I was just reading some things on your site about patterns and their benefits. However, I have read elsewhere about why they are not only not beneficial but somewhat detrimental. It was an article from a Brazilian jiu-jitsu group called Straight Blast Gym Intl., the link to the article is http://www.straightblastgym.com/street03.htm. I've just been contemplating some of the things I used to do back in my Shotokan days, namely forms, and if I would be where I am if I stayed. I'd just like to know what you would say in response to what that person says, about them being counter-productive, suggested training methods, and so on (the argument seems pretty substantial...).
If your martial art style practices forms, you think they are great. If your art does not practice forms, you think they are useless. It's just like a person's religion. Most believe the way they were first taught to believe. Mixed martial art practitioners usually think forms are useless since they think forms do not contribute to building street fighting skills. This may have some validity if your only purpose in training in the martial arts is street fighting. Most people will never be in a street fight, or any other kind of altercation, in their entire lives. Most people train in the martial arts for fun, relaxation, and health; self-defense is a side benefit.
Here is a rebuttal to statements made in the Straight Blast article:
“In fact, repeating a move or series of moves over and over again in the same pattern and sequence will actually be counter productive to your bodies [body's] ability to respond quickly.” Who says? It is easy to make a statement, but it difficult to prove a statement. When a person makes this type of statement, it is not my, or anyone else's, responsibility to disprove it. It is the statement makers prove there are no UFOs; it is the believer's responsibility to prove there are UFOs.
According to this statement, driving everyday and making hundreds of normal braking movements will not increase the speed of your breaking reaction in an emergency situation. According to this statement, to increase your breaking reaction speed, you would have to practice emergency stops at every stop you make.
“First, there is no TIMING, without a resisting opponent in front of you. Since there is no timing to be had, your reflexes, or response time against a resisting opponent, will not change, increase, or be helped in the least.” Maybe, but forms were never meant to train your timing (other than hand-foot timing). Does mixed martial art grappling train your timing for punches and kicks?
“Second, there is no impact, as there is against a heavy bag. So there will be no benefit to your strength, body mechanics, or conditioning. In fact, your body mechanics may become altered in correctly due to the fact that you are not making impact against anything, but merely striking 'air'.” It is true there is no impact in forms. But does every punch or kick make contact during a fight? You must learn to control your techniques and focus your power in case you miss your target or the target moves. Forms train control; the heavy bag trains impact resistance.
“Thirdly, even when shadowboxing (another comparison morticians like to make when making zombies) [What does this mean?], you never want to repeat the same series of movements to many times in a row!” Again the author mixes apples and oranges. The statements made about shadow boxing are true, but what does showdown boxing have to do with forms practice? They are two separate training methods. Boxers only use a jab, cross, hook, and upper cut. How do they train using with only four techniques without some repetition? There have been thousands of outstanding martial arts fighters who were also outstanding forms competitors. The two skills are not exclusive.
“Even reading a book would be a much better use of your time the [than] memorizing and repeating a dead pattern.” Periodically, while typing on the computer, I get up and do a form. It helps keep the body loose and relaxed. Tai Chi is the most popular exercise program in China. Why? Because it works. Patterns were never meant to be a purely physical exercise. They are a mental exercise, such as the old “figures” that were once required in figure skating. The figures were not technically or physically difficult to do, but they required intense concentration and precise movement. Difficult to do; boring to watch. So, to gain more spectators and television viewers, they were dropped. To perform a precise form in a competition takes intense concentration, and it is physically taxing, as anyone who had performed a form correctly will attest to.
Forms do not have to include fighting techniques to make you a better fighter. The best way to become a better fighter is to fight all the time. But when not fighting, forms are an excellent training technique. Not the only training technique, but one of many different training techniques. It is the final product that matters, not the way individual parts were made.