What I was taught was extremely rigid, canned moves that might work if you were extremely lucky enough for an attacker to come at you in precisely the manner they trained you for, but if they deviated at all, if all you had to rely on were the moves you were taught (and you couldn't improvise on your own), you'd be toast.
I'm training in a school with a similar upbringing. It has deviated a lot from that in the last years, and so there was a lot of discussion about that issue.
The philosophy behind what you're criticizing is that you're learning thousands of techniques, every one for a different situation (opponent properties such as stance, weight distribution, movement, inertia, total weight, height, agitation, etc.). Then you repeat them so often that you just know which one to use when, without thinking (aka moving the information to the cerebellum).
The problem with it is that it takes a looong time to get that far, maybe 20-40 years, depending on the person's talent. This clashes with western philosophy, where something that takes longer than a week isn't considered to be viable. Thus, many western schools move more towards teaching principles instead of techniques, which allows you to react to a random situation much earlier in training, but your responses aren't as elaborate (which isn't that important in self defense, since the first attack usually strikes down an untrained/inattentive opponent anyways).