A place where this subject can be evaluated and discussed. No "bashing" allowed. "Tell us what YOU do"


Postby Rick Wilson » Fri Nov 04, 2005 6:25 am

Bunkai should not be set in stone.

Now before anyone gets upset at me, if an association wants to have a set Bunkai for testing purposes that is a separate issue from this one. They are welcome to have an example of how the majority of the association interpret the Kata. So this is not a criticism of having a set Bunkai for testing purposes.

I read on another forum an old thread with a comment from a practitioner I have respect for; however, it is a comment that I completely disagree with and will form part of what this post is about. The comment was that all applications for Kata should only come only from your teacher. While I think in the beginning of your training at the shu level this will be true that should change and I will get into that in more depth in moment.

I was once told that the Okinawans were very reluctant to create a set Bunkai for every Kata because they were afraid that these interpretations would become the “only” interpretations.

I read an article once written by a fifth degree in another style. He visited a dojo and while watching a Bunkai he noticed their application for one of the moves was different than the one he had learned. He “supposed” this was okay. So a fifth degree fell into the very trap the Okinawans were concerned about.

Neil Dunnigan always said that the applications in Kata were only limited by your imagination and willingness to hurt the other party.

Bunkai is actually analysis. It is the exploration of the Kata and more often the uses of the principles within the Kata.

What Bunkai is supposed to teach and express is understanding of the Kata.

The principles of the Kata can be applied in many ways. We are creating lines of force to be used on incoming lines of force. Because the incoming lines of force cannot be predicted in real life neither can the uses of lines of force be restricted in real life by anything other than the effectiveness of their use.

For me Bunkai for a Kata can and should be different every time I look at it.

I often take a theme for my Bunkai.

Sometimes the theme is the types of incoming lines of force. For example I may deal with all kinds of sucker punches from all kinds of angles. I may deal with grabs or holds. I will explore each move in relation to the incoming line of force and see if the lines of force generated can be used effectively against that particular line of force. We often find some amazing new things and sometimes we find that the particular line of force we are generating has little effect on “that” incoming line of force.

I will also look at a particular type of response and see how many times that response can be generated by the lines of force we are creating against various incoming lines of force. I may decide to make sure there is an emphasis on qinna or striking or takedowns.

So the focus of Bunkai for me is to true get deep into the ways to use these lines of force we create in this Kata. What will work and what will not work. When I start to look I do not have a set usage in my head. I have the action from the Kata and I usually apply the action while in movement whenever possible simply because that is how I envision the Kata. This would, of course, be different for other depending on how they perform their Kata.

So that to me is Bunkai. Analyse the Kata. Take the Kata from the hypothetic shadow boxing to having a live body. Of course that is only one step. You need to crank things up by having resistance and full intent attack and eventually you need some from of total improvisation.

But Bunkai is a part of learning and understanding. Often the teacher is demonstrating or creating the interpretation you are working on but this is a limited action for the student who is beyond the shu stage.

For as long as your teacher or someone else hands you the use of the Kata (and you need this to start) then you have only the superficial. You do not truly understand how to use that Kata because you have been handed how to use it.

To truly understand Kata and to truly learn from Kata YOU must be the one performing the Bunkai and I am NOT meaning do the actions when I say performing. I mean you are the one finding how to apply the lines of force against this incoming line of force.

This often begins in stages. At first you simply repeat what the teacher is showing. Then you find that you are altering that application to fit what works better for you. Then you find you are straying farther a field from what you were shown on occasion. Then you create your own.

Part of practicing karate is to understand the Kata. This understanding comes from Bunkai. Like all your training is does indeed start with your teacher showing you the way. Then they act as a guide and a helper. Then they act as a councillor. But in the end it should be YOU who is delving deeply into the usage of the Kata and from that YOU will begin to truly understand the Kata.

