Doing a quick late night email check, found a comment from a guy comparing flow drills from Kali Ilustrissimo and Krabi Krabong to Serrada. I watched the clips he was referencing, and yes, there is a flow that reminds me of Serrada. I was also reminded of what it was like for me when I was learning the art. There is a process of recognition, that by identifying what we see with what we already know we accelerate our learning curve. However, there are different levels of learning, from superficial mimicry to deep creative intuition. Thinking about what he wrote, I came up with a short definition of two phases of understanding relationship between arts:
Seeing similarities is important for recognizing what is going on.
Seeing differences is important for analyzing what is going on.
While the first phase is the heuristic process of experiential learning to which Mushtaq Ali refers in his blog, the second is the ability to discern subtle variations, not just between systems but between styles of individual practitioners. Thus a beginner will see the broad outline of something and get it because it reflects what he already knows and can see, a classic example of projection, a reality that reflects who we think we are. A more sophisticated person goes a step beyond, using knowledge as a reference base to discover the parts that are not known.
We can see this in a child's development and use of language. At first the child may say "car" to anything that moves on wheels, move on to "red car" and then "nice red car, finally graduating to "Ooh, cool red Ferrari!" The ability to discriminate between things leads to specificity. In martial arts, or sports like football, it is important to be able to analyze and break down an opponent's moves and tendencies, their strengths and weaknesses.
Just as Bruce Lee's punch once again became just a punch, so too can our perspective on association versus differentiation. Having learned to nuance details, one can begin to ignore the smaller points because one's heuristic field has filled in the gaps so thoroughly as to bring up few new surprises. One can scan the big picture, grasp the essence of the whole, and intuit the details on that fluid creative level. One no longer sweats the petty stuff, transcending knowledge with understanding. Thus one can go full circle in approaching a subject. It's like those black belts that get so worn out they fray and become white again. It's why so many masters are humble, because they've gotten past judgementalism to once again have a beginner's mind.