Once a year as part of celebrating the New Year of martial arts training, I haul out some of the storage boxes containing my old martial arts stuff- pictures, historical weapons, training notes and journals.
Lots of techniques, kata, and class notes. There is a reason why these are in a box, at one time they were very important. A decade or so later, not so much. The best that a martial arts teacher (sensei) can do, is cut down the learning time for the next generation of students.
Certainly, with the martial arts being a physical art, there is no way getting around just putting in the time- hours and hours of kihon (basics) practice. But there are mistakes that every person is going to make on the path, mistakes that can be corrected but will take some time to dig out of. It it too me a few years to correct my own mistakes, I should be able to see those in a student and help them correct the same mistake in less (half?) the time.
When it is time for them to correct it for the next generation, likewise, it should be even less time. The first few times we struggle to learn a new technique, it might be useful outside of class to write down the movement, maybe sketch out some of the footwork positions, etc. Working on anchoring the movement, and just sorting out the steps. Later, as one become more proficient in the movement, and it becomes movement without thinking, these early notes and steps in movement are no longer needed. The key is knowing when to let go of martial arts notes as a training tool.
Kata are important, they are the building blocks of movement, and for some arts, the highest level of its expression. But when is the time to move past them?
Sh ha ri.
When I was shown various ryu-ha kata, I wrote them down after class. These served as a skeleton of steps practice outside of class- often quite wrong from the kata. Over time I corrected them, and through repetition would just have them memorized in terms of movement. I even knew most of the names by heart, but would occasionally have to look back to make sure I had the right name.
At some point when I would read the kata descriptions I no longer saw the steps or footwork of that kata, rather I saw myself being shown it, through my teachers, along with the *feeling* of it, like remembering a dream or happy memory from year ago. Somewhere along the line, the steps became the feeling, and that is when all the notes went into boxes.
At some point one moves past training notes, and they become a waste of time- be ready to see this and work on enjoying the moment and receiving the transmission behind the kata.