So I while when you area beginner you will apply the Kata as your instructor shows you, to evolve and truly learn karate YOU must begin to create applications and learn what works for you and, more importantly, why they work.
Rick Wilson

Postby jkolb » Sat Nov 05, 2005 7:26 pm

Yesterday I was leading our club workout (I'm only a san kyu) and I had two students play with the various movements of kanshu. They each came up with a set of applications for the opening movements (up until the backfist), one even came up with a defense against a bear hug from behind.

It was interesting because each person came up with about two or three different variations using the same movements from kanshu, some of which I had never seen. It was pretty neat.
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Postby 2Green » Sun Nov 06, 2005 4:55 am

For us beginners, there are only two Bunkai:
Kanshiwa and Seisan. I can't really comment on any others.

I always liked Kanshiwa Kata because it HAD a Bunkai, but in fact as time went on, I wound up learning Bunkai (applications) for every Kata along the way.
Of course, these are not formalized in any way, so this is only in the context of my particular training.

We learn the formal Kanshiwa and Seisan Bunkai because, I assume, we have to eventually demonstrate at least one commonly-agreed-on version of the Kata techniques in order to "pass a test".
This is the requisite material we learn for presentation/demonstration only, in a formal testing setting. Something we all can have in common.
I call this material the "Uechi Compulsories".

But outside of that there is, as RW is saying, a rich world of applications which are the real meat of the Kata.

Here's my take on this.
Kata is meant to ingrain definite habits of movement, but not to ingrain any specific applications of those movements.
This would be the warning of the Okinawans RW alluded to.
Karate training is not about compiling a look-up table of specific responses to specific attacks.
It's about forming general reflexes and attitudes and developing the physical wherewithall (conditioning) to make them (hopefully) work.

However, you have to demonstrate SOMETHING to show students where this is going, and so the formal Bunkai provides some common ground to "bust a move" we all know.
For example, I could probably land in Edmonton, go to RW's school and say "hey, let's do a Kanshiwa Bunkai!" and everyone would probably know what the heck I was talking about and we could do it and compare notes.
Sure it'll be different, I'd expect that.
But we'd have a common starting point, so I wouldn't have to train for 6 months there before I could even participate in a basic class drill.
To me that's the purpose of the "compulsories"; they are common ground and a yardstick that a Sensei can use to sort out who can do what, at what level.

Now, if RW were to say to me, "OK, show me some other things which that concept could be used for." Well, THEN I could do that in an illustrative way, but not setting up an unsuspecting student in a "standard Kanshiwa Bunkai" and then doing something COMPLETELY outside the drill to make the student look ridiculous, and make the drill look useless.

Seisan Bunkai has an even different tone about it, because it's the Bunkai that Brown Belts learn for the BIG TEST.
So right off the bat, Seisan Bunkai has a tone of "preparation" about it, rather than a tone of "learning the Kata techniques".

There is is increasing pressure to "learn it right", because this will be the "TEST Bunkai"... and so this may NARROW DOWN the focus of the higher level Kata at the very time when the student should be learning to OPEN UP their mind as to the various applications of these "higher level" techniques.
How ironic is THAT?!

I have my own personal way of "compartmentalizing" these conflicting requirements but that's another story.

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Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:20 am

Funakoshi said that knowing the kata and not the purpose of the movements was not karate at all , but merely a dance .

And while I do beleive karate techniques have a huge applicability and scope for application , I think it`s fundamentally flawed not to train for HAPV

and because we do karate it only makes sense to use the techniques of kata to confront HAPV

Responding to unrehearsed attacks with technique from kata , sounds like what Kanbun did with the Jiyu Kobo approach .

I cannot find a reason not to memorise what i learn form kata . Or to share it if others find it usefull .

the issue should not be searching for more applications in kata IMHO

the issue should be to confront more ways of being attacked .

A slight but very important difference from my perspetive .

otherwise we may end up with 500 wristlocks an no defence to a right hook .

It`s a case of putting the cart in front of the horse .

