Metaphorically you need to make 99 mistakes to find the 1 right way. This is because mental understanding is different from physical understanding.
You can say you have understood an explanation. However, this does not mean that your mental understanding can translate into physical understanding.
For this reason, you should always assume that you do not understand until you can actual demonstrate the understanding. When you reach this point of understanding then the story of the wordless Flower Sermon of Buddha will make sense.
I saw a documentary that mentioned that forms were created as a means for solo practice because it is not always possible to have a training partner. It is common for students to lament that they do not have a training partner.
However, I would caution them that with a wrong training partner they will not improve. So they need to take care when selecting a training partner. With a form it is only themselves, their state of mind, their diligence, patience, doggedness that is important to working the form to extract the lessons embedded within.
A form has many layers of learning. When you thought you know something you may be surprised that there are a lot more you didn’t know. There are things obvious and a lot more not obvious.
When a student has made the 99 mistakes and now has a more awakened mind then it is possible to bring out and highlight the things that are in plain view. For example, the movements of White Crane Spreads Wings has ton of stuff there and took more than an hour just to cover the many areas, adjusting the movements, the angles, the timing, the coordination.
With the unveiling then it can be seen that there are a lot more ways to use the movements of White Crane Spreads Wings. Ways to do huajing and fajing are all there. One just has to reach the stage of being able to see.
Many students cannot see because they keep saying that its too difficult to understand. They sabotage their own learning before they even begin. Nothing is ever easy at the beginning. This is why we need to practice over and over again until we start to get it. This is why in Zen there is a teaching which basically indicates that the more you rush to learn something the harder it is to get it.
The lesson here is to keep practicing, always, don’t ask too many questions first. Instead, keep doing until you are familiar, then keep going until you develop a heightened awareness. And then keep going further until you are ready to step through the inner gate. Then you will experience something interesting.
From Raise Hands changing to White Crane Spreads Wings we do rollback. I pick on my student’s left arm movement. Wrong I say. Why?
With a wishy washy way of moving he missed out on possibilities. The first possibility is the correct movement allows for a strong strike in a movement that does not look like a strike. With the wrong application it is not a strike; with the right application that is a strike.
But if you are not doing it properly even if you suddenly recognize that you could strike in that particular scenario your strike would be powerless. So get the movement right and the power will be there.
Then the downward arm movement becomes a circling movement to lead the left hand back to the right side of the body. The rotation of the left hands is not just a turn of the arm but the application of the body movement that is a vital part of the rollback process.
When the small movement here is proper than it is easy to lift your left hand up. If you are using the left hand to twine and trap the opponent’s arm then you need to get the palm angle correct and the turning timing spot on otherwise you will lose traction and the opponent’s arm will escape.
Otherwise, the application could well be to regain a better position and open up a different window for you to counter-attack. This is why the left hand has to move to an exact position at the right side of your body and your right arm then circles clockwise to a position on the left.
When a student does not study this closely and practice until they can maintain discipline when moving they will always have a problem when applying this movement. They always end up becoming attached to wanting to make contact and lose the ability to stop when they are supposed to. They end up locking into a position that looks favorable to them but is actually exploitable by an experienced opponent.
So the form trains the discipline to move how you need to move, how you want to move, to achieve the position from which you can change to the technique that you desire to use. Otherwise, you react blindly, with emotion instead of using calculated motions to seek the optimal position that can allow you a range of responses.
So many valuable lessons that can be learned from a form. Yet, how many understand the true value of a form today. Too many are in a rush, thereby missing out on many valuable lessons.