If kata are the formal transmission in the martial arts, how can they be different every time? Are they static or evolving based on where your understanding is in the moment?
In our jin ryaku no maki section of training, we have a number of kata to learn, practice, and explore and why would they be shown different if they are supposed to all be done the same way?
Perhaps kata need to be explored based on the needs of the moment, and when I was asked this question of "why", I responded with the following considerations.
The aim of a teacher is to give the student a feeling of the transmission of movement, layered with all the techniques in the art, the finesse of how to bring them alive, while at the same time navigating where the student is in the moment with their own personal movement and what is needed to get them to the next level.
I have been shown kata, and based on my own shortcomings of movement, been told to do a certain part one way, or focus on some aspect of the kata as a way to get the movement I am lacking.
Essentially, practice the kata this way until I'm told otherwise.
Sometimes this goes for a few months, other times much longer.
Now imagine we are training in a group, and I'm called up to demonstrate one of these kata- my teacher has told me that until other-wise do the kata in a certain way- so that is what I'm going to do, which may be a bit out of turn with what is the standard shown.
On the opposite side, when a teach is teaching from a kata, the composition of the group needs to be carefully considered. What is the level of experience- in some of the more complex movements, where strong solid ukemi is needed, perhaps chaining some of the throws to a bit easier is warranted because the class in not at that level yet.
In this way the kata can still be explored, but it is challenging enough to push growth in movement.
Maybe the instructor is showing it a certain way, to try and focus on a type of movement in the art- to isolate and transmit that movement to the students.
There are many reasons why a kata might be shown differently.
In class, one should do it, and perform it as shown by the teacher- capture the feeling in that moment, and later after class one can figure out the how and why it was shown that way.