But all just MHO ... even though it`s false humiltiy :oops: :lol: 8O :twisted:

Postby MikeK » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:41 am

the issue should not be searching for more applications in kata IMHO

I agree Marcus with the working against HAPV over imprinting techniques into kata. If it helps someone then I don't have a quibble with it but it's not an approach I take. I don't think kata were open ended when they were developed, and I believe each move had a specific attack and defense associated with it.
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Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:52 am

I tend to agree Mike , though there certainly is the opportunity to create more out of them .

I keep coming back to the idea of dealing with as many situations/attacks as you can with your developed toolset .

I think the key HAPV would be addressed in most kata if we look , as I beleive that was there original intent .

Postby MikeK » Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:22 am

I've seen some very imaginitive bunkai in basic kata that are defenses against attacks that would be rare even 200 years ago. I think that each karate style was developed with a specific set of HAPV in mind and that the kata reflect that. Nothing wrong with adding new things but I don't think any style was developed to be all encompassing.
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Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:29 am

Are you saying Uechis for jumping swords Mike ? :twisted:

Just kidding mate , I Agree 8)

Postby Rick Wilson » Sun Nov 06, 2005 7:27 am

Jkolb: Excellent!


Also an excellent post.

However, here at the WKS we have taken a different path so your comment:

“For example, I could probably land in Edmonton, go to RW's school and say "hey, let's do a Kanshiwa Bunkai!" and everyone would probably know what the heck I was talking about and we could do it and compare notes.”

We do not have the "Uechi Compulsories" you speak of.

HOWEVER, while this would make it hard for my students to walk into a standard Uechi school and take part I am sure you would fit in quickly with the things we do.

Good comments Marcus and Mike.

Maybe we should be posting clips of Bunkai?

A “post your Bunkai here” thread?
Rick Wilson

Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 8:53 am

Hey Rick , I might have to film something , I gaurantee it wont be Uechi :)

I might do a Sanchin Bunkai ... who would of thunk eh !!!

Postby jorvik » Sun Nov 06, 2005 5:13 pm

Well bunkai derive from Kata.but Kata derive from technique :roll: ...............as an example with TC all the posture have a distinct application.but after that you will find other stuff that sort of fits.
As an example if you look at Ricks Seisan thrusts and seisan Crane clips you could say both moves were classical Aikido the , the crane is Irimi-nage the thrust is Kiten-Nage........you can also vary them, in the Crane application if you move closer it can be made into a hip throw.the Seisan thrusts in Aiki are done with a step back and a pull..or alternatively when you get the head down you place your hand at the side of it pinning his arm in locked position.......you can also do a cool Silat throw :lol: ....knee his head with your left knee then hook your left foot over his neck as you pull up on his hand step your left leg back this will flip him over :wink:

Postby f.Channell » Sun Nov 06, 2005 6:27 pm

I bunkai Sanchin all the time in my classes.
It has some of the best no nonsense gross motor movements in it out of any of the Kata.

take the closed gate for example.
Imagine yourself slammed back over a pool table with a choke set in,
form that closed gate and drive it up into his face.
Then smash is head with it side to side with it.
Then clench his head with it and repeatedly slam him in the groin with knee strikes.
Or use it to protect the ribs from body shots.
Love that Sanchin closed gate, the triangle it creates is an inherantly powerful position. That's why we build houses with a triangular roof.
The rest of the moves in Sanchin can be used also like this.

But no sword jumps!

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Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 7:22 pm

Cool stuff Fred , and i agree !!

I have to chuckle when I read that it`s not a fighting kata !!!

I havent done any kata thats captured me like Sanchin .

Postby f.Channell » Sun Nov 06, 2005 8:57 pm

I had a Kenpo guy show me how to use the Sanchin strike.
I had Judo and Sambo guys show me how most of the other moves work.

It is after all, just an exercise........

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Postby Stryke » Sun Nov 06, 2005 8:59 pm

:D 8)


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