William, it sounds like what Don's talking about is sort of like taking photocopies of photocopies, or transmitting a signal across a long distance (in both cases you get gradually fuzzier with time).
I.e., if each generation's understanding of what they are aiming for depends primarily on the accuracy of their copy of the previous generation or two before them (and they are unable to test their copy or generate new first-hand knowledge as Don suggests, as an error correction measure), then it's like a lossy system, or a system with distortion. (Each generation gets just slightly different from the previous one, but without some kind of error-detection the difference will on average be random and on average won't just happen to be an improvement). In such a system the degree of accuracy depends highly on the distance from the source. In such a system you can improve the transmission and make the decay (or distortion) slower, but without some kind of sanity checking along the way it's just slower decay.
Makes sense, actually.
Sort Of.... Then I thought about it for about 15 seconds and came up with a whole host of contradictions like for example Shaolin Gung Fu and then the copy analogy does not work either as all the Martial Arts I know of are a reflection of thier teacher and every teacher is different.
You can't escape the 80/20 rule however for every ten "Rex Kwan Do's" (Bonus Points if you know where this name comes from) there are a few who strive to be the best they can and transmit what they have learned....
Your choice... You can be Kip Dynamite or the next Bruce Lee or like most mortals.... train hard to avoid the former always striving to be the latter.
Napoleon Dynamite: Stay home and eat all the freakin' chips, Kip.
Kip: Napoleon, don't be jealous that I've been chatting online with babes all day. Besides, we both know that I'm training to be a cage fighter.
Napoleon Dynamite: Since when, Kip? You have the worst reflexes of all time.
Kip: Try and hit me, Napoleon.
Napoleon Dynamite: What?
Kip: I said come down here and see what happens if you try and hit me.
Rex: At Rex Kwan Do, we use the buddy system. No more flying solo. You need somebody watching your back at all times. Second off, you're gonna learn to discipline your image. You think I got where I am today because I dressed like Peter Pan over here?
[points to Kip]
Rex: Take a look at what I'm wearing, people. You think anybody wants a roundhouse kick to the face while I'm wearing these bad boys? Forget about it. Last off, my students will learn about self respect. You think anybody thinks I'm a failure because I go home to Starla at night? Forget about it!