Today is a retooled argument I wrote in a forum thread regarding what is normally associated with TMAs, the water wings of martial arts, Katas and Forms.
Feel free to comment with your personal feelings regarding the matter.
Is Kata Useless?
An Analogy About Dead Patterns and Why People Stopped Advocating Them.
There's something about the word "Kata" that makes most people who spar/fight regularly start foaming at the mouth and start barking and snarling in a murderous rage- memories of Kiddy Karate and talentless TKD and Kung Fu teachers suddenly bubble up to raise blood pressure levels.
I think I can best sum up the argument over whether or not Kata are useful in Martial Arts like I usually do, using a poorly-written analogy that use huge gaps in logic:
Say that there are five Rally Car racers that need to get some practice in for a big race coming up next year.
Racer 1 buys a custom racing simulation gaming rig, with a real racing seat that vibrates a little bit, surround sound, a 60" curved LCD screen, and a PS3 to run Gran Turismo (which, unfortunately, doesn't have the track he will be racing on to download). He spends his year perfecting every track, mastering control over his Logitech controls, enjoying the rumbling of his seat without worrying about the dangers of crashing, or paying for fuel. In his opinion, the "License Tests" are more than enough to drill real-life rally skills. He'll occasionally get inside of his real car, but only to pose in it for pictures to send to the girls he's been bragging to for the past few months about being a pro racer.
Racer 2 buys the rig that Racer 1 bought, and uses that as his main training regimen, and goes out practicing moves and racing for real once every three months or so.
Racer 3 spends most of his time drilling maneuvers with his co-driver, and he goes out rallying once a month to keep his skills sharp, just enough so that he knows he can pull them off in the upcoming race.
Racer 4 decides that the best course of action is to practice maneuvers and racing on different rally courses around the world, racing every week, perfecting his skills under pressure constantly.
Racer 5 goes for broke, and does what Racer 4 is doing, and buys the simulation rig that Racer 1 and 2 bought as well, so that he has something to learn from on his off hours. He uses the rig to memorize entry speeds and angles, as well as a little bit of fun.
Race day comes, and what happens?
Racer 4 and 5 are pretty much neck and neck, 5 with a possible edge.
Racer 3 comes in third, but not too far behind 4.
Racer 2 comes in fourth.
Racer 1 crashes during the race, retires immediately, and goes on to win multiple arcade racing tournaments. He still refers to himself as a "Pro Racer."
It's really not that hard to bring replace a few words above and have it be about Martial Arts, right? Good.
Moral of the story?
Hating on forms is understandable, as the amount you learn/can learn from them is highly limited, especially compared to alive training. It's the ridiculously large amount of people like "Racer 1" in the MA sense, who tout Katas as the only thing really needed to learn how to defend yourself, that really bring down the wrath of serious Martial Artists regarding the forms and how useful they are.
It's fine to do Kata, as long as you know what they are good for, and it doesn't cut into the time you spend realistically sparring. Drilling them doesn't hurt your skills, and may help you refine the fine movements that some techniques require before you go out to use them under pressure.
...However, if you only do Kata and still refer to yourself as a "fighter," you're a f$%#ing douchebag.