I haven't shared on this forum in a while, but wanted share some ideas I've been trying lately in a video below.
A bit of context:
When I was kid if I asked my grandmother what a word meant she would tell me to go “look it up”. I think that as instructors, when it comes to getting students to grasp kata application, we need to be telling them to go look it up, rather than give them “our” interpretation of the kata. Our interpretation defintely has it's place. However, this is part of Shu Ha Ri. They can copy us, as they should, but we need to give them tools to go beyond what we show them. This exercise can be done with any kata and can be turned into a fun way to let your students explore applications that work for THEM!
I still do intervene and guide if a student is struggling. This isn't something I'd put a white belt through without some heavy guidance, but by the time they've made a few ranks they will have a process for figuring out what some of their kata movements based on having done similar exercises from their earlier Kata's. It in no way replaces direct instruction. It's just a tool to help them grow beyond what MY interpretations are. Different body types mean you have to be able to adapt techniques that suit you or the situation.
I could and do still teach self-defense in isolation outside of kata. You still have to have that. But I want my student to be able to learn from their kata if I'm not around. I haven't had a primary instructor for over 10 years. I've relied heavily on my kata to continue to develop my skills. Your instruction won't always be spoon fed to you. At some point you have to dig out those old "combat manuals" and see what they are trying to show you. The sensei can help you interpret the manuals with an exercise like this. I don't want my students to be carbon copies of me. I want them to read these manuals (kata) , study them, play with them, and come away wiht their own ideas and skills. How boring would it be if we all read the same book and had the same opinions of it at the end?
-At no point does my partner start from a one-step or greater distance from a down block. We are starting from in-close, grappling/application range
-My responses to her counters are simple and not complex. They stick to the movements in the kata, but I’m adapting them to HER actions. Your responses should be realistic, meaning it is something you could actually “see” yourself doing.
-You can make a game of this where your partner attacks at close range and you get to respond with a technique from your kata. They get to counter with whatever they think they would do naturally.
Keep things slow and relaxed and you can gradually build into some progressive resistance.