coordination with the movement. Generally, there are two breathing methods use by martial art practitioner. They are deep breathing method in which the abdomen goes outward when one inhales and go inward when one exhales. The second method is called shallow breathing in which the abdomen goes outward when one exhales and go inward when one inhales.
      9. Power
        It is referring to the power express in varies physical movement.
      10. Rhythm
        It is referring to the control, understanding and execution of static and dynamic, empty and full, hard and soft, fast and slow concepts in the solo form.
    2. Mechanical element
      Mechanical element is referring to different types of movements in a solo form. It is properly put together by varies technical elements. The mechanical element has composition techniques, segment techniques and complete sequence techniques.
      1. Composition techniques
        It is referring to the technique following a certain body mechanic. It is a bare hand or weapon hand movements following a certain objective or mission to combined the technique together. After one has learned these combination techniques, practicing these composition techniques will be able to and easier for one to learn some of the more difficult movements later.
      2. Segment techniques
        It is referring to a series of composition techniques put together.
      3. Complete sequence techniques
        It is a series of segment techniques put together. A complete sequences is completed with the beginning movement, transition movement and ending movement. Practicing the complete sequence can improve the proficient of each martial art technique as well as the condition of the practitioner.
  2. The solo form's basic rules
    Martial art has long history in China. Over the years, there are many experiences and knowledge oversees the development and propagation of this wonderful art.

    Chinese martial art highly emphasized the concept of "Internal substances are harmonized external substances." This is but an experience of demonstrating the relationship and connection between martial art's skill and power. From the solo form's essential elements, we can see these relationships clearly. Chinese martial art is based on internal substances and external substances. External substances are referring to the hands, eyes, body and feet movements and positions. Internal substances are referring to the spirit, qi and power. The body's every movement is controlled by the nervous system, influenced and restricted by the internal organs. A movement is perfect only when it is able to coordinate with the internal substances. At the sametime, the internal substances will be improved and enhanced the result from external substances' action.

    Internal and external substances are connected and complementary. External harmonies dictated by the internal harmony. Internal harmonies depend on external harmony. From a technical perspective, one should begin with the training to transform the external substance so the internal substances can be harmony. The martial skill will be improved from continued practice therefore internal substances will be better harmonies accordingly. One often heard that a teacher only show student the movement. It is up to the student how to apply the information correctly. The Chinese martial art's internal and external harmonies is based on the ancient Chinese philosophy called "Man and universe Harmony."

  3. The rules of the fundamental solo form
    When one is performing the bare hand form or weapon form, one must have correct position and variation. The hands and eyes should go together. The spirit is concentrated and the energy will flow smoothly. Breathing is proper. The rhythm is clear. All of these different attributes are not separated. They should be together, connective and complementary.
    1. Posture
      It is referring to a completion of a physical movement. It is a static movement in space.
    2. Technique
      It is referring to the movement of a specific body part's action. A technique dictated the following:
      1. The proper positioning of different body parts.
      2. When one is in motion, different parts of the body's motion should be move proper and accurate.
      3. When one is in motion, concentrate and discharge powers should be proper and accurate.
    3. Body position
      The body can display many positions. Generally, it is referring to the different positions and variations of the torso positions when one is engaged in offensive and defensive maneuver.

      The body position is not isolated. It is connecting to all the body parts that are engaging in offensive and defensive maneuver. Since the torso is the major connector between the upper and lower body, when one is in motion, the torso must move according to the feet. When the feet step forward, the body must follow. When the body moves, the feet must step to support. This type of execution is correctly expressed the hard and soft interaction, coordination and balance. When completing each body position, one should pay closer attention to the waist and feet. When the hands and feet move, the body should move accordingly to support. In order to place the body position properly, one has to research, analyze and understand the offensive and defensive meaning in each movement. This is especially true among the transitional movements.

