I was. For a good 10 years. Maybe more.
When I began in this art in the prehistoric '80s, no one knew anything. Well, some said they did. But looking back, I tend to feel differently. Not many had even been to Japan, much less separated ninja fact from fiction. Even something as basic to our art like Sanshin no kata, to this day, you will find fact mixed with fiction.
Since we are currently studying this in my basics class tonight, I thought i would write about it. My CURRENT understanding of the forms (open to new info), is this:
What is often called "sanshin no kata," is actually only one exercise in a series. The series includes
Sanshin no kata
Gogyou no kata
Goshin no kata
Sanshin no kata is the swingy arm movement similar to chi no kata. But it is also a way of moving. The whole body taijutsu that makes our techniques effective at a basic level. It can be used in the context of nearly any technique, from kicks to grappling and the obvious punches. It should be done in all directions. The ura form includes the cross with the opposite leg leading.
Shoshin gokei are the five forms everyone calls "sanshin no kata." Chi, Sui, Ka, Fu, and Ku no kata. Meant to be done solo in the air. Also moving, and in all directions. The ura form is included. Please don't add "theories" of earth movement and water, etc. The names are simply a counting system.
Gogyo no kata are the same five forms done against an attacker. The movement can change considerably with the variables of the type of attack given, and the nature of your opponent. Also to be done with ura versions included, and in all directions.
Goshin no kata is when you do a continuous, non-stop repetition of one of the five forms endlessly without an attacker until one of two things occurs. The form naturally and spontaneously shifts or changes to one of the other forms, OR you reach satori (a flash of enlightenment).
So far I haven't said much about HOW to move. This can't be taught in words. You need an experienced teacher to help with that. But even there, many experienced teachers have been confused by misinformation or the lack of information. I challenge teachers and students alike to examine why they do what they do. Where they learned it, where the info. came from. And when. Does it make sense? Would it work? If not, why not? Is it because the form is being done poorly or just wrong in the first place?
I can tell you, when done correctly, our Bujinkan is VERY effective. And please check in with Japan. The teachers there can help you sort through all of this. If not, you throw out thousands of years of knowledge and are floating free in a fog of your own confusion. I might visit you there, but I try not to overstay my welcome.