No matter what style one practices doing the form daily helps the student to bring discipline into his or her life. Discipline means developing the ability to do something each day which is, perhaps, not always pleasant, and about which one is not always enthusiastic. It is easy to engage in some activity which excites us and which we like. However, even though we have made up our minds to live in a certain way, to pursue a certain art, we will always encounter many days, and sometimes, weeks when we are less than eager to do the work connected with our particular art. If we practice only the days we really want to, our progress will be extremely slow, or we are apt to stop our training altogether. Practice and form work becomes easier with daily practice and more difficult when it is done infrequently.
Spending a certain portion of each day in practice, the results of which are not quickly evident, is difficult for certain if not most students. Those students who enroll in a school of martial arts which holds daily classes are fortunate, because once the class begins they are swept along in the general procedure. The energy generated by fellow students and the teacher serves to carry each individual along. Those who attend class only once or twice a week, and who must practice alone for a period of time each day have a more difficult time of it. They need to develop a stronger inner will to practice. At any rate, the general pattern for most students is that discipline is initially imposed from outside themselves. Most beginners throw themselves into training with enthusiasm, but when this initial flush of enthusiasm begins to fade, they need help in establishing a steady pattern -- a steady discipline -- of training. Properly, a regularly attended class provides this steady pattern. Gradually, students fall into the habit of training at certain times of the day. If for some reason they are unable to train, they feel that something has been left undone. Once a certain momentum of practice has been established, it becomes more comfortable and easier to do one's prescribed training than to avoid it.
The idea of steady discipline is not a matter of having our mind on the achievement of some future goal. Nor is it tied to the protestant work ethic. Instead, it stems from our decision to live our lives in a particular way, to follow a certain road. Once we have made such a decision, we must turn our energy as much as possible toward fully doing the things that are a part of our chosen way. When we practice, we must not think we are sacrificing something or suffering in order to attain some reward. The thing we are doing should have been chosen because of its inherent positive value for us, and thus is worth doing for its own sake.
Taking the view that we are only practicing in order to get some imagined goal tends to devalue what is being done. Pursuing an external goal many work temporarily for some people, but in the long run such approaches generally lose their impact. All we really have to do is persevere one step at a time -- one day at a time with our daily practice. In the end, we will tend to find that the method or manner in which we live from day to day affects us in a certain way and results in development and growth -- if we persevere. We must go on the assumption that undertaking a certain kind of training will put us in a different and better place five years from now -- if we persevere.
Beyond carefully making our initial selection of a particular art to follow, it is of little worth to speculate constantly about the kind of human being we might become at some future date. Anyhow, the likelihood is that we will not change in exactly the way we speculate, but if we are vital and appropriate with our training we will generally benefit in very positive ways. We can be certain we will receive the health benefits, and, even small changes in self-realization and self-understanding are valuable.
Discipline does not mean that joy and pleasure will be done away with, in fact usually just the opposite is true. Students generally discover that practicing alone or with a partner is often very enjoyable. The relaxed feeling that comes with doing form practice is usually most pleasurable, especially after one has gotten into the rhythm, broken the negative inertia of inactivity, and stimulated one's energy to flow. In two person forms, smiles and even laughter are not uncommon. At the conclusion of a form practice period, participants have usually put aside their accustomed social facade to reveal more of themselves. They then enjoy a warm feeling for one another and can share themselves easily.
Still another facet of discipline concerns the necessity of doing something long enough and in concentrated enough fashion to discover what is beneath the surface. Without daily and intensive practice in any art, one will only experience what is superficial. Of course, any degree of training, even if very mild, brings some benefit, however, if our practice is not intensive enough, over a period of years one will generally fail to come upon those elements which take one deep.
This idea is clearly illustrated in the development of skill. Those persons who train daily for a number of years reach levels of skill that seem impossible to achieve to those unable or unwilling to devote themselves as fully to training. Similarly, in the area of self-realization, levels are reached with intensive and continuous training that the dilettante can only guess at.
-- Eo Omwake