My 9 year old usually spends about 1-2 hours per day bouncing on his trampoline. He jumps and flips with a nerf sword in his hand, acting out moves in a movie that is playing in his head. He is one with that sword and the world around him doesn't exist.
Imagine if you performed your katas this way. Out of the sheer joy of experiencing the movements. Think about this little thought experiment. What if I told my Son that I was going to stand a video camera next to his trampoline and film him to show the entire school. Wouldn't his performance drop? What if I told him that the entire State of Texas would be watching, how about the entire world? Naturalness would be gone. Joy would be gone. It would be replaced by fear, anxiety, stress and mechanicalness. What was once second nature, would become strained and difficult.
If you are brave enough to look at your actual inner thoughts during class and performance of kung fu or tai chi forms, you will see that you have applied most of these same pressures to yourself. One time I had a student confess that they were a "perfectionist" to which I replied "I'm sorry". They seemed angry at my response, but can you see how this is not a peak performance state?
The next time you practice a kata, repeat it about 15-20 times. Then get a drink and come back to the form and then just experience the form. Pay attention to the joy of moving your body and the beautiful nature of each move. Pretend that your were the creator of the kata and that like my Son on the trampoline, you aren't repeating the form to "get it down better", but because it's just what you want to do.
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