Part 2 here.
Here’s my argument for doing form versus reps :-
a) You must be thinking that practicing one form is tough because there are so many different movements to remember. However, I beg to differ. You feel this way because you are looking at it the wrong way. The form may have many different movements but essentially you are just doing many movements using the same principles, same methodology but different expressions. Doing different movements forces you to learn smarter by finding what is common and what is not
b) Doing reps allows you one view, a form many views due to many movements. So you see things one way but can’t quite see it. Perhaps when you can see what you cannot see in another movement. This is what I mean when I say doing a different movement but essentially doing the same principles
c) A form can be daunting. Many students find learning a form complex and their mind cannot take it. But guess what, the learning of something complex is to train your mind to think flexibly, something you cannot quite get if you do repetition of one movement. The daunting is to help generate doubts because Zen masters have discovered that it is only when students are confronted by great doubts that they can make a breakthrough and achieve enlightenment
d) Doing repetition of a movement is like trying to learn the lay of the land by looking at the area in front of you. It would make more sense to actually explore further to get a clearer sense of the lay of the land. One learning objective is to be able to reduce many into less but having less does not mean you can expand into more. This is why students who have not mastered their form have a problem changing easily and fluidly when doing free form push hands. For example, some students drive to my place to learn. I wonder how many of them can tell me how many other roads they can take to go home if the road they normally take is inaccessible for whatever reasons. Same reasoning applies should a train line have a problem. If you know in advance do you still go to the station and take the free bus rides to bridge stations? What if the entire line is down? What then?
e) Taming the monkey mind is actually easier when doing a form than when doing repetitions because the mind has to keep thinking of the movement ahead. If you keep training form this way you will develop great awareness and in time to come master the concept of no-mind. You cannot do form without engaging your mind whereas you can get away with doing repetition of one movement on auto-pilot
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