Combinations Are defenses against a punch, choreographed responses to different types of attacks. They have many names across the martial arts but (in my experience) every art has a version of them. This makes them different than forms because there are plenty of martial arts that have no forms. What makes there partner exercises so universal? Why practice a specific response when (in reality) timing, type of attack, size of the attacker, and a hundred other factors will make it so you never use that entire choreographed response? And finally, how can we practice for a real defense situation and avoid injury at the same time?
The last question is a question of safety. If we practice for the sake of reality we need to replicate reality. How do we prevent injury while doing so? When it comes down to it, it’s about building trust. We start slow and learn to trust that we have control over ourselves. We learn to trust our partners have control as well. In more time we learn to trust our control over our partner and (a little scarier) we learn to trust our partner’s control over us. In the end (with a lot of practice) you can move are full speed, tossing your partner, and being thrown without fear of injury.
Combinations are universal for a reason; they are practiced so they can be dissected into their parts, and we stay safe by starting slow and building trust. As with everything else in the martial arts, combinations have many reasons behind their practice and execution.