I think we may have some differences in our terminology.
I refer “kata” to one-person activities, “in the air” as someone previous described it on this forum. (“Training is usually practiced in solo form (kata), but also has partner forms (kumetachi” http://home.stny.rr.com/iama/az.html
Then we have a “drill”, which is done with a partner. This implies the application of the kata. It’s there to practice timing, footwork, distancing, against a real person, to put things into perspective. This is rarely done full force/speed.
Then there are more complex drills like Migi. This incorporates several techniques, ie techniques from 3 different kata can be put together in a drill, and this drill is circular. We often start doing these stop-start, even our 3rd dan. Then gradually we speed up if we have the skill or ability. No one aimlessly bludgeons.
I don’t agree that “pulling” (and I’m assuming you mean “pulling back from hitting) detracts from the genuality (probably not a word but hey) of the attack. All of our higher grades are capable putting their all (speed, strength etc) into a cut and then either slowing down drastically or stopping when they predict that their opponent will not block successfully. I’m beginning to get to this stage too. We all know our limits however, and no one will do something they can’t, ie, I will not go full speed/force against a lower ranked student because I know that if they stuff up I might hit them.
“Free sparring” to me is Randori. An attack is made, and the opponent has to counter it. This is done stop-start almost right through to 3rd Kyu, or not even then if you haven’t got the skill. I associate the name Randori with RANDOM, and that’s basically what it is. I do it half-speed or ľ speed at this stage, and Randori is a drill in which there are the LEAST cuts and bruises.
Now, getting to my original post, now that I have given some background information. Maybe I was wrong in implying that our STYLE is fully traditional. I’m yet to research that, but in this area our school is known for striving to be as genuine as possible. What IS traditional, is the STRATEGIES our sensei uses to teach. As a student teacher I can refer this to constructivism, ie, we learn through experience when ever we can. I have an example in which 7 months ago, for the life of me, I couldn’t do a proper Muko block. I was TOLD and explained about how to do it. But until I was put into the situation of someone actually making the cut, it was all pretty abstract to me. I did not even pick it up when a student just went through the motions of cutting and then stopped at my sword so that it LOOKED as if I had blocked properly. That didn’t teach me anything, that was like denial.
Then I was paired up with someone who actually made an ‘intentional’ cut. No only did I not block, but my knuckles didn’t appreciate it much. However, that experience taught me what I was doing wrong. And now, even though my Muko block is not exactly perfect, I can deflect the blade sufficiently without getting cut.
We sometimes learn the hard way, yes, and it’s through this that sometimes things get ‘rough’, but never are they malicious. So even if whatever style is taught is not done 100% as the Japanese did it way back when, our school still has elements of the traditional discipline methods. Here are a few excerpts to illustrate my point:
“The koryu (as we sometimes say for short), on the other hand, were primarily arts created by and for the warrior class of Japan's feudal period. A few traditions still exist that were actually used on the battlefields of pre-Tokugawa Japan, and in these systems effectiveness of the killing technique is still paramount.”
“For the most part, however, the techniques of the koryu still retain an element of danger; protective gear is typically not used. Safety is less important than efficacy; though wooden weapons are usually used in place of live steel blades, these can still do considerable damage if an error is made, and one learns to function out at the edge.”http://www.koryu.com/koryu.html
“Our self-protection method is a very ancient Japanese discipline of warrior skills forged in a dangerous time when brutal assailants felt that no type of attack was out of the question. Therefore, we and our spiritual ancestors have had to emphasize a total system of self-protection without the rule limits of the newer sport and recreation martial arts.”http://home.stny.rr.com/iama/az.html