At what point do the questions of "who taught whom?" and "from where do we derive specific techniques?" cease to matter?
Every so often, in the Martial Arts community, we hear stories about some instructor or other who is teaching under questionable credentials. Perhaps evidence comes to light that his own teacher outright forbid him from teaching the art, or, his supposed teacher, is a figment of some apparent mythology he created to attract students. We seem to think, as Martial Arts students, that an instructors lineage is one measure of that instructors worth. However, I can't help but wonder at what point lineage should cease to be a concern.
For example, there might be a karateka who has trained for a significant number of years with a particular instructor. In that time, he has learned much and honed his skills to excellent levels. For all intents and purposes, he is a competent practioner. However, as he continues training, he realizes that there are things that he wants to know that he cannot learn from his instructor. Perhaps, he is enamored with a particular kata that is not a part of his instructor's curriculum. So, he starts looking for someone to teach him the kata.
He goes from school to school, asking if someone will teach him, but noone will. The kata is an advanced one and therefore all the instructors he meets tell him that he must enter their school and spend the four to six years earning rank before he can learn the kata. The student is still training with his first instructor and has no desire to leave. Moreover, he is working full time and trying to maintain his thriving social life. He has neither the time nor the finances to dedicate to another karate school.
Realizing that he will not find an instructor to teach him the kata, he jumps on youtube and locates several videos of it. From imitating these videos, he learns the motions of the kata to the best of his abilities. He practices them until they feel precise and powerful. We can also assume that, in regards to training the kata, the student has also given significant thought to bunkai. He is pleased that he now knows a new and wonderful kata.
For the sake of this thought experiment, I want to propose several outcomes.
1) The student returns to his instructor, eager to share what he has learned. The instructor admires his students drive for learning. He lets the student demonstrate the kata for him and even allows the student to teach it to him.
2) The instructor sees what his student admires about the kata, and decides to share it with the entire class. After becoming somewhat proficient at the kata, the instructor (with the student's help) shares the kata with the entire class.
3) After improving his competence in the kata, the instructor decides to add it to the advanced curriculum for his school.
4) The student returns to the school, but worries that his instructor would not like his endeavor to learn a new kata not on the curriculum. However, he feels a burning need to share the kata with someone. He offers to teach the kata to a handful of the junior students in the class. On weekends, for the next several months, the students meet, so that the senior student can teach the kata to the junior students.
5) The student does not share the kata with anyone at his instructors school, but continues to diligently practice it for many years. Eventually, the student opens his own karate school. Naturally, in addition to the kata he learned from his instructor, he also includes this kata on his own curriculum.
6) As above, the instructor opens his own school and teaches the kata. Half a centuary later, the person who has inhereted his lineage is still teaching that kata in addition to the rest of the curriculum as taught fifty years prior. This person does not know, nor has he/she ever wondered where or how this particular kata became part of his/her curriculum.
How might we judge these various outcomes? Can the student rightfully teach the kata to anyone? Does it matter whether the student or his more talented instructor is teaching it? Does the kata belong on either the instructor's curriculum or his student's? Would you think less of a school that teaches something that the instructor did not learn in-person? Does it matter that after learning it, the student spent time practicing it with other martial artists of varying experience?
This is something that has been bouncing around in my head. I would love to hear others' thoughts on the matter.