We start out our martial arts journey striving to learn every technique or form possible. Most arts base your skill on how many techniques you can recall,
and in fact this usually plays a main part in determining promotion towards the next rank.
In our mid years of training we begin to learn that we can extract different portions of kata/technique or forms and manipulate them into variations (henka). To take this a step further, it is also said that for every variation we have eight more variations.
In our latter years of training we begin to learn to throw away technique and be formless. This is at a master level and only those that have been down the above path can truly understand this. Just like a baby that starts out with milk, then on to baby food, and eventually solids, there is a natural process to this. Very few understand it at an early level.
“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves.
Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
― Bruce Lee
Hatsumi Soke often says to forget about technique. When we depend on technique we become locked to a particular flow or pattern. We need to flow freely without limitations and when we can do this then we can truly obtain mastery.