I’m currently reading a book on history and the author made a distinction between what she termed as “internal memory” and “external memory”. It is part of a discussion on the nature of cultures which predominately record their history orally, and the nature of cultures that predominately recorded their information in writing.
“Internal memory” was the related to the dances, memorised stories, myths, etc that a people will learn, internalise and then teach in order to preserve their culture. The information is recorded with in the people and no physical recording material is utilised.
“External Memory” was related to writing. One person writes it down, and then all others who can read can access that information. In this case the information is recorded externally to the people via a physical medium i.e. paper and ink.
The author makes the point that for external memory to function, people simply need to be taught to access it. So you teach people to read, use the internet, etc.
For internal memory to function, the story, the dance, etc needs to be thoroughly internalised by the individual.
It struck me that kata is a great example of “internal memory”. They are 100% internal. The kata does not exist physically or external to us. You can’t ask for a kilo of kata, or for someone to safely store your kata for you. They don’t exist in a physical sense. They only exist within us.
We also need them to be within us in the form of “combative habits” so we are to be able to utilise them in dangerous situations. Kata could therefore be viewed as a means of “internal memory” to pass combative habits from one person to another.
I liked the internal / external memory idea and I think it could help us to succinctly explain the nature of kata.
All the best,