    4. Eye movements
      It is referring to the eyes movements in coordination with the hands and body movements. The eye is the window open for the spirit. Therefore, people often said that eyes and hands must go together to express the internal substances meaning so that when the eyes there, the hands should be there as well. In the solo form practices, if one is not correctly apply the eye movements, the body movement has no spirit and it is a lifeless solo form. If the eyes' movements are incorporated in each technique, one is able to express the true meaning behind each technique. In the solo form, the eyes serve two functions. It is to focus and it is to follow. To focus is for the eyes to concentrate on a specific subject or direction. It is often applied at the completion of a movement. To follow is for the eyes to follow a specific part of the body or weapon until a movement is completed. It is often applied at the beginning of the movement all the way to the end. The characteristics of this following is generally have the eyes and the hands coordinate together.

      Coordination of the hands and eyes is one of the critical criteria to determine the correctness of a movement. If the movement is not correct, it affects the spirit's revelation as well as affected the quality of the movement itself. When a movement is missing either component, it is not a perfect movement.

    5. Spirit
      This is referring to the condition of the concentration, the martial art's offensive and defensive meanings when one is executing a movement during the bare hand form or weapon form. It is also referring to the understanding and involvement of martial art's offense and defense meanings, rhythm, power, breathing and gracefulness.
    6. Power
      It is referring to a specific type of power in martial art. It is generated under the control of intent, mind and qi. It is commonly referred to as "jing" among the practitioners from the martial art community. It has soft and hard components.

      The delivery of this power should not be stiff or too hard. The power is not measured by large or small. It is measured based on follow through the technique or not. When discharging power, one should pay attention to the coordination and integration so the internal and external substances work together.

    7. Breathing
      When one is practicing the solo form, the breathing should have a specific standard, control and rhythm. Therefore, in practice, the breathing should according to the nature of movement. Generally, inhale when one is executing a rising and opening movement. Exhale when one is executing a falling or closing movement. Based on the nature of a movement, additional breathing is also divided into lift, suspending, concentration and sink.
      1. Lift breathing
        This is referring to the diaphragm contracting, expanding the chest cavity and shoulders stretching outward. When one is executing this lift breathing method, the qi comes upward. The center of gravity will come up as well. This method is often used when one is in a lower position going to a higher position.
      2. Suspending breathing
        When inhalation almost complete, one forcefully repeats another quicker and shorter inhalation. This action has the air remain in the chest cavity longer to support completing the movement. This is often applyed at the end of a high or low position.
      3. Concentration breathing
        After completing the inhalation, one delays the exhalation to better coordinate with the movement and delivery more power. Generally, this happens when one is executing a strike movement. In striking, one speeds up the exhalation so that inhalation and movement go together. This method can increase the amount of power in discharge.
      4. Sink breathing
        It is a deep breathing. When the abdomen sink, the chest relax. This will lower the center of gravity so that it is better to balance. It is often use when one is into a lower position.

        One can see that a proper breathing method provide many benefits in a movement's completion. It makes the movement look better, improves the body condition, position and technique. This type of instruction must have a knowledgeable teacher's oral instruction to prevent any damage to the body.

    8. Rhythm
      The rhythm in martial art is referring to the pace of executing the movement. It is often demonstrated in speed, transformation and orientation. It involves the following concepts: Dynamic and static, empty and full, hard and soft, fast and slow.

      In the solo form, how to properly treat these connections and relationships directly affects the rhythm and the quality of the solo form. If one is not able to correctly treat the solo form's rhythm, the solo form is not good and it does not have much to offer. In demonstration, if a solo form does not have any light movement, it cannot reveal any heavy movement. If the solo form does not have any soft movement, it cannot reveal any hard movement. If there is no slow movement, it cannot reveal any fast movement. Therefore, one must execute each movement with extinction. When one is able to express the meanings of these concepts of soft and hard, dynamic and static, fast and slow, empty and full correctly, the rhythm is very obvious. The solo form is very good, attractive and offers many functions. Following is a further explanation of these concepts:

      1. Static and dynamic
        In the solo form, dynamic and static are important elements. The movement in the solo form should be based on the number of movements divided into static and dynamic. This division will reflect the dynamic and static movements of the solo form.

        In the dynamic condition, all the movement should be connected and continue. One movement properly followed with another movement without any stop. One should be able to clearly distinguish these static and dynamic concepts in execution and in discharge power. A spectator should be able to see this distinction.

