Why Kali Flow Drills Don't Work (And How to Make Sure They Do)
I think Guro Mike brings up some excellent points, in fact I remember teaching my students something similar. Don't pull your punches, control them. Know your targets. Do not freeze after you launch your technique, because we want natural movement. And last but not least we want to break away from the pattern and eventually go into free form. For me I got these pointers after studying Bruce Lee's books.
While I do think these pointers are highly valuable, and also the ones made by Guro Mike (which are similar) I've also added another view point. Talking to my Youtube friend BlacksilkBlacksilk about martial arts and reality. Many a times we have talked about how there are exercises and drills found in martial arts that do not look like they are for fighting but they actually develop attributes that can greatly benefit a fighter. For example Boxers skip rope, they go running, they do crunches. There are plenty of people in the world that do this kind of thing but can't fight, but Boxers add this to their training and they spend an awful amount of time doing such things. So I believe it is important to understand that exercises for combat that do not look like it do exist and that they are valid.
It hit me big when I saw Floyd Mayweather training focus mitts and he was just tapping, those punches looked like he was playing patty cake, no target in mind, no power, but it was smooth and he flowed. It reminded me of Hubud and Chi Sao.
Another big help for me was when I was training in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. One day I began to listen to my opponent's body. I guess this naturally occurred after I was comfortable with all the major positions, escapes, techniques including submissions, counters, defenses, that I was able to focus more on the "game" and as I listened I was able to transition from one technique to the next. I remember my instructor pointed it out to the class and said what made me dangerous is that I had sensitivity skills. I wondered where did I get such skills? Then I realized, my training in Chi Sao and Aikido. I was applying my Wing Chun and Aikido background to my BJJ.
So my point is, I think making your drills and exercises more realistic is a good thing, especially if you gradually do so, I see so many reality based martial arts instructors in the name of being realistic and practical, just put on padding and go hard on each other without enough skill development. But also don't be scared that your making bad habits by practicing exercises that do not look combative, know that these exercises when combined together with other material become combat practical, but until then they are just incomplete pieces to a whole. Some exercises are just meant to be practiced without any literal or direct practical combat application, these exercises work on developing superior body mechanics that will aid you when the time comes.