Forms Interview With Professor King

It’s always been clear to me how important forms are to our system.  They seem to anchor many of the drills and basics that we do.  Since the “Mo” forms (Mo Yut Do, Mo Yee Do and Mo Sam Do) were made by Professor King, I wanted to pick Professor’s brain on the “Mo” forms specifically and more generally what role forms play in our system.  What follows is our email exchange.  For ease of reading, my questions are in regular text while Professor’s responses are in italicized text.

Let’s start with the creation of the three Mo forms – Mo Yut, Mo Yee and Mo Sam do. What was your reason (or reasons) for making forms unique to the system of Mo Duk Pai?

So the forms would focus, in an exaggerated fashion, basic principles of self defense that are then integrated into practical physical and mental actions in a systematic manner..

What’s the primary idea you’d like to see students get from Mo Yut Do?  Mo Yee Do?  Mo Sam Do?

You are asking for a singular point of reference or idea.  I’m afraid it’s not quite that simple nor are the forms built that way — but, if I have to pick one idea only then here they are.

For Mo Yut Do: Connection between breathing and — relaxing and tightening.

Mo Yee Do: Development of power with alignment.

Mo Sam Do: Connecting all principles for use.

What else is going on in Mo Yut Do thematically? (Besides the idea of the connection between breathing and relaxation and tightening.)

Proper body alignment, proper core building, “dynamic” tension use for strengthening of body and technique, proper technique coordinated with breathing and motion.

Has your perception of what you (or others) can get out the form changed since you designed it?

For myself, yes. The more I do, the more I learn. the more it helps me. Others, you’ll have to ask them 🙂

Do the three forms build on each other thematically?  More specifically, does Mo Yee Do include all the themes you just mentioned and then layer on more ideas for the student to examine?


Mo Yut Do means first martial way, Mo Yee Do means second martial way and Mo Sam Do means third martial way.  Why are we taught Mo Yee Do first?

It’s taught first as it blends and integrates better with the requirements of teaching the fundamentals of “kicking, blocking and punching” and the development of power.

How much (if any) is Mo Yut Do (and the way that we test students as they do the form) influenced by the “Sanchin” form of the Goju Ryu or Uechi-Ryu schools?  Are there other forms that influenced you or were on your mind when you developed Mo Yut Do?

Yes. My work with  Teruo Chinen Sensei  influenced it for sure.  It’s not the same, there are differences—how you step, feet placement, but the basic principles are nearly the same.

[Click here for a link to a video of the Sanchin form as performed by a Goju Ryu stylist.]

The main focus of Mo Yee Do is development of power with alignment.  What are some of the other ideas present in the form?

If you look at the list that I gave you regarding what to look for in MO SAM DO you will find all of those inherent in the forms. They are inherent in all forms we do–or one should have when doing the forms. Having said that breathing properly is very key…whether moving or striking. “other ideas” are, of course, the techniques themselves…each one…. and it’s perfection..and thus the focus of one’s mind into that technique so the mind isn’t “wandering” all around.

[Click here for a link to the list Professor is referencing, from a 2009 black belt class.]

If the sanchin form was a strong influence on Mo Yut Do, is there a form that influenced you when you built the other two forms?

Mo Yee Do– no, not really. Nothing that stands out at all.

Mo Sam Do–all the different “internal” and “soft” forms.

We’ve talked a little about what the individual student gets out of doing forms.  What do you feel is the benefit to a school and to the system of having a common set of forms that we all share?

A common set of values, technical principles, history and lineage.

I hear and see students talking about the technical principles involved in the forms and I definitely get that the forms give us a sense of history and lineage.  But when you say that the forms give us a common set of values, I’m not sure what you mean.  Do you mean that we value the forms themselves, or perhaps the idea of forms being a part of the art?  (I know many systems don’t practice forms at all.)  Or do you mean values like: compassion, courage and competence?  Or something else entirely?

Values such as: focusing on principles vs. just fighting; soft and hard; centering, relaxation, focus, manners, footwork, ethics, redirection creativity, spontaneity, practicality etc. Literally those things we feel have worth and make us a better martial artist are in the forms, or should be. The list you worked on that gave a lot of the focus points would be those items of value. Also, each individual will find more stress on some of the values as they train, then will change as they continue to change. But it’s there for the person to not lose sight of. or be reminded by from the teacher. It’s in one place. it’s the essence of the art as it’s the condensed version–as best we can–of all this is important in the art.

Very cool.  I’m not sure I’ve heard that take on forms before.  If I understand you correctly, forms are an ideal – something to strive for in training, fighting and everyday life?

Yes. That is correct. It’s not an adjunct it’s a reflection of the “core” of The Art.  You are asking questions that would take, in each answer of this type, a bit of a “Q and A” time to dig into a lot more. Example–Mo sam Do has 3 areas. Mo Sam Do (as the exaggerated actions), MSD  as the j”shortened” version and MSD “A” that is the “real version of application and transition to chi-sao/street”.  Did you know that?

Interesting.  Earlier in our conversation you talked a bit about Mo Yee Do being an “exaggerated” way to help a student understand body mechanic.  I’ve always thought Mo Sam Do was fairly subtle (especially in comparison to the big motions present in Mo Yee Do).  Supposing I was to watch someone do the exaggerated version of MSD and then the “real” version.  Would the visual difference simply be the size of the motions or would I see something else going on?

All the forms are exaggerated–including Mo Yut Do. The concept of “Do” is a key philosophical concept and not just “body mechanic” as it’s not JUST a “pai”.  Mo Sam Do has many, many “subtleties” but most of the actions are very exaggerated.

As far as your question: the “real” version is just that: closer to how you would actually use it. The underlying principles do not change i.e. what the exaggerated shows–and the physical motions length do change as needed. Time to show you the MSD shortened version and part a.  🙂

As a teacher introducing forms to a student for the first time, how do you convey (in a simple way) that forms are more than just teaching students a way of moving, that they are about values like ethics and manners?

Just like you did with some examples and some history attached to it.

Is the shortened version of MSD the “hotel” version you showed us in 2009?  If I recall correctly the “hotel” version is basically practicing the form with a limited floor space (as in a hotel room).  If the shortened version IS the “hotel” version, what insight have you gained from doing the form in a small space?

Moving it to more to a reality so a student can see the connection to  reality.

Also, thank you for the offer – I’d love to learn the shortened and part a of Mo Sam Do.

Okay.  I’m copying your teacher so he gets on it!! Happy new year.

Why are the “kung fu” forms (Lim Po, Sui Wan, Pak Sil Lum 6, Sil Lum Pai) no longer a part of the system requirements?

The forms are part of another system(s) and were not made specifically for MDP. The forms you listed have been  a taught in a variety of ways with a variety of underlying principles. What was the original intent of the creator and it’s evolution have been lost in many ways.. What I wanted were forms that were very, very specific for MDP and were integrated specifically into the whole as a teaching tool and training tool.

Thanks for doing this interview.  I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface but I’ve gotten a ton out of the conversation.  Thanks!

Glad I could help…and you are right…it’s a scratch of the surface :-).

Merry Christmas, Happy Festivus and Happy New Year!!