        In the static condition, externally, the body is remaining still but the muscles are in certain dynamic condition. Based on the nature of movement, one should apply a correct breathing method to energize the body. The eye concentrate to demonstrate the mental condition, the martial art's offensive and defensive meanings.

      2. Empty and full
        This is another very important concept in Chinese martial art. Empty is lightness and yielding. Full is hard and really to strike. Empty and full always within the same movement.

        The concept of empty and full in martial art are always guided by internal substances and external substances guided by internal substances. The relationship between the internal and external substances is that it is initialed by internal substances and followed by external movement. It is only when one has comprehended the concepts and distinguished empty and full internally can one is able to execute the movement properly with power.

      3. Hard and soft, fast and slow
        The concept of hard and soft, fast and slow appear on the physical level as speed. They are inseparable. It is common that when the movement is soft, it is slow. When the movement is fast, it is hard. When one is in motion, based on the degree of changing in empty and full inside the body, the nervous system mobilizes the muscles to relax or contract so that one is able to execute a movement hard and soft, slow and fast.
  4. The meaning of solo form
    A solo form is made up of posture which is commonly called a frame. A posture is made up of technique. A technique is composed of the hand and the feet movements. A solo form is the warehouse of the hands and the feet movements, techniques, body positions and steps. It is also the warehouse of the many variations of the hands and feet movements, technique, body position and step. Therefore, it does not matter that the solo form is a long or short routine, it has the complete martial art information and ingredients.
  5. Solo form training
    It is often said that martial art teaching is more difficult than scholar teaching. In martial art teaching, a teacher has to demonstrate the information as well as lecture it. One can see that to be a good martial art teacher is not a easy job.

    Traditionally, martial art teaching is taught by modeling. A teacher lets the student stand behind the teacher and follow what the teacher does. Therefore, it is necessary for a student to have a good teacher.

    1. Two methods of learning
      Although there are many people that said there are several methods of learning. One can learn strictly from lecture, learn within a group and self taught. However, martial art is a type of physical activity. The best method of learning is by behavior modification. Over the years, martial art teachers have experienced that there are two methods best to teach this subject. Therefore, generally, a teacher transmits the information one movement at a time or several movements at a time all depending on the difficulty of the movement as well as the learning ability of the student.
      1. One movement at a time
        In this method, it treats each movement as in one unit. One has to learn one movement, understand all the technique, application and variation as well as the transformation inside the body completely before move onto the next movement. Although this method takes time to complete the sequence, since it is working one step as a time, by the time one has completed the sequence, one has understand all the information and the body is comfortable with it. This method is perfect for someone without any previous martial art knowledge.
      2. Emphasize on movement
        In this method, one learned the complete sequence in a very short time. Later, one practices a segment of the sequence as a time to understand the transformation inside the body as well as each movement's application and variation. This method is better for people who have previous martial art knowledge.
    2. Practice
      After one has learned the complete sequence, is familiar with the movements, techniques and postures, to better digest the application and improve skill, one has to practice the solo form daily. When one is in practice, one should pay closer attention to the different parts of the body's coordination and interaction. This practice can be summary as after one has practice it a thousand times, the logic and reason will revealed themselves.
    3. Disassembly
      Although one has learned, understands each movement, technique and posture from the above training, it is not enough for one to use it for martial combat. One has to disassemble each movement and practice each individual technique separately. One practices the technique such as the elbow strike, shoulder strike, kick, step, knee strike and the hip strike. By taking a movement apart, one will understand all the visible technique as well as the hidden technique.
    4. Variation
      There are many styles divided the same solo form into many objectives of training. Each solo form training guides and fulfills a specific objective. Generally, a solo form has a large posture is called the Large Frame Form which is often demonstrate to the public. It has a performance art characteristic. The solo form has a medium posture is called the Medium Frame Form which is often use as a combat art. Each movement is executing properly as defensive and offensive martial maneuvers. A solo form with a small posture is called the Small Frame Form is often practiced as a qi circulation to improve health condition.

The solo form has a direct connection to the defensive and offensive martial tactics. If a student is engaging in martial art training and following the described procedure, there is no problem to improve the skill and comprehension.

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