Trying to understand Bunkai

Discussion in 'Karate' started by GaryWado, Apr 20, 2011.

  1. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    Playing devils advocate then, do you not feel that if you crossed trained in a striking art with say judo and jujustu - from the start - you would end up with the same end result?

  2. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    as a ****o guy, to me, personally, the "essence" of bunkai, for lack of a better term, is taking a kata (or even kihon) movement or sequence, seeing how its gross motor elements can be applied to a human body, seeing in which situations that could be practical (applying finer motions to vary the motion, either getting different apps or trying to optimize the ones one has) and then drilling it, either solo or with a partner, and then maybe tweaking some details, such as the direction of a movement, or the footwork, and see if that gives me any other applications that might be worth drilling.
  3. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    I'm not sure. It depends on your approach to technique and to bunkai.

    For example I can apply many different types of bunkai to individual movements (eg Gedan Barai), but I can also apply a different form of consistent bunkai to a number of techniques in the order in which they appear in a Kata. Additionally the constitution of a Kata may give a particular flavour to the bunkai. That's something I wouldn't necessarily have gained without exposure to that style's Kata.
  4. Wastelander

    Wastelander Valued Member

    Most likely, but I think that starting two different arts at once could get someone a bit confused and possibly hold them back.
  5. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    Hi Fish,

    I am quite at home with what you are suggesting - that's what I would class as ”kata-geiko”

    It's the larger moments I struggle with.

    Last edited: Apr 20, 2011
  6. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

  7. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    what do you mean by "the larger moments"?
  8. bassai

    bassai onwards and upwards ! Moderator Supporter

    There seems to be a feeling that you need to find the flash or "devastating" techniques for it to be worthwhile.
    That's why i like people like you and Iain , you use simple but effective stuff.
  9. Moosey

    Moosey invariably, a moose Supporter

    Not necessarily the same result. Surely you'd be better at striking than a judo guy and better at grappling than a karate guy.
  10. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

  11. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    But I guess you are not "most".

    I'll put pen to paper (or fingers to keys) one day.

  12. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    a delightfully context-less link :)
  13. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    I'm still not certain what it is you are trying to understand? Are you trying to understand why people should choose to train paired drills that they feel mimic solo Kata movements and sequences?
  14. GaryWado

    GaryWado Tired

    No actually I don't think so.

    I am trying to understand how people benefit from training in paired kata - using technique that they "realise" from solo form without having a training in how to trully apply said technique with an opponent.

    It's all a bit "theoretical" and well, "this could be a shoulder throw..." doubt it, to do nage waza well takes years of training, so why would a Karateka who trains down his local leisure centre a couple of times a week feel that they could pull that sort of thing off - just because the move "looks like it could be a throw".

    There's a long way between theorszing and actually doing - but is that Bunkai - this is why I ask?

  15. Rebel Wado

    Rebel Wado Valued Member

    Ah, the paired training is more in learning principles.

    Most paired karate training is against multiple attackers and is scripted as per the kata. This is different than bunkai because bunkai is usually one-on-one and doesn't stress multiple attacker scenarios.

    So the technique is detailed in paired training to a more generic level so that you can be aware and ready for multiple attackers. IME.

    Edit: For example the sequence in a kata of outward block, rising block, inward block could have a bunkai of an attacker high bear-hug from behind. Drop weight, elbow to the rear, break their grip while protecting from a choke, then Judo shoulder throw them over you. You could go into the details and fundamentals of ground fighting after this if you wanted to or just the ways to throw someone over your shoulder if they are different heights and sizes, etc... also how to throw someone so that they land wrong and twist their spine, hit their head on the ground, etc. All part of bunkai.

    However, in paired training, this is usually attacker in front throws three punches and you block three times (outward, rising, inward) while moving backwards. In the paired training this has to be done in a way that shows awareness for multiple attackers. So in reality it is protecting yourself from an attacker in front while being aware of an attack from behind. Hence the elbow strikes when chambering the hands to the rear. The bunkai for the shoulder throw just turns into doing anything to get the attacker from behind off balanced/stunned and thrown into the attacker that is in front. Everything is more generic and faster, just fundamentals.
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2011
  16. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    @gary: that's not a problem with bunkai itself, it's a problem with those who do too much theorizing and not enough training of the things they theorize (*happily raises hand*). either you become able to do it, or you don't, and drop that technique from your repertoire (or admit that you can't do it but still train it like that until you can get some proper training in whatever you can't do).
  17. John Titchen

    John Titchen Still Learning Supporter

    I see what you mean. Bunkai (to my mind) is the application of the kata. So it is the process of identifying/interpreting the different possible combative movements, and then training in them.

    The crux of the matter is the training. How far removed the training is from other syllabus elements, and how much it is trained, will effect the efficacy. If you don't train it regularly you're not going to get good at it.

    When I last taught Karate in a manner that would be recognised as Karate by the majority of people on this forum (ie we practised solo Kata and wore white suits), our training time was split up roughly as follows:
    20% solo Kata
    50% Kata bunkai drills (ie Kata as kumite)
    30% Kihon (the majority against pads and with a Kata technique focus)
    In that context you can see that people are going to benefit from both the Kata and the bunkai.

