Self-Defense Techniques of Shaolin Red Fist (Part II) by Gene Ching (Xing Long).
Kung Fu magazine 2002 April, page 108-109
Form vs. Function
When form and application is placed side by side, we clearly see how the fighting applications differ from the form. In combat, the stances are not nearly as wide as in the form, and the hand positions vary. Even so the spirit of the movement is the same. This is the secret to unlocking forms – they are not to be taken literally. Forms are like sutra’s teaching the way of right action. Application is the action. Knowing the right action and doing the right action is connected, yet not the same. Consequently practical teachings must be malleable, subject to individual interpretation, to fit any situation.
On a deeper level, forms practice serves a higher purpose beyond just self defense. While on the outside forms teach you how to fight, on the inside forms teach you how to harness your vital essence, your qi. Qi ‘by nature, is very difficult to explain how this process works. This requires some faith.
You cannot begin to penetrate Shaolin kungfu without awareness of fighting applications. Even if you are practicing for qi cultivation alone, sine Saholin is a martial art, its qi always reflects combat applications. Therefore, knowing the fighting methods is critical to understanding where to channel your qi.
Façade vs. Fighting
Interpreting forms into fighting hits even greater challenges with “hidden” movements. Occasionally, kung fu will hide its techniques within the forms. In this way, certain techniques could be kept secret from prying eyes, … Although external position is changed, the hidden intention is preserved within the mind of the practitioner.
A basis example is the palm strike. In forms, the heel of the palm is external focus point. The fingertips are pulled back, creating a powerful isometric in the forearm that presses power deeper into the palms. But in application, the focal point can shift from a palm push to the collar-bone into a finger jab to the throat.