The solo forms or sets of a martial art may appear to be merely flashy performances or rote exercises for conditioning, and because of this many students disregard this aspect of their training. True martial arts masters, however, know that the forms of a system actually contain all of the techniques and secrets of that system—if one knows how to look for them. Often called the “great books” of martial arts, forms are crucial for a deeper understanding of the art one practices.
In Hidden Hands, Phillip Starr provides detailed instruction in the art of reading martial arts forms: by first mastering rudimentary “words” (individual techniques) and then moving on to simple “sentences” (combinations of techniques), the student will come to understand forms as ancient documents that contain the true essence of their art. Starr discusses different aspects of forms practice such as rhythm, timing, spirit, and performance, and presents specific guidelines for interpreting the movements of various forms. The book ends with the dissection and interpretation of a complete form. Containing examples from Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, and Korean martial arts, Hidden Hands shows serious practitioners how to improve in any art and style.