I am thinking this evening about whether instructors held information back from students in the past. Now I haven’t been to Okinawa nor do I have any secret information.
This came about because I have been re-watching a Harry Potter movie, the one where he found an older book on Advanced Potions for class, which had tons of old notes in it. And when Harry followed those instructions he made all the preparation of potions work, exceedingly well. Yes it is fiction. But it also serves to make a point.
The way alchemy was being taught was more about following directions, which did not necessarily work well. Which the school know quite well. Any student to succeed had to do their own research, over and over, till they got it right. And the rest were left clueless that what they were taught was only a piece of the picture.
In that fictional world the point was that apparently the students were not given the correct instructions, because the society did not really want them all to be competent at mixing magical potions.
Of course if the student actually did that extra work, then they would believe in their personal notes and develop subtle skills in their art.
Now return to karate. There are analogous points that can be made.
1. There is a case that this was how karate was taught in the past, and thus it would be how it was taught in the present. A case was this is how it was taught to me. Where some material may have waited 20 ot more years.
a. Till the student was sufficiently skilled.
b. Where the student proved they were in it for the long haul
2. Much may not have been taught until the student was actually deep enough into the study. The time, the place, the actual need
3. And of course there may well have been other reasons.\
On the other hand the instructors I have trained with in various arts, who were deepest into their own application studies, they proved to be a different story.
Tristan Sutrisno, in his fathers study of Shotokan, Aikido and Indonesian Tjimande were very much into application of the arts. So much so he would not stop sharing them with his students and friends. Literally born into the tradition, he only saw the art as the continual practice of the applications. My short 10 years partial study, has yielded enough practice for a lifetime of study.
Then, Sherman Harrill, who started alongside my original study, spent 40 years working and sharing potential in Isshinryu movement. Again I only trained with him at clinics over 10 short years. He was constrained at those clinics at individuals without the full training in his classes, but he exuberantly demonstrated potential application after application. That said he shared some 800 application potentials for our 8 kata. Since that time I have met his Senior student, John Kerker, and trained with him a few hours over the years. That experience showed me what was missing in those clinics. The training practices, etc. which could not be shared at a 8 hour clinic. In any case, the study of application potential is just the first step. Then properly preparing the body, drills such as decades on makiwara, etc. were needed. Only then were application realization possible.
These and others I have trained with were so into the full practice of the art, that they could not teach what they were doing with the practice.
IMVHO, this seems to be the standard with those I have trained with that do. Their art or practice could not be hidden under a barrel.
Which of course does not imply what Okinawan experience was of is. And these practices do not imply they are a better way, just a different experience, perhaps.