This will only be a quick thought.
I was just thinking about the difference between having an understanding of a subject, and simply having a rote memorized knowledge base. In martial arts it is like the difference between “principle in practice” and “technique answering”. Often, I get asked the question, “what would you do if I did…?” and I always answer, that I don’t know, but one thing that I could do is… This is true because I am not trying to pair a specific attack with specific counters. Instead, I am trying to practice specific techniques until I have gained an understanding of the principle/principles at work and then once my mind and body have absorbed that understanding, I let the principle guide my response to each attack. This gives me the freedom to counter an attack a thousand thousand different ways. This is “principle in practice.”
“Technique answering” is simply when you never progress beyond the rote memorization of technique A to counter technique B. This is a mistake of intent. If you are attempting to have a rehearsed answer to every attack, your brain will be so overwhelmed and cluttered that it will never be able to function properly. But the process is not wrong, it is the intent that is in need of correction. What the brain needs is to develop a decision making matrix, or a simple set of parameters to determine what is the best way to decide how to respond to any given stimuli. This is done through lots and lots of repetition of many different kinds of stimuli paired with responses so the brain can then sort the data and establish patterns. Those patterns then become the matrix that decides how you respond to any given stimuli.
What the student should be doing is looking to understand the principles that make something work, their strengths, and weaknesses. When you understand those things on an instinctive level then you can be free of the rehearsed techniques and respond spontaneously, originating new techniques and mixing and matching pieces of rehearsed techniques to perfectly fit the specific situation and its own unique nuances.