new poll: what kind of practice is most important to you?

lately, i’ve been thinking a lot about what relative proportion of various training types and methods to use to create an optimal platform for skill development in the class at georgia tech. as usual, i have sixty-ish variables going around in my head about what to do when for what students. i’ve had the benefit of being exposed to a lot of different styles of practicing taido, and i’ve spent considerable time learning and developing a pretty large repertoire of training methods. sometimes, these things can be a great advantage to me as an instructor, but sometimes i feel as if i have too many options and not enough guides for choosing among them.

so, i thought i’d post a poll.

most martial arts train students using a variety of methods. in taido, the obvious two are hokei and jissen. i’m curious as to which kinds of practice people value the most in their own training.

shukumine taught that jissen and hokei were both equally important components in a taidoka’s development. through proper hokei practice (using imagined opponents and paying attention to the ten hokei performance guidelines), students can develop timing, distance, and speed in addition to good form. these skills are put to the test in jissen by forcing us to improvise creatively and react to the movements of a partner.

i know some instructors who have extended this logic to conclude that each tournament competition (including tenkai, team jissen, and group hokei) is of equal value, though i find it hard to agree that team events offer much training value to individuals until they have already reached a certain level of skill. the technical limitations imposed in team jissen can be helpful training for less-experienced students. however, i tend to feel that students need to build some basics before attempting to work in such a complicated, multi-partner environment as we see in tenkai or dantai hokei.

karate has the three ks: kihon, kata, and kumite. basic punches, kicks, and blocks are drilled until the practitioner can do them perfectly without thought. kata are supposed to hold the “secrets” of the techniques, and students are required to learn various possible applications from each kata movement. kumite is “free fighting,” in which karateka are allowed to make use of whatever weapons and strategies they can personally employ within the ruleset.

on the other side of the spectrum, many mixed martial arts schools follow in the line of thought made famous by bruce lee that martial arts forms and routines are utterly useless. they make the claim that fighting against the air in solo drills offers zero translation to fighting a live opponent. i’ve heard kata referred to as “dead forms” by some who feel that the only valuable kind of training is that in which students face “live” resistance.

this attitude can also be seen in bjj schools that pair students against a partner from day one. solo work is reserved for conditioning and fitness. even some more “traditional” martial arts tend to value their combative components much more highly than their form practice. one notable example is judo (arguably a sport), which includes forms, but emphasizes working against resistance in daily training. another is kendo, training for which only rarely has students hitting anything other than a partner. even basic strike practice is performed against another armored student, the theory being that all students need to get used to hitting and being hit.

personally, i have a hard time saying that any one kind of practice is necessarily more important than another – they all have the potential to add great value to students’ development. however, i can see that perhaps some modes of training will hold greater value for various students at particular stages in their taido education. in some cases, it may have to do more with personality than with any other factor.

whatever, your criteria for choosing, try to figure out which of these training methods you personally feel is the most important to you right now. we’ll see what everyone thinks in a couple of weeks… thanks.