Since I never trained in a super traditional dojo, I can't speak to the specifics of how those places train. When I learned, we learned the entire Heian series at once and drilled them as a group from the beginning. Then we learned Tekki Shodan and then Hangetsu. That was our foundation. And since it was very small group of people training, class tended to have lots of variation in the kihon and lots of partner drills beyond the standard 1-3-5 step sparring. My perspective on the value of the repetition for muscle memory comes from my sparring experience outside of karate. When I went out and sparred outside of karate, I found that I was able to improvise and apply techniques/defenses that I had never formally drilled because I had drilled them in the katas so many time. Things would happen and I'd find myself flowing into kata sequences because they just naturally worked. Not 6 steps sequences with turning on the heel and yada, yada, yada but 2-4 step sequences. It was eye opening. Was it a substitute for drilling specific techniques over and over again? No, it was a complement to them. Specific drilling would have refined those techniques. But you can't drill every thing every class. There just isn't enough time in the day to handle your fundamentals then drill every technique presented in a dozen or more kata and then actively apply them via sparring. Let me lay out how i would teach it to illustrate my point. In the ideal world, I'd take a kata (say Bassai Dai since I referenced that earlier), and teach the kata in it's entirety. My kihon would be specific sequences from the kata to reinforce those movements, the balance, transitions, etc. Then partner drills on specific applications from those specific sequences. Then sparring. And that would be the only way you teach for a year or more. But that can't work in a large class with multiple mixed belts learning different katas at the same time. Kihon ends up being less kata relevant because everyone isn't doing the same kata, even if they're doing the same kihon. My experience showed me that just the constant repetition of kata was making me a better fighter. Are there better ways to drill specific techniques? Absolutely. But, to me, the kata should be treated as the foundation for the specific techniques you're drilling that day. Do the kata, drill the techniques from the kata including the transitions, repeat the kata. Go spar. But for the techniques that you're not drilling, doing the other kata is a way to get some of the repetition in that will improve the techniques later. But that's my experience. Everyone's karate journey is different and the more traditional the dojo and the larger the classes, the less relevant my experience seems to be.