The Forms of Ngo Cho Kun
by Mark Wiley
There are roughly 200 individual techniques in ngo cho kun, each learned through the practice of empty-hand forms known as kun-toh [拳套]. The forms increase in length, difficulty and diversity as training progresses and advances are made through the system. Proficiency in ngo cho kun is gauged in part by the number of forms that a practitioner understands and can correctly perform. Correct delivery of the ordered movements consists of proper body positioning and mechanics, smooth transitions from one technique to another, with proper expression of power, timing, and precision in each moment.
As students begin their training they are taught the gross movements of the forms, which they practice until they are ready for the specifics. Specifics include the application of proper strength, power, tension, release, speed, timing and breath cycles. The movements and combinations of the forms are repeated ad nauseam, but their actual use or application against an opponent is only understood by training in the qi kun structure tests, developing the five parts power, understanding the four movement concepts, then through the two-person forms and applications training where specific combinations are taught in specific combative scenarios.
The compositions of the forms themselves are structured for specific purposes. Some forms begin with defensive movements and combinations, while others begin with offensive movements and combinations. Some forms are meant to train the body in lieu of calisthenics and weight training, while others teach agility in movement and rapid succession of techniques with specific timing cycles. Some stress blocking and striking techniques while others focus on joint locking and take down maneuvers. There are forms that bring mind and body together to forge a centered meditative state, and there are forms that exemplify the martial spirit in its many expressions.
In general, the forms of ngo cho kun are classified into two main groups: chien [戰] (“conflicts,” used for training) and kun [拳] (“fist,” used for fighting). While all forms begin with the eight-movement qi kun opening fist set, the chien forms close with the movement known as hi li po pai [孩兒抱牌] (child holding the tablet), while the kun forms close with the movement known as chiao yung chiu [招扬手] (enticing hand).
There are 10 chien (tension) forms, through which ngo cho kun practitioners develop their strength, breath control, power, and conceptual understanding of the movement principles and application concepts to the entire art.
The kun (fist) forms number 36 and hold fighting techniques, combinations and applications as their main focus. It is said that the kun forms are useless to practitioners who have not yet sufficiently developed themselves within the chien forms. The most common kun form is known as li sip kun (20 punches), wherein students learn how to punch with coordination and power while utilizing turning steps.
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