    In the majority of the Shotokan Dojo(s) in which I was taught I would suggest that the following was more common:
    25% solo Kata
    35% Kumite (paired kihon drills)
    39% Kihon (line work)
    1% Bunkai
    In those dojo the lower focus on bunkai did not 'matter' so much because the bunkai that was taught was merely another form of kumite, ie defences against unrealistic preset Karate attacks at long range - no close quarter work.
    Back in those days the majority of clubs that I trained in, in different organisations either did not have pads/shields, or only brought them in about once a month. Impact work was not a core part of training. That was something I had to learn myself in a garage with a bag and in the garden with my makiwara.

    However the first Shotokan Karate dojo that I did come across that was doing more bunkai, and close quarter bunkai (grappling and throwing), essentially devoted its training as follows:
    25% Solo Kata
    25% bunkai
    25% Kihon (15% linework, 10% pad/makiwara/tyre/bag work/conditioning)
    25% Kumite
    The instructor in that Dojo was not only a fan of some of the bunkai guys of the day (eg Simon Oliver and Harry Cook) but had a 2nd Dan in Ju Jitsu before converting to Karate so was able to recognise the Kata movements.

    Shotokan clubs that have a greater sport focus will stick to the middle model. Shotokan clubs with a greater interest in self defence and the roots of their style are possibly starting to move closer to the third model.
  18. Mike Flanagan

    Mike Flanagan Valued Member

    Got to agree with JWT and Fish. Running through a kata (with or without a partner) and saying it could be this or that isn't really practising bunkai. To properly study bunkai the kata and the bunkai need to be one of the cornerstones of your training.

    The way I split things in the dojo is not dissimilar to John's and is typically something like:

    15% Warm-up
    15% Kihon
    15% Padwork
    5-10% Solo kata
    The rest is partnerwork - some of it will be directly 'lets look at bunkai for such-and-such a kata)' and most of the rest can be directly and obviously linked back to kata.

    Its not unusual for us to do whole sessions without running through the kata. I prefer solo kata to be an exercise that people do at home in their own time. In the dojo I'll check and correct it but I don't want to spend large amounts of time on repetition of kata. If you have a training partner to hand then you should make use of that opportunity.

    On a slightly different note, I don't think that studying other Gendai Budo such as Judo and Ju-jitsu is the same as learning Karate properly with the bunkai. Its not a bad thing to do and it will certainly have value, but I don't personally feel there is a huge crossover between the grappling aspects of Karate and Gendai grappling arts. Some crossover yes, but they're not the same thing. I'd say Karate grappling is rather closer to some Koryu Ju-jitsu than it is to any Gendai Budo. But ultimately studying any other art in addition to your core system can only provide new and useful insights.

  19. Fish Of Doom

    Fish Of Doom Will : Mind : Motion Supporter

    re: grappling, i think the main thing with studying grappling arts, is that by being specialized in it, these arts have all of the relevant grappling principles codified into techniques and drills with which to train them. the difference with karate training being, IMO, that grappling principles are mostly applied to another person's body, whereas striking principle like karate's are applied first to your own. i know i have a stupidly hard time applying throws and locks in training, whereas if i were to spend some time training in a grappling intensive school, i would at least have a more concrete notion of how to do it, so i could then try to apply my pre-existing knowledge in a more efficient manner when training karate or bei shaolin grappling applications.
  20. Llamageddon

    Llamageddon MAP's weird cousin Supporter

    My usual late-to-the-party repetitive response. I like to think of it as aggregating replies!

    If Koyo were here, he'd be telling us how Kanazawa and Enoeda senseis would regularly cross train in arts like Aikido. Considering the origin of each kata (perhaps apart from the ones Funakoshi cherry picked) I don't understand why one could have such a hard time thinking there are locks and throws included.

    We have to cross train now, as JWT said, because we can't access such holistic training anymore. Karate was just a term used to denote a certain training style. In some ways (like with everything that uses one) the use of a syllabus has gradually weened potentially important aspects out of what we do by placing a potentially arbitrary importance on certain elements. The further 'shotokanisation' of kata, kihon and kumite could have led to more watering down, although I don't really buy this (how you train your stances in kihon isn't how you use them in kumite or in an actual fight, so why would you stick to them when doing bunkai?)

    One of the reasons Ashi Barai is still so popular is because it is an effective and quick technique that can easily be added to a chain of techniques to unbalance your opponent and ultimately finish him off (if we were to think in a ikken hissatsu kind of way)

    Unbalancing and getting off the centre line are two central components of Shotokan that aren't always taught enough, even though they are patently obvious. Bunkai is a way of training these things and save you time because you're not standing there thinking 'ok, if he attacks me from here, and moves like this or like that what can I do?' Take a kata and you already know where they're going to come from, and you can choose an appropriate technique of your own or you can see what the inventor/modifier of the kata was trying to get at with the move they used.

    Final point (re: afterthought) - Kata is pretty useful when there's a language barrier, too!

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