When people think of Kung Fu, the first thing that comes to mind are most likely the images of impressive and elegant moves. Forms or taolu (套路) in Chinese are a series of moves which are combined so they can be practiced as a continuous set, basically like a piece of choreography. Forms were originally intended to preserve the lineage of a particular style or school, but there are many more theories about why they are what they are.
Hiding in plain sight
China has known a history of persecution and there have been times where the ruling empires banned and forbid martial arts training entirely. This happened during the Qing dynasty when Tai Chi Chuan flourished. The slow and gracefully flowing movements resembled a peaceful exercise routine that could hide and conceal many of its “real” aspects. Most martial artists had to most likely train in secret and hide their art all together. In any case, concealing the art was also beneficial in case another school wanted to piggyback on the techniques and applications.
Tai Chi Benefits
Tai Chi is often characterised by slow movements in Taolu practice and one of the reasons Tai Chi Chuan uses these slow movements is to develop body awareness. Through careful, accurate and repeated practice, a student will train balance and coordination, posture, increase strength and circulation throughout the body, develop and maintain flexibility, and become familiar with the martial sequences and applications.
Some forms use weapons like swords and staffs, and others only use one or two hands. Many forms have been developed further for many different reasons; better combat preparation, health, to look more beautiful, etc. For example, the traditional styles of Tai Chi Chuan have forms that look differently, but they are very similar and share the same history.
Here are two forms that I have posted so far:
If you’re not sure what you want to start with, check this out…