Much is being made of movement nowadays; however, movement awareness has been a staple of competent martial artists since forever. We know that in addition to the performative and meditative benefits; going beyond what would be used “in a real fight” prepares the body for that very practical application.
Maybe the current state of combat martial arts has crept so far away from the body elongation and stylized transitions showcased in traditional form, that the seemingly logical translation of these positions to freestyle execution has disappeared; thus making forms, and even yoga, dance, stretching, etc. seem completely unrelated to martial arts application and combat sports. The lack of contact in TMA schools and lack of forms in MMA gyms make me think this gap will continue to widen.
I first encountered the overlap of movement and martial arts when my Mantis teacher, Art D’Agostino (7th Generation) concurrently taught a movement theory class to dancers at USF. He applied this complete body consciousness seamlessly to Kung Fu and Tai Chi. The fact that he was working BJJ drills in the 1990s is also a testament to his grasp of flow.
In some schools of acting, the performer choses a spirit animal to filter his/her work through. This “skin” gives the acting a flavor. Everything goes through this meta-filter which applies a consistency and ultimately a complete freedom. Perhaps this is how the Chinese ended up with animal styles in the first place; various personalities found ways give their personal arsenal of attacks and defenses a coherent vibe.
The strikes, blocks/checks, takedowns, and grappling are only the most obvious and visible elements. Every moment before and after the “move” is just as important, or more important, to the movement. When in that zone, everything just works.