I think we are all on the same page here. No one is saying that katas are completely useless silly dances (okay, maybe I said that once when I was little less diplomatic
). But we all value the more dynamic and interactive methods of training to a much higher degree.
One comparison I use with someone who has gone through what I consider to be a "belt-factory" is to boxing and wrestling. Now, happy thoughts from gurus aside, martial arts are for fighting, they are for your defense and to hurt someone else. If you want to find your focus and gain peace in your life I don't think that a dojo is the place to do it. This is where I usually excuse myself from further particpation with many schools and trains of thought.
If we get past that intro, I get back to my comparison. I try to take the hypothetical out of it. In other words, many people can train forever and potentially never use what skill we have developed. People who are really training to fight, for a living or for competition (ie- professional boxers or olympic/collegiate wrestlers) do not repeat movements countless times, study the theories behind those movements and then jump into the ring or onto the mat. To be sure, they achieve the best physical shape they cna be in through excercise
, but when it comes to developing their "art" they spar and they train dynamicaly, with skilled oponents. That is how one develops fighting skill, IMHO.
Reminds me of a funny thing, I was invited to attend a TKD class one time when I was about 14-15. I went to the class and stood in the back, kinda keeping quiet and wondering what was going on. I expected to see Sho Kosugi flying through the air and what I saw was Bob Villa teaching everyone how to walk forward and count in some cooky language. Near the end of the very disappointing class we lined up in two opposing lines and we were told to spar. The person who invited me had set me up with someone who "really knew his stuff", so he could help me. The guy got into a cool looking stance, advanced forward and threw a kick. I very ungracefully grabbed his foot and twisted it to the outside and throwing him down, I dropped a knee into his gut and held him down. That was my last TKD class.
So, I learned a lot of lessons. First of all, if the instructor lets people into his class and doens't even introduce them to the concpets at hand, something is wrong. Secondly, I learned that pinning someone on the ground is not an accepted Tae Kwon Do technique.
Most importantly, I became accutely aware of something I think I already knew: that fighting is fighting and when somone tries to hurt you you need to react as effectively and as efficiently as possible, not be constrained by a framework of accepted movements or techniques.