Sports Karate vs Original Karate

Discussion in 'Karate' started by shotokanster, Aug 5, 2011.

  1. ArthurKing

    ArthurKing Valued Member

    I'm with Mike on this one-
    For me, this point is key in the understanding and training of kata with intention to discover/reveal/create practical fighting applications. I often hear fellow students asking about practical applications of formal techniques and i always make this exact point. I know this is a bit off the op but i think of learning kata as having several stages or phases:
    stage 1- remembering the sequence
    stage 2- learning all the formal aspects ie footwork, stances, posture etc
    stage 3- flowing
    stage 4- combination form- changes in timing, rhythym, power
    stage 5- making the principles explicit and finding realistic bunkai/applications that embody said principles
    stage 7- drilling ad infinitum.
    Sadly, most teachers don't go past stage 4
    But just as a little caveat, i think that historically both Itosu and Funakoshi's drive to put Karate into the school cuuriculum may have 'blurred' ideas that were originally intended as fairly brutal and realistic street fighting techniques, making the job of extracting them from kata just a bit more difficult?
  2. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    That seems to be the consensus , and also seems the only rational explanation for some of the god awful bunkai that's out there.
  3. Mitch

    Mitch Lord Mitch of MAP Admin

    I think it's Stage 8, drilling against a resisting partner with as much realism as possible that's usually missed out (maybe that's what you mean by Stage 7?).

    The performance of the kata rather than the performance of the techniques contained within the kata then becomes the focus, to the detriment of any practical application.

  4. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    Quoted for truth:cool::cool:

    Agreed , i've no problem with polishing the performance of a kata , but , extracting what's useful is far more important.
  5. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    What happened to Stage 6? :eek:

  6. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    The Chinese forms don't seem to hide bunkai as much as Okinawan forms. That's one of the reasons I like to go back to Chinese forms in many cases to see what applications are there.

    In learning bunkai, outside of belt/test requirements, I was taught bunkai independently of the kata. I think this is the best way to learn bunkai because the association with the kata doesn't cause one to over think the movements because the bunkai is not the same as the kata.

    A few things I noticed. When performing the bunkai for belt requirements, this was changed to be more watered down and simple than the bunkai I first learned. This was just between the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s in Okinawan Goju-Ryu in the IOGKF. I am sure that this watering down was also done at other times and in other systems throughout generations.

    So I ended up with at least three versions of bunkai:

    1) Bunkai taught to me originally that included pressure point strikes and strikes to vital areas.

    2) Bunkai that was for belt requirements that was watered down to just the basic techniques of blocking and striking and takedown.

    3) Bunkai that was taught to me later as a black belt that included different variations or adjustments.

    So I ended up with this idea that there is some secret bunkai out there that I was yet to be taught for movements. When really, there wasn't, there was just understanding the movements and principles better. :mad:

    I ended up finally coming to talking to some folks about this and over years have now come to the conclusion that the underlying principles are misleading in many interpretations of bunkai.

    A couple principles besides "do not get hit" are "stun or unbalance on contact", "always stun or unbalance before applying a lock", and "always assume the attacker could have a weapon or there could be multiple attackers."

    Many applications of bunkai neglect one or more of the above principles.

    One example is that say a move like the downward X-block. On one hand you can just do an X-block with wrists together followed by trapping the hand. Okay, then I learned this other X-block from BJJ with the wrists separated, one hand checks the elbow and turns it over with the other hand checking the lower forearm. Of course I liked the BJJ version because, heck, it was BJJ.

    What one Grand master told me that in the kata the wrists are together so that in the bunkai you could immediately grab or trap the wrist of the attacker. I went and tried this out. I tried the BJJ method and the Kajukenbo method and I found that the Grandmaster was correct. The X-block with the wrists together was a lot faster at gaining control of the opponent than the BJJ method with the arms separated, one on elbow, one on forearm.

    I then later found out that in BJJ, the correct move is to grab the elbow with both hands after blocking... this turned out to be equally fast.

    Anyway, what I'm saying is that even bunkai I thought was right, did not pan out when examined under the principles. I knew something wasn't right.
  7. Th0mas

    Th0mas Valued Member

    Stage 6 : Preparing for competition :)
  8. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Stage 9:???
    Stage 10: Profit
  9. ArthurKing

    ArthurKing Valued Member

    Stage 6 is ... a secret (he says while shuffling is feet in an embarrased kind of a way).
  10. Mike Flanagan

    Mike Flanagan Valued Member

    Totally agree. Which for me is the reason that to begin understanding bunkai the best place to start is with kata that weren't tampered with by Itosu/Funakoshi.

  11. Mike Flanagan

    Mike Flanagan Valued Member


    This is an important point I think. Developing bunkai yourself is an important step in understanding the kata movements. But is your bunkai any good? Is it remotely like what the kata originator had in mind? Come to think of it, is any of the bunkai you've been taught any good? And where did it come from - an 18th century Okinawan bushi, or maybe your well meaning but ignorant 21st century sensei, or maybe from a George Dillman video?

    I don't think it really matters where it came from. Of course, it would be great if you could say for certain that a particular technique was refined and thoroughly tested out over the course of centuries of real combat. But we can rarely if ever be that confident, even if we get it from a senior Okinawan source. So how do you tell?

    To my mind the kata teach principles of mechanics first and foremost, and to a lesser degree some tactical principles. What it doesn't teach are the ubiquitous principles of combat.

    Hence as Rebel points out, some bunkai neglect important principles. The movement may match the kata really well. The mechanic may be powerful and may well allow you to easily manipulate a non-resisting opponent. But it could still be a really crap thing to do in real combat.

    My solution:

    1. Pick up possible bunkai from wherever you like - your own fertile imagination, the bubishi, fred bloggs down the road, anywhere and everywhere.

    2. Look at it through the lens of the kata - does it match the mechanics of the kata movement? If yes, go to step 3. If no, bin it (from the point of view of kata bunkai) or examine to see if it actually matches some other kata move instead.

    3. Test it against the generic principles of combat. These may vary from system to system but there should be some crossover, and they should be based on real experience. My top 5 are:
    a) Kuzushi - unbalance the attacker while keeping your own balance
    b) Muchimi - stick to the opponent in order to be able to control him
    c) Tai Sabaki - move to a position of advantage
    d) Ki - use mechanics and bodyweight to control the attacker, rather than rely on muscular strength
    e) (Haven't got an oriental sounding name for this one) Favour gross motor skills over fine motor skills - at least in the early stages of a technique

    Does the bunkai score well in terms of your principles of combat? It doesn't necessarily have to hit all of the them, but there should be a good reason if it doesn't. If it doesn't hit a majority of them then it probably ain't going to work in reality. Either bin or test to see if it can be improved upon so that it does conform with these principles.

    If it doesn't fit the principles of combat it doesn't matter how pretty it is, how well it fits the kata or where it came from - its not workable bunkai and should be discarded.


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