I find myself defending an interesting position when I teach FMA, and one that I have known was a challenge since the day it was given to me by my Eskrima teacher - One that has thrown out teaching preset patterns or forms of any kind.
[Definition: A preset pattern, as I see it, is not the same as repeating a move or series of transitions to try to get it smooth and relaxed, like rolling and cutting angles for instance. A pre set pattern is a choreographed series of moves that does not vary for that particular set, and it usually has a name or a number by which it is known - 'Heaven Six' for instance. I count preset counters to preset attacks as choreographed patterns also]
Most people will argue with me that patterns are the only way to teach, especially beginners, that you can't get 'random' too soon or it will be confusing ....
I don't think this is true .... but it may be true that the 'Random' approach only suits people of a certain temperament or aptitude .... It is certainly the most efficient way to gain tactical skills that I have experienced.
This method obviously came from training with Sonny, and he had come to believe that preset patterns at their most basic level
contained too many tactical errors to make them worth doing, and even at
the higher levels, that they conditioned behaviors that were not only
undesirable, but harder and harder to get rid of as time went on.
He separated out blade manipulation exercises, which he used as 'warm ups', from partner practice. This meant that tactical considerations (range, timing, tempo) were not confused with dexterity exercises, but in all honesty even these never stayed the same from day to day, or even minute to minute.
He used hanging and swinging targets of various descriptions to work these finesse drills and practices, and in the videos to right of this post you can see some of these in the Sandung video, and the double ended target video.
All partner practice was random, never choreographed, and forever evolving and changing throughout the lesson. Sometimes they were done with limited parameters, different roles for each person, or limited strikes, but even limited to 2 strikes, the randomness was maintained by never know which of the two strikes would come next, or perhaps when it would come.
So, does one need patterns?
Do they cause more problems than they help with?
Are patterns the only way to keep the interest of beginners?
Should one give people what they find comforting rather than what is most efficient?
Does it matter if only a handful of people can make it through the training because there are NO patterns?
Aren't they the people that you would want anyway?
What about the students you lose?
People LOVE patterns and forms, keeps them entertained for hours, I know it! ... And there's no denying that working from continual uncertainty, without the eye to see the subtle NATURAL patterns derived from human nature and physics, is much less relaxing, and possibly only fun to those that enjoy puzzles, dares, and being lost.
Is that OK? Or should it be more 'accessible' at the expense of efficiency?
Before he died, Sonny looked me right in the eye and said point blank
"Don't teach patterns". So I don't, and I won't, but it's certainly a challenge not