One of the most important phases in the echelon of Kung Fu practice is the procedure of practicing forms. Forms are choreographed and preset movements which are "in the air" imitations or pantomimes of real fighting applications and techniques. Doing "forms" is practicing actual fighting movements which develops to a fundamental and basic level the qualities and skills one would use in applying fighting techniques in real life situations.
The list of qualities which form practice works on will be determined by the thoroughness of one's training regime. Forms can be used to train most of the skills one would need in a real combat situation. Such things as:
- tendon strength
- circulation of energy
- flexibility and agility
- "ting jing" or listening energy
- anaerobic capability
- internal structure
- stances and footwork
- mind/body harmony
Naturally there are some aspects of fighting training which form practice does not attend to. Two aspects that form practice doesn't cover is adaptability, or the capacity to adjust to another's power, strength, structure, etc. and feel of impact, or the way one's body must hold itself at the moment of contact with an external object - as opposed to just doing the action in the air. Another aspect of training which is outside the domain of forms practice is using "ting jing" into the other person's body. For such training one must have a partner, willing to investigate this territory and train in depth this aspect of combat interaction.
However, amongst those who practice the martial arts doing forms is a universally recognized approach to skill development. It is found in almost all systems of combat.
Forms practice also offers all the positive effects of exercise in general, making every inner system of the body healthy and capable. Because of the mental concentration it is very good for developing mental acuity and sharpness. From the continuous and fluid movement it offers good aerobic training while at the same time opening up all the energy meridians and pathways of the body. This is something that no other exercise does with quite the same effectiveness as Kung Fu forms.