Well I sincerely hope I do not make you regret the invitation
At the higher level forms become important. These are based in philosophical sciences. The idea is that you practise what you claim. Thought, word and deed.
There is no differentiation from hand to hand combat with weapons use. One is grounded in the other and they are inherently interchangeable.
It is easier to begin with natural weapons. Later, tools may become an enhancement.
Your first weapon is your mind. So martial arts begins with a little academics.
The various styles of Japanese martial arts represents what individual family traditions had to offer. One soke (head of the family) called his koshijutsu (unarmed fighting). Another developed koppojutsu (bone smashing techniques). A series of sokes evolved taijutsu based upon some Chinese principles. Others again developed yet more based in local beliefs.
These would roughly be considered your forms. You build a toolbox, you use your tools.
Most forms have a series of basic postures. Each have their own character and emotional attachments.
Generally speaking it's best to answer circumstances with completely unexpected emotional responses with particular forms attached to them, given that we're talking about combat.
You attack. I let you hit me. It doesn't hurt. It's over.
That's one possibility.
You attack again, I break your toe with a stomp. Couldn't care less if you hit me. You probably weren't expecting it.
That's another possibility.
As you can see, when we stop playing punchies down the back of the school oval, when we're talking about genuine combat scenarios, the stakes escalate quickly. That's your first lesson. Fighting is not a competition, it's dangerous stuff. People get hurt, bad.
Do not fight.
What we're going to do is something else.
First be fit. You'll need it for all the running you're going to have to do. Get up in the morning and do some push ups and sit ups. Eat well. Go for a jog and say hi to some neighbours. Feel good.
Second be healthy. You'll need it to recover from all the wounds you'll be receiving. Get up in the morning and do a full stretch routine, head to ankles. Eat healthy and take multivitamins if you need to. Look out for your health doing things like jogging and be nice when saying hi to neighbours so you get all your happy vibes making your immunity system strong.
Third, know your business. Train. Go to a dojo, pick some favourite styles and go enjoy yourself two or three times a week. Make some new friends. Run yourself through some routines at home. With some buddies if they're up for it. Buy some padding, bags or whatever. If you can't get to a dojo, buy some books and train out of those. Read up on some background, for your style and MA in general, historical books, fun stuff, whatever you feel like reading. Take it to the limit, it costs no more than a few hundred bucks over an extended period and is well worth it.
Fourth, be in life. Get a job. If you're a student, get a summer job. Be responsible for yourself. Then be responsible for everything in your immediate vicinity ("the honest warrior finds himself responsible for everything in his world"). If you can't find a job or you already have one, get a hobby. Turn that into an income earner. Find a girlfriend. Or get your life into a state where girlfriends seek you out. Be famous. Be a genius. Be wealthy, whatever you have to do to love yourself. And here's the trick: never, never go against yourself. Never be evil. Never do wrong. Never be backwards. Make the whole world good if that's what you've got to do to get good. If you think you're damned by past or circumstance, then go do some charity. Go get a job in aged care. Get religious. Find a saviour (always please ask them nicely and be tremendously grateful if you don't mind). Act. Do. Get off your backside in everything, all the time. Take charge, and be good.
Fifth, it's not arrogance when you're the one who cares. Yep, here's what I'm talking about. You're going to stab me after I've been running around like a mad chicken doing all these things? Erm...you're gonna get hurt, pal.
You see in combat your first, greatest enemy is yourself. Everytime this is how it works. Many times, and in many tales this has been mentioned but is rarely well understood. Your own psychology is your first, biggest enemy, so get that part of you right with the world. And you'd damn well better, because get in real life combat and you won't even see the knife before you feel it otherwise.
Okay, so you've done all these things. You've trained for many years in a dozen styles and you've got your mind and body right. Congratulations, you're a martial arts infant. Now you begin learning.
We need a system to work with, for purely academic purposes and the elemental method is as good as any, based in mediaeval scientific philosophy.
Divide up all your forms into the elements. This is the taijutsu system of combat, each is represented physically by a characteristic posture.
Wind, centre of movement is the spine. Evasive. Hira no kamae.
Fire, centre of movement is the chest. Offensive. Jumonji no kamae.
Water, centre of movement is the hips. Defensive. Ichimonji no kamae.
Earth, centre of movement is the backside. Repulsive. Shizen no kamae.
At different times during a kung fu technique, say for a deflection, angling and rolling punches covering the offensive weapon, for example, one may find themselves moving through hira, ichimonji, jumonji and finally shizen no kamae throughout the approximately three second process. This is how it works. To apply the given forms and techniques to your elemental system, simply exaggerate the motions greatly. Treat it like a big theatre. You can safely toss the strict dojo regime at this stage and whatever sifu said, but if you're unsure then go talk with him and see what he thinks. Remember to make up your own mind in the end.
Same goes for karate, aikido, whatever. Martial arts should be treated always as a foundation upon which castles are built rather than the castle itself, but indeed keep in mind that in a capitalist world it is also a business and even your enlightened instructor may be far more concerned about his business interests and personal life than developing actual human enlightenment. I've known more than a few highly experienced martial artists to be a little...erm, competitive.
The idea is to get your existing martial arts toolbox, add to it and develop it, plus learn to apply it to your everyday life.
Someone comes a little close to the kerb in their car, whilst you're walking down the street? Ichimonji to the side and hira in a circular direction so that you'll roll and tumble if struck, rather than flop and thud. Get this to an instinctive level.
Got a sword on your belt? Shizen your opponent with an iai-draw. Make sense?
That should keep the black belt student occupied for a while longer. Beyond this there is the ultimate form, but for the moment this sort of thing should be considered the higher martial arts. Actual battlefield application.
I'll get onto the further stuff presently. It gets pretty wacky but it works. For the moment, google search some of the terms I've provided so you can see what the various postures look like and such. If you're going to practise them, make sure you concentrate the associated emotions as it is a character protrayal, not a kata stance. That part is crucial.
Hehe, puts the "art" back into martial arts, huh.