If you have an analytical mind, it may help you to systematically break down all the possibilities. I have done this before to some extent - writing them out in a notebook. I know some people with drawing skills who have done this along with nice overhead-view illustrations.
If you want to be analytical, or taxonomical, it's basically a process of dividing a mass of information into parts and those parts into more parts. The usefulness of your taxonomy is largely a function of how well you make the first cut.
Right now you've got an unorganized morass of techniques and variations and attacks. Where to make the cut? I decided to start with the attacks, because that's what happens first. There aren't that many traditional attacks (coincidence? accident?). So I started out with
Then I identified every directional response to each attack, since that's the first thing I do. So for Shomenuchi, there is going straight in to the front preemptively, out of which proliferates go-for-the-chin irimi, and the whole ikkyo, nikkyo, sankyo... series. There's going in to the back, which begets irimi nage variations. There's a tenkan response, which would give way to subcategories, depending upon whether your arm is over, under, or beside theirs... You get the idea. Perhaps it's only something you could do with more experience.
Another possibility would be to get yourself some index cards. At the end of each class, write the name of each attack plus technique on its own card, and leave the back for notes. You could accumulate the cards and decide how to organize them later.
How much energy you want to spend on this kind of thing depends upon assessing how important your intellectualizing faculty is to you and your learning. On the one hand it might make you more comfortable, on the other, it might end up being a dead end. Maybe you would be better off just dealing with the uncertainty, trying to do what you see in class, and not worrying about trying to make sense of it.
I went through my analytical process in preparation for a test. I knew there was jiyu waza from a moving ushiro attack and a shomenuchi attack, so I went over dozens of baroque taxonomized variations I planned to run through. When the test came, I think I looked overqualified enough up until that point that a couple of heavy hitters came up for ukemi, with the idea of really pushing me. Their attacks were so serious that all my baroque variations went out the window and I had to act from a more 'instinctive' place. I think one was really attempting to embarass me. Anyway, it turned out well. I didn't get to use most of my carefully developed taxonomy of techniques. Whether the process was of any use I don't know.
Last edited by Kevin Wilbanks : 10-17-2002 at 10:12 PM.