Why do so many Martial Arts Instructors force their students to practice dance routines? They call them Forms or Kata but we know the truth, they are dances. The Instructor will drill every move into their students, forcing them to repeat the sequences over and over and over … and over. So, Why?
Tradition! That was always the first thing I was told when I asked the question, but not all traditions are worthy of being continued. My father, Uncle and their children go camping every Father's Day. For a long time, the tradition was for it to rain, soaking us to the bone. It took DAYS to dry out. The past few years we manage to break that tradition … for a little while at least. On the other hand, some things become a tradition for good reason.
Moving Meditation is another reason quickly thrown into the conversation. It takes a special type of person to want to participate in this, and believe me not every Martial Artist is … calm enough to meditate even if it is moving meditation. Even those Instructors that do not meditate use forms often so there must be something more.
Here it is. Forms are a FANTASTIC way to introduce fundamental movements. The more you practice the instinctual those movements become. I use to accidentally find myself all but half mooning through the hallways of my school. When you enter into a high-stress situation, like say … a fight, thinking stops and only instinct and muscle memory remain, which explains the repetition.
After a lot of PURPOSEFUL practice, the forms begin to introduce something else as well. They start to reveal abstract ideas about whichever art you are trying to learn. The better you understand those ideas the more proficient you become in the application of your art. This can take years or decades to uncover though.
Forms have many reasons behind them, but it is up to the martial artist to find the most powerful reason for them. Practicing a form without a purpose is like driving a car without a destination. You will end up somewhere; there is just no way to know where.