Knowing the difference between training the style and training for usage.
When training the style we generally train to achieve belts, gradings or so called 'secret' techniques. This is so we can advance up the hierarchy, become teachers and then obtain fame and riches beyond our dreams.
Now this is fine if you just want to impress others, as then its more about what your art looks like, rather than how useful it is.
But they may come a time when you need to actually use what you have learnt or are teaching. Its a bit like training in a boxicise class and then expecting that type of training to be of any use in a real boxing ring with someone trying to hit you. You'll definitely be fit from the training you have done but in a moving punch bag kind of way.
So rather than blindly following the herd and trying to fit in, annoy your teacher by asking questions that start how, why, what and when. Get used to not having tai chi stabilisers on your martial bike. Teachers are only a guide not a crutch.
Too many people waste time writing down or videoing what their teacher is doing, focusing on the end result rather than the preparatory moves.
Instead watch what your teacher is actually doing to get to this end result. Look at the position of their feet, legs, waist/centre line, arms/hands, head and how they move prior to the end technique.
Think about the journey not just the destination.
Training usage will be very raw and informal, no belts, bowing or kung fu film nonsense, remember its not a sparring bout. Your just trying to find out what will work for you personally, not for your instructor or for your style.
Pretty techniques become ugly, stances will blend and single techniques will become multiple ones. The situation will become more fluid due to the changes of intensity, speed, force and impact and yes you will have to receive and give force. This last part always comes as a shock.
In practicing a martial art so you can defend yourself you may be injured or injure another, it's just the way it is. Expect a lot of rough and tumble.
But as we are not training predatory ambush fighting - a very different type of mind set, mostly it will be counter defence against a single but normally a number of assailants- this is a very important point to realise, forget a solo honour duel more like defending against a pack of wolves.
Your 'one hit, one kill' technique won't work - you can't JUST be static, slow, quick or only groundfight, grapple, punch or kick etc.
So out of your style which techniques work. Who knows? it will depends on the situation.
Now you can act out certain scenarios, this is helpful to practice and engrain certain responses but be careful not to let it become a bad amateur dramatics play.
It's the principles and strategies behind the techniques that need to be learnt, within the practical aspects of evading, diverting, discharging and escaping.
Try not to be in a mind set were the techniques leads the situation but the situation leads the techniques.
I teach the style and usage equally, learning the style of your art helps to train the mind and body in a classical and historical sense. Usage helps to understand the art in a realistic sense.