Sometimes I hate not thinking in words. Usually it’s a superpower. But right now I’m struggling to explain something that I see as…gestalt is the best word I can come up with. Stayed up all last night trying to find the words. Sometimes words would bubble up and I can explain a piece of it, but sometimes the words open another tangent that’s relevant.
Roughly, meaning is important. Syntax is the effective ordering of symbols to deliver meaning. Grammar is an attempt to codify syntax to make it both easier to deliver meaning and easier to detect sloppy syntax. Until grammar becomes it’s own thing.
Roughly, fighting is to have an effect to serve the goal. The principles (leverage, structure, etc.) and building blocks (power generation, strikes, takedowns etc.) are the means to achieve that goal. “Form” is an attempt to codify the principles and building blocks. Both to make fighting easier to teach and to make it more efficient. And it works, until form becomes it’s own thing separate from effect.
Good grammar is never wrong, exactly. And it’s never wrong to punch with good form. This is (sort of) axiomatic because because good form is supposed to be what a punch with perfect body mechanics looks like.
This is where I hit the wall. It’s an image, partially visual, mostly kinesthetic in my head, but the words that surface are a mess:
Communication can happen with absolutely no proper grammar or syntax– Think comforting an infant. And fighters can be devastating even with no recognizable form and shitty body mechanics. A 2×4 upside the head doesn’t need a lot of skill. But that in no way means you should eschew skill. A 2×4 plus good body mechanics is better than a 2×4 with shitty body mechanics.
It doesn’t hurt to comfort an infant using grammatically correct phrases, unless your focus on being grammatically correct makes your language stilted and unnatural. Then the kid will get weirded out. It doesn’t hurt to fight with good form, because good form is just good body mechanics. Unless you are so focused on doing things “right” that your movements become stilted and unnatural and you get your ass kicked.
A focus on form, whether in grammar or fighting, can cover up a lot of ignorance. If I can’t refute your arguments, I can make fun of your spelling. If I don’t have any real understanding of how the human body works, I can focus on form the way I memorized it– knowledge memorized substituting for understanding. With understanding, I can teach you to hit harder, with knowledge I can teach you to look like my sensei did when he was hitting hard.
When form/grammar become it’s own thing. This is looking like a universal. Grammatically correct nonsense is still nonsense. Punching air while looking right is still punching air. We create these systems to make things better, to make a specific goal easier to accomplish. Whether that goal is conveying information or knocking someone down. But in almost every case, certain people are drawn to become masters and keepers of the system, and to them, the system becomes the goal itself. Has there ever been a piece of great literature that was grammatically perfect? I’m sure Shakespeare had someone correcting his grammar. In fighting and SD, these are the couch sitters that will tell you you survived wrong. Universal– I’m thinking of ways that bureaucracies originally designed to solve problems become self-perpetuating machines, sometimes at great cost. Cough*Rotherham*Cough.
And that’s even assuming the form is based on what we think it is. Kicking with the instep is less likely to injure your target and more likely to injure you than kicking with your shin… but it makes a slapping noise that is much harder for a referee to ignore. “Ain’t” was a forbidden word in my grade school. Not because it was unclear, but because our teachers wanted us to sound like s specific socio-economic class.