Great thread - interested to hear other thoughts on this, but here’s my take, and I’ll use an example of this hinoki below.
It’s not a piece of ‘yamadori’ - it has been grown, presumably, from nursery material. It did however present some of the challenges that collected material comes with. That being minimal branching and a couple awkward placements. It has more “flaws” than what I mention below.
The rule I had to break was in deciding what to keep and what to cut to get a staggered branch/pad placement, and to that point, I cut off no major branches when styling this tree. Instead I relied on some sound advice from Bjorn (not specifically about this tree, but another) about how to utilize illusion in styling.
The illusion here is that the entire upper right part of the tree originates from a more vertical branch below (marked yellow). The right upper pad and rear pad were created from this. My takeaway from a lot of books, or from being on forums, seems to be an obsession with perfection. I spent almost 10 years fumbling through this before someone threw the idea of illusion at me and, it changed everything.
Rules would have said to cut this branch off, maybe graft something, maybe would have eliminated the tree from consideration as a bonsai? But I’m glad I didn’t do any of that. This tree isn’t perfect, and most are not. Sometimes you’ve got to learn to use what’s there and see it for more than it appears.
If you have the means, ask Bjorn, Ryan or any other professional that has worked in Japan about doing a skype styling session - or even better - an in-person one (I still have not unfortunately). It’s worth the cost of admission.