I like solo forms because they are fun, interesting and challenging, but honestly not really for any tactical reason beyond that.
They may have other benefits .... and I have certainly enjoyed playing and experimenting with them over time .... but whether those benefits are 'martial' is debatable.
What I do believe is that there are better and worse ways to do forms, and that I have certainly found practical uses for pieces of most forms I have practiced, mostly by having something come out in sparring, and thinking 'wow! that's in that form!!'
Also, I am curious about the structure of systems. Luo DeXiu mentioned once, after having spent the last 2 decades researching and comparing Bagua and Xing-Yi systems both in Taiwan and mainland China, that he felt that he could find nothing 'missing' from the Yizong system. Now that might sound self aggrandizing but I don't think he meant it that way.
I understood him to mean that in the context in which it was developed, and the parameters in which it sat, that he could find no gaps in the exercises, drills, forms, and method to get you to point of full understanding.
As I have not reached the level to be able to tell whether this is true or not, I cannot comment, but the thought interests me and a part of me would like to feel why he believes this is so for myself.
Is it the fastest way to learn to fight? I don't believe so. (See below)
Was it really meant for people that already could? Yes, I think it was.
So, back to preset patterns and technical responses to pre arranged attacks ....
Practicing specific techniques may give you an answer to what you need to do in response to a certain thing happening ... but it does not give you any chance of learning how to see that moment coming. And if the thing is already happening, there is certainly no time to observe, orient, decide and actually act before it becomes something else .... in other words, you will always be behind in the OODA loop.
If you know what is going to happen, you are never watching for clues as to what MIGHT happen. You have taken away any motivation to investigate and understand precursors, tells, and set ups, deception, hesitations, and errors ... because you do not need to look for them.
You probably have no need to watch for, and understand 'follow ups' either ... because again, they do not exist in this training format.
The first skill set I learned from Sonny was to 'read' the opponent, because he believed that this was the foundation for everything else, that this must be deeply ingrained to achieve an understanding of what things actually 'look' like (both visual and tactile) in real time. Only then was it possible to be in the right place at the right time to do the thing you needed to do.
Obviously this ability did not come instantaneously, it took time to learn how to 'read'. Random flow was Sonny's innovation on how to learn this stuff without having to do it in a real fight.
What is a threat, what is not, how much time you have, how far away they are, can they kick from there, which hand is more likely to come out from that position, what is open, what is not worth worrying about, how is the weight distributed, what is chambered?? etc etc.
What kind of person are they, how do they see you? ... and on and on.
Why is it so important?
- Everything that can happen, happens because the previous thing happened.
- You will always be behind if you can't see this chain and learn how to change it's path.
- If your opponent can see this chain, your moves will always be predictable, which means that again, you will be behind.
- Being behind is bad, and the fastest way to getting cornered and lose.
Interestingly enough, the higher level, learned after you can 'read', is to learn how to 'write' your opponent. In other words how to MAKE them do what you want them to do. So you are always ahead in the loop - keeping them orienting (O) whilst you act (A).
This of course means that you will know what's coming next, having engineered it that way, and all those techniques? Here's where you finally get to use them.