Whenever I teach jugglery, I always use martial arts analogies. Seems time to talk about martial arts through juggling analogy.
When a juggler is new they typically have a handful of patterns, tricks and jokes. Often it is a grab bag of ideas that have never been developed into a performance quality demonstration.
The first thing I encourage a newer juggler to do is to start writing a routine, a kata of sorts. By writing the sequence down it gives people time to think about the flow between techniques and patterns. It helps structure the mind so the new juggler does not keep returning to the same patterns and forgetting their other patterns.
For me, writing, developing and losing myself into a juggling kata before a competition is a pure meditative act. Making a system for myself is what has helped me make a name for myself in a world of manipulators.
Such is the argument for a system. It helps organize thought and movements.
My idea has had an unintended consequence. I gained a level of mastery and I slacked on the regular practice. By body now moves through the sequence of moves I have trained into it. Creativity has been sacrificed for mastery of the system. The effortless of my previous mastery is always a default rather than moving with new techniques and ideas. My evolution as a juggler has stopped.
My path in the martial arts has been similar. I was trained in a particular systems of combat movements and they became my entire practice for many years. I became stuck thinking the system is aiki. I always moved in default movements, rather then moving with creativity and appropriateness. I tried to fabricate the conditions of kata in my sparring, rather then using what the encounter had really given me.
The systems we all train in are excellent training tools to get our ignorant bodies moving in proven principles. Besides using our thinking powers to see the strength of our system, we need to invest as much time seeing the errors in our own practice. A system teaches us to move in a set of patterns, but ask yourself always if the set of patterns is what is most efficient and appropriate. A giant world of motion lays outside the kata and is waiting to aid your established patterns. After gaining our initial freedom gained by kata, do we become trapped in a pattern by that same system?
Keep growing and learning. In juggling there is a saying, if you are not dropping, you are not learning.